Growing up watching Disney movies, chivalrous men were everywhere. Gallant princes did everything from saving princesses to dancing beautifully at palace balls. It seemed obvious that chivalry was an attractive quality and one to look for in a partner. As I aged, I began to notice a change in Disney films – chivalry was considered a dead art that encouraged inequality between the sexes.
Think about it. In Enchanted, the princess has to save her love from the dragon – she didn’t need a man to rescue her because she was strong enough to fight for the both of them! Or in Frozen, Anna and Elsa didn’t need men’s help because they had each other. It’s a new lesson we are teaching young men and women – chivalry is no longer necessary.
Respect vs. Condescension
It’s fascinating to see people mischaracterize respectful gestures for condescending ones. Think of how these everyday gestures can be viewed in two different ways:
A man opens the door for you.
Respectful Option: He wants to allow you to enter the building first, and he’s putting himself second.
Condescending Option: He thinks you’re frail, weak, and can’t open the door yourself.
A man pulls out your chair for you.
Respectful Option: He wants you to sit down before he does and perhaps not even have to worry about your dress getting caught beneath the chair legs.
Condescending Option: He thinks he is stronger than you are and is taking away your initiative.
A man helps you put your coat on.
Respectful Option: He wants to help you, especially because you’re juggling your purse too.
Condescending Option: He thinks you’re incapable of doing it yourself.
It’s a new lesson we are teaching young men and women – chivalry is no longer necessary.
When a man goes out of his way to help you, his chivalry is respectful, not condescending. He’s making you feel pampered, taken care of, and most of all, like the feminine goddess you really are.
Taking Away Men’s Responsibility
So often, men are excused for their behaviors and told that they don’t have any responsibility to be the best version of themselves. Men no longer have to call after a hook-up; they don’t have to wait to have sex until marriage; they don’t have to respect women in a multitude of other ways. Chivalry is a way for women to reclaim their right to men’s respect.
Chivalry is a way for women to reclaim their right to men’s respect.
Asking a man to open the door for you demands that he respect you, that he treat you better than he treats himself. But telling men you no longer want their chivalrous actions gives them yet another excuse to disrespect women. Giving men the responsibility of treating women as if they are on a pedestal will better men and better women; men will thrive knowing they have a duty, and women will act as if they deserve respect.
Men should have the right to be chivalrous without women decrying the notion that chivalry is chauvinistic. Giving chivalry back to men can only be good; women will find the respect they have been longing for, and men will be reminded of their duty toward women. So the next time a man opens the door for you or pays for your dinner, be grateful for his act of chivalrous respect and encourage it. You might find that you, too, will feel like a princess.
Abby Roth is the creator of Classically Abby, an opera, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. Abby is an opera singer with three degrees in operatic performance from USC and Manhattan School of Music. She has performed all over at companies including Opera Omaha, Opera Maine, and Aspen Music Festival. You can find her website at www.classicallyabby.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest at @ClassicallyAbby.