The word ‘chivalry’ comes from the days of medieval knighthood when girls weren’t allowed to do much except embroider things, push out sprogs and peruse ye olde pages of Which Wimple? Back then, of course, being a woman wasn’t exactly fun; you were a disappointment to your parents from the get go and then had a life of domestic drudgery and casual misogyny to look forward to. But at least we weren’t out on the battlefield being morningstar’d to death by barbarian invaders or getting the royal treatment for being too much of a political nuisance (a red hot poker up the jacksie while using the facilities, if Horrible Histories are anything to go by). Yup, for birds back then it was stoning or nothing. Nice and simple.
Anyway, these are modern times; the dragons are all slain and we’ve developed indoor plumbing without handy crawl-spaces for would-be murderers. Instead, we have stuff like equal rights and anti-discrimination laws, and the old bloodthirsty nobility are today no more than a tiny clique of powerless pomp, to be trotted out on special occasions and whenever the British tourist board fancies a boost. Hurrah! Legally, we are all on a level playing field.
In the olden days, chivalry was essentially all about protecting those weaker than you. Women, delicate incubators that we are, were believed by all to need constant looking-after and providing for (until they fucked up, that is, and then the stoning apparatus was cracked out with speed and enthusiasm). To be fair to them, you can’t really blame these societies for the misogyny so entrenched in their culture; in times when such an emphasis was placed on physical strength, it’s understandable. Throughout history – and even nowadays – women have worn clothes that restrict them physically, and before relatively recent discoveries in medicine and midwifery it wasn’t unreasonable to assume your last breath would be taken in unbearable agony trying to push nine pounds of screaming flesh out of your tuppence. No wonder they thought we were weak.
Nowadays, though, we’ve thrown aside these handicaps. We have spin classes and epidurals, yeah! We’ve cast off corsets totally (except for special occasions) and, most importantly, we live in a society that recognises that gender has nothing to do with intellectual capability. Sure, girls aren’t as bio-mechanically able with a pull-up bar, but who really gives a shit? We now live in a world where very physically weak people – both girls and boys – have as much opportunity as very muscular people. Unless they are professional athletes or have a job in one of the dwindling sectors where body strength is a prerequisite, the primary reason why anyone bothers to condition themselves physically any more is to up their chances of getting laid.
There are some women who argue that it is offensive when blokes do all those traditionally ‘manly’ things, like holding doors open for them. This (non)-issue is so tedious I can barely even be bothered to comment on it. I genuinely don’t know how some people can have the energy to be offended by shit like this. Do I think blokes are opening a car door for me because they think I’m too weak to do it myself? That the tendons in my fingers are too fragile to manipulate the door handle and that my upper body strength too inadequate to shift the thing without a struggle and a thirty minute lie-down afterwards? Of course I fucking don’t. It’s just common courtesy.
Now, manners are all well and good – after all, they famously don’t cost anything – but what’s the deal when it comes to paying for stuff? Obviously many established couples have their own arrangements, but what happens before then? It’s hardly fair to expect blokes to foot the bill because historically their gender has always done the earnin’. Sadly, I think lots of people confuse chivalry with spending money on girls, which is a shame. Of course it’s not very cool when someone pounces on the bill the second it arrives and works it out to the penny – miserliness is not a nice quality in anyone – but most modern girls just do not expect to be paid for these days. Of course there are exceptions; women who expect designer handbags and luxury holidays from their partners, just because they’re girls and expect to be ‘treated like a princess’ (vom). Blokes: avoid these money-grabbing shrews. If you are the kind of guy who drops £900 on a designer handbag for your whining bitch of a girlfriend just because she wants one and thinks as her boyfriend you ought to buy her one, you are not being chivalrous. You are being a mug, and you’re going to look pretty silly when she fucks off with someone with a bigger pay cheque and a yacht.
But let’s make this perfectly clear. Although everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and deserves the same opportunities as everyone else regardless of gender, race and sexuality, men and women are not the same. They’re just not. They are equal, but different. Biologically, girls get totally shafted – in every possible sense – because men are naturally bigger, faster and stronger. Girls have also been stitched up because we have to put up with uteruses, the infuriating, ill-mannered bags of gristle that have caused at least 50% of the population so much inconvenience, pain and suffering since the dawn of time. Broadly speaking, males and females work in different ways, although not one gender is superior to the other, and generally – very generally – girls like to feel like girls and like men to behave like men. I even polled this on Twitter to make sure I wasn’t talking out of my arse. That doesn’t mean paying for everything or lying down in puddles; it just means being considerate, polite and respectful, and this alone is undeniably, overwhelmingly sexy.
In the end, chivalry comes down to the age-old notion that it is good manners to look out for other people. Although the word was originally used to describe knights, who were without exception all dudes, nowadays anyone can do it, regardless of gender. When you give up your seat on the train to somebody who needs it, or help someone down the stairs with their pushchair, or hold a door open for someone, you are being chivalrous. Enjoy it. It feels good to be nice to people, even in small ways, and if you’re a heterosexual male you’ve got the added bonus in that girls love this kind of shit. We can’t help it. So what’s not to like?