Friday, November 16, 2007

is chivalry dead?

since relocating from the north of florida (read: the south) to the north of virginia (read: the north), i'm noticing a distinct difference in people. people in my neck of the woods, so to speak, tend to be friendlier than your average hustle-and-bustle northern city. at least the ones i've visited before, i.e. chicago, miami (yes, i know it's down south and warm, but it ain't southern by a long stretch!). strangers will smile at you on the street if you make eye contact and initiate. busy businessmen and women will thank you if you hold open a door for them. politeness is not absent up here, which is really nice. it has made an adjustment to city life that much more bearable.

today at work, speaking with the guidance counselor, i was venting about one of my kids. he'd hit a girl. in the face. repeatedly. generally, i like this kid. he's bright and pretty interesting. i had to restrain myself from blowing up at him for this "incident." ordinarily, back in the countrified world of alachu-ay, i'd have gotten real close and said in no uncertain terms, "gentlemen don't hit ladies. ever. i don't care if she hits you first, you don't do it. period." that made the point, and i never had to repeat it to him.

that argument fell on deaf ears today. he looked at me, "but it's not fair!" i continued with, "ladies first. get used to it. yeah, it's not fair, but as a guy, you get used to it. that's the way of the world."

same response, "but it's not fair!"

the guidance counselor's assessment, "there aren't too many guys like you left, mr. j." that of course got me thinking, is chivalry dead? have men really regressed so far from being polite and good to women that such concepts are going to die out with the generation of kids in my classroom? have "equal rights" or feminism or independent female pride eroded what was left of what i consider to be a decent way to act? why is it that i need to worry about teaching such things to my students?

the fact that i have to teach such things to some (not all) students explicitly is very telling. i'm sure that the majority of my kids' fathers embody the very spirit of chivalry, though few probably explain it as such. i know the fathers certainly will expect it of any boy their daughters date in the future, but who's really teaching it? there's been at least a few kids each year that have gotten my don't-hit-a-woman speech. (is it only male teachers that get on that high horse, or is it just a southern thing?) each year, i need to teach the basic manners of don't eat until everyone's been served. i'm going to bounce this idea off two markedly different groups of people this weekend and see what they think.



rachel said...

Honestly, I kind of agree with the "it's not fair!" comment. While I obviously agree that boys shouldn't be hitting girls, I think it should be explained that it's because hitting isn't ok at all, not just involving girls. I know that you're not saying girls are allowed to hit boys, but that's what it probably sounds like to a kid. If a girl hit this boy, he should not have hit her back. But he shouldn't have done that because hitting is wrong, not because she was female. And then she should have been punished for hitting.

have "equal rights" or feminism or independent female pride eroded what was left of what i consider to be a decent way to act?
here's where my feminism comes in. As a woman, I don't want to be held to different standards as a man. I don't see any reason why girls should be allowed to hit guys, because it perpetuates the stereotype of crazy, irrational women that can't control themselves. I don't think this should be seen as eroding decent ways to act. It should be seen as holding every person, male or female, to high standards of behavior. Ideally, every person should act with what you call chivalry, no matter who they are interacting with. Feminism just asks that the gender is taken out of situations like that, and that the same thing is expected of everyone.

I could go on a lot more, but I'll stop there for now :) Hope that all made sense.

Mr. J said...

see, and that's where i get curious about what goes on in other classrooms or these kids homes. myself, i tell the boys (if and when they hit a girl) that they can't hit other people, especially not girls. i want to know how other teachers put it. never having been on the receiving end of such a lecture, i don't know how it plays out from the female teacher perspective. when the situation presented itself in alachu-ay, i got involved as the male role model voice of reason.

"the equal rights or feminism..." was not meant to allow the converse that women can hit guys. it was more of the decent chivalrous things that you don't see anymore: holding doors, opening doors, walking on the street side, offering a coat (even if you're freezing).

i agree that it's simply being a good person, but i feel that often nowadays, chivalry comes off as chauvanism and perhaps that's why some men are hesitant to do those things. that said, i have never come across any woman who does not appreciate such gestures, as most tend to see them as indicative of gentlemanliness, not assholishness.

rachel said...

I like it when guys do nice things for me, and definitely don't see that as chauvinistic. However, then I want to be able to do nice things for them, like hold open doors, pay for dinner, etc. I have known some guys (usually "good ole country boys") who seem to get offended when women want to do things for them, because "a man is supposed to take care of a woman." I think that's really silly.

Mike said...

Well its funny I was thinking about this earlier.

I at least have three thoughts on this:

1. If said girl happens to be my sister and she is punching me i will punch her back, and i have done so in the past. This also applies to any number of my more tom-boyish cousins. My mother and my aunts tend to agree with me by the way. In a large family you have to defend yourself...

2. If some lady (using this term lightly - its not exactly lady-like to punch people) who was not family started hitting me, there's no way in hell i would retaliate.

3. If a lady slaps you - you take it. Period.

Feminism and the whole equal rights thing have a bit to do with this. I think it has less to do with the equal rights thing than the shift in the way women view their career path. The idea that "men are supposed to provide for and protect women" is definitely going by the wayside.

In a couple generations it would not surprise me to see just as many stay at home dads as there are stay at home moms. And when you stop thinking about how man are supposed to protect women, then hitting a girl is just like hitting a guy.

It really just comes down to the fact that the gender roles are becoming more and more blurred.

Now this doesn't really apply to the rest of the gentlemanly things. Holding doors, opening doors, and all the rest are really just signs of respect and value. Most of them could just as easily be applied to guys as they are to ladies.