Chivalry Isn't Sexist, It's Pro-Women

A study last year from Iowa State University found that women — even women who identified as feminists — found chivalrous behaviors attractive.

By Faith Moore3 min read
Shutterstock/Jacob Lund

When men do things like open the door for a woman or offer to pay the bill at dinner, women like it. They like it — this study found — even if, intellectually, they believe those behaviors are sexist. Pelin Gul, a social psychologist who worked on the study, said that women are aware that these kinds of behaviors “may be patronizing and undermining” but they “still found these men more attractive.”

This notion that chivalry is sexist — because it supposedly promotes the idea that women are less competent than men — has become very popular in the world of modern feminism. So popular that lots of men are frightened to even do things like help a woman on with her coat, or offer to walk her home. “The broader collateral damage,” writes Martin Daubney in an article for Britain’s The Telegraph, “is that men are not as nice towards women as they were.” And, as the Iowa State study showed, women don’t actually want that.

The broader collateral damage is that men are not as nice towards women as they were.

But what if there were a different way of looking at this all together? What if women’s attraction to chivalry wasn’t some strange anomaly that went against their better instincts? What if chivalrous men are actually more supportive of women then non-chivalrous men? What if we’ve got this whole chivalry thing totally and completely wrong?

Men and Women Are Different

For all the modern feminist nonsense about gender being a social construct, everyone — including modern feminists — knows that men and women are different. Brain science shows it, studies on children’s toy preference shows it, and the feeling a woman has when a man comes up behind her on a dark street shows it too.

Were he so inclined, the average man could easily overpower and harm the average woman.

Men are physically more powerful than women. They’re more prone to aggression. They’re quicker to take action. They’re more likely to take risks. They have a higher sex drive. The list goes on. None of these things is negative in and of itself, but all of them have the potential to harm us women. Were he so inclined, the average man could easily overpower and harm the average woman. No question. Which means that men who don’t want to hurt us — in other words, most men — need a way of showing us that we’re safe with them.

Chivalry Signals That Men Won’t Hurt Us

Chivalry is a way for men to show women that they won’t be using their superior strength, aggression, sex drive, etc. against us. Men know that women are capable of opening doors. They know we can put on our coats and pay for things and walk places. There probably isn’t a single man alive today who thinks that doors are too heavy for us, and coats are just too darn tricky. Men aren’t doing these things because they think we’re so weak and incompetent that we literally can’t do them ourselves. They’re doing them to show us the kind of men they are.

Men are chivalrous to show us the kind of men they are.

When a man opens the door for us or holds out our coat so we can slip our arms inside, he’s showing us that he’ll be gentle with us. When he offers to walk us home or walks on the street side of the sidewalk, he’s showing us that he’ll use his superior strength to protect us, not harm us. When he offers to pay for dinner or brings us gifts out of the blue, he’s showing us that we are valuable to him and worth slowing down for.

Chivalry Is Pro-Women

If you meet a man who literally thinks you don’t know how to open a door, or couldn’t possibly ever have enough money to pay for one dinner, or can’t figure out how to get your arms into your own coat while holding it yourself, he’s not chivalrous, he’s an idiot. Chivalrous men are using these actions as a way to signal to you that they respect you. Sure, there are other ways to signal respect, but these specific things are perfectly calibrated to convey that the masculine things that could potentially be dangerous, won’t be.

Chivalry assures women that masculinity will be used in service of protecting women.

Women — even feminists who think chivalry is sexist — find chivalrous behavior attractive. It’s the perfect combination of gentleness and masculinity. Opening doors and pulling out chairs display masculine traits — like strength and protectiveness — but they do it with gentleness and care. Chivalry doesn’t strip men of their masculinity; it simply assures women that their masculinity will be used in service of protecting women, rather than hurting them. And that’s attractive.

Chivalry’s not dead. Let’s keep it that way.