My friend Erika asked me this question a while back, and I think it's an important one. We all know that one gross misconception about feminists is that we all hate men*, so it's probably also a preconception that feminists despise chivalry, or "special courtesy afforded to women by men."
I honestly had a heckuva time coming up with an answer to this question. I mean, if a boy insisted on opening my car door, pulling out my seat at dinner, whatever - would that go against my beliefs as a feminist because, in all actuality, I'm perfectly capable of doing all of those things by myself?
As they say, this issue is a double-edged sword. If a feminist woman denies chivalry, people will call her a man-hater (just check out the shirts that say "Chivalry is dead, and women killed it!"). If, on the other hand, a feminist woman accepts chivalry, people will call her a hypocrite.
We just can't get a break, can we?
Well, here's my answer to this brain-bending question. You might agree, you might not, but either way I'd love to hear your opinion.
Q: "What are your feelings on chivalry? Legitimate, heart-felt, pure chivalry?"
A: First of all, interesting question! But it makes all the difference that you said "Legitimate, heart-felt, pure chivalry." I think there's a huge difference between a boy doing something nice for a girl because he expects to "get something" in return, and a boy doing something nice for a girl because he genuinely cares for her.
But I also don't think chivalry is necessarily something that a man should do for a woman* - it's common courtesy that all people should exhibit. It's the little things you do each and every day for people to show respect: holding doors and elevators, helping somebody with their groceries, giving somebody the bigger slice of pizza . . .
So, am I against a boy holding a door open for a girl? No way. But tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, I would expect that same girl to hold a door open for the person behind her, that person to hold a door for the person behind him, and so on.
In the long run, everybody deserves respect. Guys should respect girls, guys should respect guys, girls should respect guys, girls should respect girls . . . and I'm pretty sure I should respect you, and you should respect me. Because we're all people, right?
*Don't get me started on the "feminists hate men" stereotype . . .
*Yes, I know the official definition of chivalry is "The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women." But we're not in the 10th Century anymore. If knights are characterized by bravery, courtesy, and honor, women sure as hell can be modern-day "knights"!