This week, the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London published an article based on research done by Socked.co.uk. They found that traditional acts of chivalry as being frowned upon as suspicious. That if a man offers to hold a door open for a woman, carry her groceries, or opens a door – she typically thinks that he’s after something!
This disappoints me in 2 respects:
- It indicates that men no longer practice chivalry on a frequent basis, because if they did then women would not be so suspicious
- That some women are more focused on independence and self than recognising and accepting a gracious act of kindness
If we take it right back to the start, chivalry arose in the Medieval times when knights in shining armour and damsels in distress were setting the standard. Good old Google offers the following definition:
chiv·al·ry: The medieval knightly system with its religious, moral and social code. Knights, Noblemen and Horsemen collectively.
No wonder people don’t know what it is these days. Since when was the knightly system taught in schools.
I suppose what disappoints me most is that a vast number of people just do not practice or appreciate good manners and good behaviour. If everybody upped their game a bit, then acts of kindness would feature in everybody’s day! How refreshing! Traditionally due to the way society was structured i.e. men were seen as the bread winners, and providers therefore the ones who demonstrated good manners and the women were gracious in acceptance – a chivalrous act was seen as something a man did for a woman. With so many movements for equality of sex across the whole of society, I truly believe that both sides have dropped their game. Women started refuting chivalrous acts because it made them seem weak and less independent, and so men stopped carrying out acts because they were thrown back at them. Maybe we need to re-think the whole thing. Men and women can act with chivalry. Look, equality!
What about we work towards acts of kindness, regardless of your sex. And towards gracious acceptance when you come across someone who offers. I have a few recent personal experiences, good and bad.
When I was pregnant with the little man, (and most definitely showing as I was about 37 weeks gone!), I got on a bus to find that there were no seats. There were some young people sitting in the ‘reserved for less mobile passengers’ (of which I was now one!) seats, and they looked up, and carried on chatting. Another pregnant woman who looked slightly less pregnant than me actually got up and offered me her seat. Of course I couldn’t possibly take it! But luckily this shamed the youngsters into getting up themselves, having heard the conversation between the 2 pregnant bellies.
Another time, I’d taken the little man to the park for our afternoon walk when he was about 4 months old. It had been raining all day and I’d made the most of a break in the clouds, stupidly thinking that I’d be fine! Sure enough, on our return walk home it started raining heavily. I had the pram cover on, but I was getting very wet. As we excited the park, an elderly gentleman stopped me to ask how far we were going. It really was only a 5 minute walk, but he insisted that he accompany us, to use his umbrella and keep us dry. I was almost guilty of asserting my independence, ‘No really we’ll be fine.’ But it really was a delight to accept graciously and be escorted home by a true gentleman.
I am very lucky to have known, and know a few gentlemen in my life. My Granddad was one, he used to carry a hanky, open doors, stand up when a woman sat at the table, and offer his coat to a lady in need. He looked after his family. My Uncle is one, my Brother-in-Law is one, and my Big Man is one. Strangely they all have one thing in common – they all carry hankies. Now I’m not sure whether that is co-incidence or whether it came with part of their education in life and in how to act as a gentleman. I’m not saying we should all go back to our Grandparents age, or all carry hankies, but I think that an education in kindness begins, regardless of your sex, from your parents. So I am glad that Big Man is a gentleman as the little man has a good example to follow. I believe it comes down to character.
Whether we had a little man or a little lady, we would be imparting a sense of occasion, a sense of respect and a sense of responsibility. Manners are too few and far between it seems, and go hand in hand with a loss of chivalry and little acts of kindness and respect to others. Learning to be a gentleman or a lady – both involve the same really.
So let’s get back to it people! What’s wrong with saying please and thank you, and holding a door open, and accepting the offer of carrying bags to the car (as long as you feel safe of course!), and pulling a chair out for somebody to sit on, and offering someone your jacket if they are cold, and letting someone go ahead of you in the queue, and not interrupting another person when they’re speaking, and respecting our elders, and listening to what people have to say, and offering to pay for dinner………….. And what is wrong with accepting any of these gracious gestures – try it, it might just put a smile on your face and encourage you to do something for someone else!
I’d like to re-define ‘Chivalry’ as:
A gracious act of kindness and good manners shown to another person in daily life.
And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: ”A great man is always willing to be little.” Littling himself by being humble, gracious and kind. This goes for women too.
Little man, you have shown us that you like sharing already, and we hope that your kindness will continue. Good character will get you far, it shows that you consider other people, and treat them nicely – and that is important.