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Chivalry Between Consenting Adults

Hugo Schwyzer has posted a defense of his chivalrous behavior. His basic principle is to do what makes the recipient (the "chivalree," I'll call her) feel comfortable. So he'll hold doors and chairs for women who like that kind of thing, but he'll refrain from chivalrizing someone who is "hyper attuned to ... percieved injustices" and therefore uncomfortable with the situation.

But what about when the chivalrer feels uncomfortable? (Presumably Hugo's tolerance would trump his sense that chivalry is the correct behavior and so he'd never presume to hold me to his standards, but there's still an implication that it would be better if everyone did things his way -- and likewise for my position.) I'm not comfortable being asked to perform certain acts simply because I'm a man. This is particularly true when the act is premised on a generalization about men and women that doesn't apply to me -- for examplem, most women I know can probably bench-press more than I can, and if I were single I'd be dating mostly women who earned more than I do. I'm also not comfortable sending the message associated with chivalry to onlookers (or reinforcing it in either my own mind or that of the chivalree). It's a message that says that men and women have fundamentally different social roles, and that men are guardians of women's delicate constitutions. (However one may personally interpret chivalry, one must remember that the act can communicate something quite different to others.) On the other hand, the kind of gender-neutral courtesy that Schwyzer grew out of sends a message that I like much better -- that men and women are more alike than they are different.


Blogger Chris said...

So, he recommends doing what makes the other person comfortable. Based on what? Gender roles? I thought he was against those? He is a feminist for sure. Inequality is good, as long as women are on the long end of it. But, if equality is not to their liking, they find a way to justify the inequality, such as he has done here.

To use that logic, I like it when women cook and clean for me. So, they should do it, right feminists?

8:40 PM  

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