Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chivalry is Not Dead

It should be curled up in the fetal position in a corner mumbling incoherently
because misguided liberated members of the feminine gender have beaten it down with a
firehose, leaving men dazed and confused and wondering when good manners and respect became offensive behaviour.
However, it BEING Chivalry, it is sitting back patiently, appreciating the occasional
act of good faith, good manners and gracious appreciation. It understands that change
brings good and bad, and that the old addage "You don't miss the water 'til the well
runs dry" makes a very good point. Chivalry has faith in the hearts of humankind and
knows it is not entirely forgotten. (Why else would I be doing this blog and finding
wonderful individuals who inspire me to keep going?)

Now don't get me wrong. This is not a sweeping generalization that includes ALL
women, nor does it omit males who were chauvenist Neanderthals before and the ones
who let their confusion turn to a vengeful bitterness. (Sound a bit like a large
number of the women who have contributed to the attempted murder of our beloved
Chivalric code?)
So just what is "Chivalry"? Historically speaking, one might say it is the result of
the code of courtly behaviour devised by none other than Queen Eleanor of Acquitaine
with the creation of the role of troubadours in royal court who told tales of knights
in shining armour, and the heroes who fought for a lady's honour. The same tales told
of virtuous women who gave all for love, and not so virtuous women who were the
downfall of these heroes. What it became was a code of civilized behaviour and a
foundation of order and sanity in a world that can and is extremely chaotic and
impossible to predict. Being sentient and self-aware beings, it seemed natural for
men and women to adopt this ideal as much for a sense of security as for its appeal
in forming a loyal and loving mate. Chivalry is often primarily associated with
medieval times, but enjoyed a brilliant resurgence in the time of Queen Victoria due
to the fact that her marriage to Prince Albert was based as much in love and devotion
as it was in duty and royal bloodlines. Much like Queen Eleanor, Victoria was a
strong woman and an influential queen who defined an age.
And what does this mean to the rest of us in this century? It means some things last
for a reason and are well worth preserving. Now, like any other time, the world is a
chaotic place that leaves most people standing in the middle of a crowd, but feeling
completely alone. As our population booms, the probability of growing differences
between individuals makes it even more important to find commonalities and comfort
zones with others who are getting closer and closer to our personal space. This
search for commonalities brings our differences even more glaringly into the light.
For many it is a wonderful growth period with some hard lessons and some really
enlightening "aHA" moments. For others, it is terrifying as the same questions ring
through countless minds, "Where do I belong?" and "Who am I really?" These are some
of the questions that fueled a liberation movement, that much like suffragism, was
much needed in many ways, but like any huge shift in societal "norms" also had a huge
pendulum swing to the extremes, bringing a different perspective to the common
practices of what we consider to be chivalry and simple good manners. Behaviours
intended to be polite were suddenly viewed as condescending, bringing a violently
emotional backlash as women and girls struggled to restablish themselves in a new
"liberated" world.
For men, this brought about a type of confusion they could not be prepared for. Over
time, it created a confusion that women and young girls would, and still do, have to
Each of us has heard our female friends, relatives, or co-workers grumble "Chivalry
is dead." It's not, but it is easy to see why they would feel that way. It's also not
too difficult to note from their comments, that there is a part of our society that,
while brilliantly liberated, recognizes the true nature of civil behaviour and
chivalry, and misses it. I hear from a lot of men that they are afraid to behave as
gentlemen, as it usually results in odd looks, as if they've behaved in some
degenerate matter, or outright snarling retorts that they are being condescending.
Over time this has taken its toll. Young men and boys have lost their role models as
their elders refrain from following their nature and exhibiting chivalrous behaviour,
and those of the older generations to whom it is second nature are dying off.
One young man recently shared with me that he has not given up on chivalry. He has
always admired it and it is a part of who he is. He opens doors, pulls out chairs,
refers to his elders as "Sir" and "Ma'am" and allows ladies, children and the elderly
to go before him. He also shared a frustration with how his behaviour is perceived.
As an attractive young man, he stands out in most crowds. He has many female friends
who constantly tell him they love what a gentleman he is. Sadly, however, a few of
them have "warned" him that people will think he is too nice or homosexual because of
it. He said dating is difficult because his good manners are misconstrued as
weakness, and even shared a story of being out with a young woman at a club, and
having her tear into him for defending her from a guy who was not taking "No" for an
answer. He said the last thing he heard was "I CAN HANDLE THIS!" before she stormed off. Quite obviously she couldn't, and he had handled the situation calmly, but her
response told him very quickly that many young women are very conditional in their
preference for chivalry. This, too, I credit to a growing absence of feminine role
models who are able to illustrate for girls and young women that it is entirely
possible to be a strong woman, but also a gracious one who can and does appreciate
the acts of protectiveness and chivalry many men, young and old, still exhibit on a
daily basis.
This was just one of countless men I have heard from over the years who never lost
the meaning behind Chivalry. So take note, ladies, they are out there. And to their
credit, there are many women out there who truly understand the meaning of
Graciousness, who, like myself, still struggle with accepting compliments, but give
it their best, and most respectful attempt for the simple fact that a kind word
should never be fished for, and never be expected, but when received from someone
sincere, it is just as disrespectful to themselves as to the giver, to not accept it
with at least a smile and an equally sincere "Thank you." And NEVER be afraid to give
a man a compliment, if it is sincere and without agenda. Phony compliments are
recognizable a continent away.
So with all of this said (and believe me, I could say MUCH more), I would love to
hear back from anyone with a thought or story to share, and to reassure you, Chivalry
is not dead. It is out there, surviving in the hearts and actions of the silent
numbers. I have learned since beginning this blog, just how widespread the sentiment
is, and have revisited a question asked by a friend a while back. "Why not start a
group to teach, support and promote the old refinements?"
Hmmm....... thoughts, anyone?

1 comment:

  1. *Bowz* Greetingz Raven!

    It is an honor 2 read your writes! & Eye agree & see just what you mean! However, chivalry ain't dead, like you said! 4 me, it's just a matter of balance, context, timing, patience, & rapport. Eye gno that's a lot of components, lol, but it's well worth it on this Red Wolf's dark journey thru life.

    Eye gno many women who relish being strong, independent, & radiant Queens & Goddesses who ALSO love a man who is secure enough, bold enough, & tender enough 2 lavish them with the mores that were once common sense + common place.

    Eye get that a lot, being warned (interestingly enough by women regarding women) about being 2 nice, but Eye just laugh it off. 4 Eye am discerning, & while generally respectful & forbearing, Eye gno when 2 hold 'em, fold 'em, walk away, & even RUN, LOL!

    Eye find that often, women of the Gothic persuasion, kindred sister Wolves, regal Vampires, & even initially suspicious & yet delicious Witches gno on an instinctive level that what you say is a deep & magnetic truth.

    But it's a matter of trust, as many women have been hurt beyond words personally + oppressed & violated beyond reason collectively. & Eye understand. & listen. & love anyway. <3

    Eyem a romantic. But NEVER hopeless! HOWLZ!!!