Is Chivalry Dead?


Just what does it mean to be chivalrous in 2014?

Certain notions of male gallantry have faded away, particularly those based around outdated ideas of female ownership, while others have stuck around and adapted.

There is no rulebook the sexes can follow that secures a moonlit stroll and a kiss from Ryan Gosling [Man or woman, can we all agree this is how all dates should end?]. But there has developed a set of unspoken guidelines.

These guidelines dictate the appropriateness of our interaction. For example, it’s possible for my friend – let’s call him Wilber – and I to go out and point out each other’s flaws without offending. It’s the nature of our relationship. Now, if I employ this same tactic while out with – let’s call her Jamie Lee Curtis – my face will eventually brandish her gin and my tears.

The differences between here are aplenty. But at the center exist core qualities of chivalry, mainly, respect and human decency. We need these understandings to take our walls down.

“You’re at your most gender vulnerable when you’re in a romantic situation with an unknown variable,” says Rebecca Sullivan, director at the University of Calgary’s Institute for Gender Research. “And In our society, we are burdened with overly romanticized notions of what relationships should look like and how courtship should proceed.”

Of course, true chivalry means moving past the vulnerability and maintaining decency throughout a relationship.

I’m sure many patrons of the bar scene have come across a brooding, stubble sporting, humvee of a man standing with his leather-clad arm around the happiest girl in the room. He’s intimidatingly stoic and unaffected by her spritely demeanor. He’s what some might refer to as a “bad boy.” Analysis of the couple’s opposing personalities leaves some wondering, “why?”

Well, it’s probably because Bruce Wayne over there is, and always has been, great to her. His courtesy didn’t end after the first date, and like most scenarios pieced together by late-night bar patrons, there’s probably more going on than what’s been deciphered. Maybe they’ve been together for years and before the bar they’d been on a lovely little date. He’s probably scowling because there’s five guys in the corner eyeing his girlfriend.

It’s important to recognize that many acting under the guise of chivalry don’t know the reason why they take a coat or pull out a chair. Certain behaviors are now commonplace and have very little to do with hierarchal tradition.

“If a woman has clear ideas about what a man can and cannot do – ‘You can pay for dinner but you can’t pull my chair out for me because that makes me feel disrespected’ – she has to articulate that,” says Rebecca Sullivan.

Now, you’re finishing up a date. You’ve both discussed your distain for Shia LaBeouf and desire to travel to Middle Earth. Forget who claims to know more about wine while they secretly worry about excess perspiration. It’s not as important as what follows the last drink. If you’ve hit it off [and obviously you have] you’re both thinking the same thing and you’re worried bringing it up is too forward, too uncouth – dare I say – too dirty?

Who gets the cheque?

Based on a study done by Chapman University in California and reported on by The Globe and Mail in August 2013, on a first date, 84 per cent of men do, even though 64 per cent believe they shouldn’t have to, and 39 per cent of women are slightly perturbed if a man accepts their offer to pitch.

It’s pretty easy to furrow one’s brow at this, but it makes sense. Generally, men initiate first dates. Does it not make sense for him to cover the bill? After all, she could be at home watching House of Cards. If the date goes well, she’ll have an opportunity to pick up a future tab. If it goes really well, maybe it’s breakfast?

Mylene Rainville, a server at Calgary’s Laurier Lounge, says that when it comes to the bill, with young couples, it’s generally left in the hands of the male.

“It’s a first date, so you want to impress a little bit,” says Rainville. “I don’t necessarily believe the guy has to pay the whole bill all the time, but it happens a lot.”

The “want to impress” pretty much flies in the face of those who say chivalry has gone the way of the Canadian Idol winner. We’re constantly trying to impress at work, school, on the ice and in the dating scene. The difference is that the latter of those four doesn’t come with obvious rules. It has taken time to develop a new definition of an old concept. Chivalry today is about knowing why we ditched the imbalanced principles for those of mutual respect and equality. Sure you can lean on tradition, but keep it classy. You can go somewhere unorthodox, but show deference.

Now, you kids have fun. Have her home by midnight.

— Justin M. Wilson