How Feminism Killed Chivalry

Yesterday, I stood cramped on a rush hour A train headed home. The sweltering heat was only exacerbated by an army of over-worked NYC dwellers and a non-functioning AC. In the middle of the crowded train stood a mother and her young son. The wailing child was uncomfortable, and the mother tried unsuccessfully to calm him.

As if by fate, there was a row of three men sitting in front of her. Not one offered their seat.

This is a situation I’ve seen time and time again. A struggling mother who could use a moment of relaxation, only to be met with rudeness. I’ve seen pregnant women standing, while men pretend she is invisible. Women who navigate between screaming children and bags of groceries, only to be ignored.

That’s the thing about trains… you’ll learn a lot about cultural mores and social norms if you dare to pay attention.

When I bring train behavior up to my guy friends, they all look at me in bewilderment. The resident Black feminist, my friends all proffer uneven understandings about feminism. They say things along the lines of: “Well, doesn’t feminism mean that men and women are equal? So why should I give up my seat to a women, if it’s not expected that she give up her seat to me.”

I suspect that such opinions are rooted in most men’s misunderstandings about feminism. In it’s crux, a high volume of men believe that feminism and chivalry are completely incompatible. This view is further highlighted through dating culture; some men refuse to pay a women’s way on a date because of “feminism.” 

But feminism and chivalry actually follow the same line of reasoning; showing respect and support to women who are inherently vulnerable thanks to centuries of patriarchy and gender based violence. Of course, early chivalric traditions are tied to patriarchy and oppression. However, as society has evolved and progressed, chivalrous deeds aim to ensure female success on even the most micro-level.

Hence, when a man gives up his seat on a packed train to a pregnant woman, he recognizes the complexity of pregnancy, and offers his minute form of support to a woman who is literally carrying life. Or when a man gives up his seat to a mother, he especially recognizes that the trials of motherhood are gratuitously challenging.

Feminism does not excuse or negate basic decency. Feminism is not a blanket cover for “equality” without acknowledging power and the inclusion of choice. Feminism is not a handy tool for continuing the era of patriarchy and disrespect, despite many attempts to make it so.

When people refuse to give up their seats to a pregnant woman or mother, they’re only perpetuating disrespect to the unique needs of women.

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14 responses to “How Feminism Killed Chivalry

    • You up on Supreme Understanding, that’s peace!!! I helped him work on a couple books, really cool brotha.

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      • I did the cover on the locked up but not locked down and some stuff in When the World was Black.

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      • Really? That’s dope man. I got both those books. I feel bad about his wife. I’m praying for her. They just need to stay strong and have faith. Things will work out.

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      • I know right…she’s real cool too, she even fixed me a plate one time I was over there. I feel like she’ll pull through just because she has a positive spirit.

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  1. I didn’t know you were a feminist! But before feminism, women were treated, cherished and respected by men. They opened the doors to women, they let them taking a seat as you tell in your blog and they even pay for the dining on dates. But in my opinion and if you checked on my prior blogs, I believe that feminism destroyed the whole essence of manhood by having this illusion to women out there that they can be equal to men and “independent”. Forget about the illusion that women were “mistreated” before feminism! What about now?
    Another thing, big cities are vanished from Chivalry but not in small towns. I experienced men opened doors for me and it flatters me every time.

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  2. In this line of thought, I will gladly give up my seat to a mother, or someone elderly, or someone disabled, or someone who generally needs the seat more than I do because … basically put, they need it more than I do. That doesn’t mean I will give up my seat for every single woman, no. To this same extent I would expect a woman to give up her seat to a man carrying a crying child in one arm and bags of groceries in the other. When it comes to hardships like that it is a universal thing to do what you can.

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  3. Ask those friends if they would give up their seat for a FATHER alone on a train with small children. I hope they would, and that they will think about offering up their seats for anyone with more baggage than they have next time it happens.

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  4. Reblogged this on itsellegee and commented:
    Pretty great thoughts. From my perspective it’s called being human and recognizing a need, rather it’s a pregnant woman or man on crutches, it’s being kind to help. And kindness has no preference to gender. Just do it.

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  5. i think it’s a problem of basic etiquette and poor manners, both of which have depreciated over time. It’s not just about pregnant people. What about fathers with lots of children? Or older people? Or people carrying heavy load? It’s a question of politeness and human decency that has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with people finding it easier to be assholic.

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