Sunday, February 17, 2008

Back to Holland (or, the Chivalry Soapbox)

Beck and I are going to be in Holland again this coming week kicking some major business butt. So, if I don't answer the phone or the door, then that's why. This time Marketing Guy won't be there *sniff* but it'll still be fun.

Which reminds me that I wanted to spend a few minutes on the Chivalry Soapbox.

Chivalry is almost completely dead, which I didn't realize until spending a week in Holland with Marketing Guy. Sometimes you have to experience something good to realize that something's lacking. The opposite is of course true as well.

Anyway... at first I thought the door-opening and the letting-the-ladies-go-first and the walking-on-the-side-of-the-street and the helping-with-the-jackets was coincidental, so I decided to put it to the test. I probably shouldn't test people like that, but it's kind of irresistably interesting sometimes. And he passed with flying colours.

First, a background story: I wasn't always pro-chivalry... as a matter of fact, I was a rabid little feminist girl at one point. It started around the 5th grade, with a very polite young man at our church who was a couple of years older than me, and who always made it a point open the doors for the ladies. We had huge double doors at our church, and one Sunday morning as I approached the doors, he rushed in front of me to open the door for me. Any nice, normal little girl would have smiled and thanked him politely, but not me. I looked him square in the eyes, walked to the other door, opened it myself, and walked into the building. For whatever reason, I concluded that his gesture was unecessary, that I was perfectly capable myself, and that this ought to be made clear to him. Of course my parents didn't approve when they found out later, and we had a nice long talk which resulted in me apologizing to him (though I didn't mean it at the time).

As I've gotten older, however, I've realized and come to terms with the fact that men and women are different, that this is ok, and that this is even the way things are supposed to be.

A certain realization helped me come to terms with this... but that's a topic for another day.

I think it's unfortunate that chilvalry is dying out, though I can't pinpoint exactly why I think it's unfortunate. Which is also unfortunate. Maybe because it shows a certain respect which is often lacking in our society. Maybe because we should be embracing and enjoying differences instead of trying to deny them. Maybe because it's actually more freeing for women to be treated well.

Sometimes I feel that though we, as women, have gained a certain amount of equality (though we're still far from equal), we've sacrificed much of our dignity and respect. It was a sort of sorry trade-off, in a way. I don't want guys treating me like "one of the guys" or as a complete equal. I don't want guys to feel free to discuss any topic or make any joke in my presence. But I do want to be treated slightly differently - and respectfully.

And two weeks ago in Holland, things somehow fit together in a weird way. Whenever the door was opened for us, or whenever I was encouraged to move to the front of the line, I felt like I was being told, "We're different, but that's a good thing, and instead of denying it or ignoring it or making fun of it, it's something I respect. After you."


I'm not saying that any of the men or young men I know are impolite or bad-mannered in any way. It's just that this one particular young man was so very consistantly and noticeably polite and helpful, and thus made me realize that chivalry as a whole is practically non-existent.


If anyone's interested, Ms. Barber's Refined School of Chivalrous Manners is now accepting applications for the Fall Semester.

I think that's enough for today.

*steps off the Soapbox*


Anonymous said...

Mary, I remember the whole going through the opposite door ordeal. I didn't witness it so either you, your mom must have shared it.
I love the chivalry too. Although my student can be little pills, They are very polite to pick up things I have dropped, run to the door and hold it open. I appreciate these kindnesses.


Mary Elizabeth said...

Karen - that's great that your students will do helpful little things like that... sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference. :) Hmm, I don't know whether my Mom or I told you that story... but it was with Michael Moore, if I remember correctly. :)

Anonymous said...

Now that you mention his name, it was you that told me. Michael told me about it too. I'm glad you had to apologize, even though you didn't feel it.

I learned a long time ago, that sometimes you have to forgive people, even when you don't feel like it, because it is what God has modeled for us and has commanded us to do. The feelings come after the action. You did the right thing by apologizing, and now, you truly are sorry for hurting his feelings.

I'm sure that if you talked to him about it now, you would both laugh.

I heard the good news and that you can stay in Germany indefinitely. I am so envious of your opportunity.


char said...

YES! so funny - michael moore - blast from the past.
and i'm glad to hear about my doppelganger in germany...i was trying to use a german word there...impressed? (though i don't think i used it correctly since she looks nothing like me)