The Curious Case Of Selective Chivalry

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It’s raining outside. Perfect ambience for a Sunday. Translucent sky. For some, it’s messy. For some, it’s cleaner. The grass is greener, on both sides. Why we all have heard the term ‘gentleman’ and never ‘gentlelady’. Is it a sign? Grab some pakodas, before we start our little chit-chat session. Let us cross our hearts to maintain utmost honesty throughout. Brace the single-inverted commas and let us begin to – Introspect.

Chivalry is dead. Yep, I know, it’s quite a shocking and sad way to start a piece. But it’s true. Or at least, what we hear nowadays from women. Chivalry lived a happy life before leaving for its heavenly abode. Chivalry is anyway, a pre-19th-century term, that included gentleman-ly or state-ly codes, meant to be honoured. For example, it meant not to attack an opponent’s back. So these rules are not applicable to this generation. Let’s assume them to be Harappan concepts. We know they existed, but we have no direct connection with them. The codes of nobility, mercy, justice, loyalty and other rules of Knighthood have just reduced to being ‘kind’, as per the modern-day terminology.

Let me first introduce myself. Hi! I am Shruti. I belong to the generation when the computer was being introduced as a part of the school curriculum. The ones who were overwhelmed by the notion of having an infinite canvas to create in MS Paint. The Yahoo Chat Room’s ASL PLZ generation. In short the ‘90s belong to me. Forget Superman or Batman; Walkman was our superhero, and also another chap from Doordarshan.

Ahem! MTV was secretly a rage, amongst teens. Yes, there was a time, not many light years back, where the cool indi-pop channels shared a love-hate relationship with almost every Indian household. Loved by kids and hated by their parents for the disturbances the ‘westerly winds’ caused. Moving ahead! I have been one of those who has always respected the codes, be it the disciplinary ones laid by the school or the society. And being a rebel without a reason was not much in fashion. So I have grown up to be a little old school, just like Edward Cullen of Twilight. Kissing a guy before the wedding was an act of blasphemy for me, and cuss words a strict no. Having experienced the sweet transition, I think I have an upper hand with both the genres. So, my definitions may slightly vary compared to my younger counterparts. Rest assured, any similarity to a person living or dead in this article is purely intentional. What follows now, are excerpts from my life. I sat down with a laptop, while simultaneously surfing channels on my smart TV until a dumb scene from a video intrigued me.

I have grown up watching movies wherein Mr Hero lends his blazer to Ms Heroine. She doesn’t seem to have asked or wasn’t even shrinking to zero like a curled up snail. But still, just to patronise the damsel in distress. Apparently, who needs her knight in shining armour to save her from everything, stretching from roisterous brats to rude weather, where the guy is ‘projected’ at his chivalrous best.

Have you heard the joke that, if a man opens the door of his car for his wife, then either the car is new or the wife? Yeah, apart from it not being funny, it is suggestive that a woman should be treated in a ‘certain way’. I have a problem with this very notion in the first place. Why is ‘the womankind’ always showcased as they are forever in dire need of a helping hand? We are very much capable of fighting our own battles, sir! And, if you think that a strong independent woman is the one who manages her luggage and her troubles on her own, refusing a helping hand from others, then that is not the case. Because asking for help is not weak and lending help is not a favour. A strong woman never hesitates to ask for help, and that is the whole idea behind feminism. But perceiving that girls are fragile, and behaving accordingly is sexist and plain wrong. Here, intent plays a vital role. There is a thin line between being misogynist and chivalrous. If a guy opens the door of his car for you, the gesture may flatter you for being cute, but do not confuse it with chivalry. If he steps out of the car to greet your loved ones, or any friend of his for that matter, proves that he is a sweetheart.

Do not let him go. And yes, if he also texts you to check if you have reached home safely at night, irrespective of your gender, it is a sign of chivalry. He is definitely a person you would like to spend the rest of your life with. Chivalry is not something to ‘display’ to earn brownie points. It should be unintentional to the height of being so natural that it becomes a part of your identity. Holding the gate open for someone coming right behind you is a human behaviour. It should not depend upon a person’s age or gestation period. Giving your seat to someone who needs it more, is chivalry. But being able to comprehend that someone needs it more, is humanity. Chivalry should be equal and not subject to market risk. But for some, it comes with terms and conditions. I have known some guys in college, who would be the epitome of chivalry for their ‘new girlfriends’. But it is also true that many women find all this quite flattering. Opening doors for their beloved, carrying ‘heavy’ books for her, ensuring she had her meals on time and so on. Just wait for a month, to witness how magically all these habits disappear. This is the reason couples complain about the behaviour of their partner changing post marriage. By the way, why do men always change the equation with women they have some kind of relation with, be it their wives, long-term girlfriends, sisters or even mothers? This is the reason the ‘new wife-new car’ joke didn’t sound funny to me. Honour must come equal to all.

And women are not far behind. A woman likes their date to pull out the chair for her, while she makes herself comfortable. I am very much able to make my ass find that chair. So, is it all that necessary? If yes, then why do women not reciprocate the gesture?

If you expect a guy to leave his seat for you when you arrive, then you can also correspond, sometimes. You could have a hectic day, but the same could also apply to a man. Do not stare if he doesn’t offer you the seat, he is not doing any disservice to the nation or to you, Madam! But are we chivalrous enough? We are not even kind to our own kind – Woman. We somewhere have trained ourselves to play the femininity card, at the right moment. We have our own set of definitions that keep on changing as per the situation. Women discuss men. Period. Women do look at the financial status of men before marrying them. But ask a woman her age, even the ‘self-proclaimed securest’ of all will try to evade the question by projecting the age of another woman, elder to her, taking the focus of the conversation off herself. Or present herself with a classic, “I was married young”. Why one should never ask a woman’s age? In short, women are quite intolerant to men, providing the history of atrocities they face at the hands of men. But females are even more insensitive towards their own gender. A woman comments and judges the life and choices of every lead actress. Somewhere, a woman envies the independence of another woman. Somewhere, we are our own foes.

Yet another example is when women board public transport and fight for their ultimate right to the much-coveted seat. They voice their opinion like an adamant reality show judge. But the same passion vanishes into thin air if another woman of same age enters the scene, looking for a place to rest her thighs. The ‘righteous’ woman of a while ago, now sheepishly refrains from maintaining eye contact as if the other would ask for her pair of kidneys. This is chivalry wrongly perceived if you expect people to treat ‘you’ superiorly. Be considerate to all. Chivalry as an attitude doesn’t change with time, person or situation. It is constant. Chivalry should be more of a climate to your personality, than the weather of your

mind – that keeps on changing. Someone’s marital status, gender or proximity, doesn’t affect chivalry. Chivalry is not a guy thing. It’s equally a women thing. A human thing.

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