How To Find a Balance Between Chivalry and Feminism

Credit: “Mad Men” via AMC

I have a somewhat notorious past when it comes to my views on chivalry.  As a self-professed “modern woman” I consider myself capable of anything and in the past I’ve made these views well known to anyone that would listen.  When I first started dating after college, I made a point of including the phase “I’m more man than you will ever be” in every date.  I felt like this accomplished two points; it let my date know that I was strong and it tested how confident he was in dating a potentially successful and intimidating woman.  Surprisingly, this never seemed to chase anyone away, but now with the benefit of hindsight I see that this was overkill in many ways.  

It’s no secret that I believe women are the stronger sex, so the fact that I was even using the phrase “more man than you” was contradicting the point I actually wanted to make.  I also realize now that it was completely unnecessary.  What really mattered were my actions.  I held myself with confidence, I argued passionately in support of my opinions, and I lived an independent lifestyle.  These are all things that spoke for themselves and by addressing them directly, it almost showed that I felt threatened; as if I needed reassurance that other people believed I was strong.

In the working world, I made sure to pick some “feminist” battles as well; namely the “chivalrous” act of holding the door open.  I would run ahead to make sure I could hold the door open for my male co-workers or force them to exit the elevator first in order to prove that I was progressive and should be considered their equal.  However, eventually I realized that my value for efficiency was even greater than my need to prove my point.  It just made more sense for the person closest to the door to hold it for others.  The way to best prove I was their equal was by working hard and producing the best product that I could.

As women, we may not need men to open doors for us or give up their seats on the subway, and it seems that these are dying forms of chivalry.  Many men are so concerned about offending women with progressive views that they are not sure what to do and opt out as a result.  Each person is different in how they want to handle these changing societal roles, but with a little more perspective behind me now, my views have changed.  I now believe that chivalrous gestures generally come from a place of respect and not a chauvinistic motivation.  While there are always exceptions to this rule, I am happy to let the person closest to the door open it for me knowing that if that action came from a chauvinistic place, there is probably nothing I could have done to change this viewpoint anyway.

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