I know we’ve all heard the saying that “Chivalry is dead because Feminism killed it” and part of me believes it. Then I sat down and really thought about it, why don’t I want a man holding the door open for me? Especially at a school like JMU, where it is expected for people to hold the door for each other, I have to contain my inner feminist from flying off the handle when a guy opens the door for me. So maybe I’m just rationalizing it, but there is a difference between holding a door open for someone and opening the door for someone. I expect people, men and women both, to hold the door open for me, to keep their hand on the door until I can grab it myself and keep it from slamming into my face—that’s just common courtesy. However, I don’t need people to open the door for me by this I mean opening the door, standing behind it, and allowing me to enter through first. This is annoying for two reasons 1) you open doors for people who are incapacitated in some way through age, or ability, or the fact that they don’t have a hand to grab it, not simply because the person coming towards the door is a woman and 2) you often have this awkward moment where you get stuck behind the door and end up letting fifteen people in ahead of you which is just inconvenient.
Don’t even get me started on the whole guy pulling out your chair for you, which is just a completely awkward unnecessary situation to put yourself in. I mean I never know when to sit, or stand, or move in, or however you’re supposed to do it so I end up a foot from the table and having to weirdly scoot myself forward. And opening the car door! I don’t want to have to sit in the car while you run around to get my door, it’s a handle I think I got it. And who says the guy has to be the one driving anyway! I’m a better safer driver than half the guys I know, and if you look at the statistics women get into car accidents way less often. If it is my car how stupid would it look to have the passenger come to the driver’s side to open the door for them, why waste the time?
Finally, while it’s nice to be treated every once in a while, I don’t need someone to pay for my every meal or any trip that we may take. This isn’t just because I’m a feminist who wants to stand on her own two feet, but because of the blatant expectations that come with the action. What I mean by this is the idea that because a man pays for dinner (or whatever) he should be given access to her body. That’s the tradeoff, food/drinks=sex. Can you honestly tell me that this sentiment isn’t true in our society? I mean this week I heard on the Elvis Duran show one of the cohosts said that if he’s shelling out for multiple dinners or a weekend getaway he’s expecting to “get some”. I’m sorry, correct me if I’m wrong, but a woman’s body should not be treated as a commodity used to trade for food and gifts. How often have you heard a man say that he “wasted” so much money on a woman at the bar who at the end of the night didn’t want to sleep with him.
So, no, I don’t want a guy to pay for my dinner, but it’s not because I’m trying to kill chivalry I just don’t want to be pressured to use my body as repayment. In one of my classes we were given a small survey asking us if we had ever, or know of a woman who has ever, allowed some sort of sexual activity even though she didn’t really want to. This included kissing, touching, going on a date, etc. the results were that for each category the majority of the class has seen or experienced it. For me, that wasn’t the most frightening or depressing statistic it was the fact that the vast majority of women felt guilty because they didn’t want to engage in the activities. They felt wrong for wanting to say no, for not wanting to be kissed or touched or whatever. GUILTY. What kind of society are we living in where a woman feels wrong for claiming the right to do, or not do, things with her own body?
After really thinking about it, I don’t think feminism killed chivalry I think it’s asking for it to transform. A woman doesn’t need you to open a door, pull out a seat, drive, or pay for her. What she needs is someone who respects, values, appreciates, and understands her. People may say that by doing those other acts that a man is showing those ideals for a woman, but that’s not really it. In reality he’s doing it for himself, to show his power, his control, if this wasn’t the case there wouldn’t be a third date expectation. Want to show me you’re chivalrous? Fight for equal pay. Fight hegemonic masculinity, rape culture, for my right to choose. Fight for MY body to be viewed as MY temple where I am able to freely choose unburdened by expectations and pressures on who is allowed to worship there. Fight sexism. Fight patriarchy. Fight for me. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll take YOU out to dinner.