I believe chivalry is dying. I attend a university in a small southern Indiana city, and I have based my belief largely on my experiences on campus. I am 29 years old and have been attending the university for the past three semesters.
I noticed right away the first semester there that students were a little different from the student population I had been accustomed to during my first college attempt over 10 years ago. The first several weeks, I recall being mildly surprised that when younger male students and I approached the doors of a building to either enter or exit, they shuffled past me without holding the door or uttering an “excuse me.” Some even went so far as to bump into me in an attempt to make it through the door first. Initially, I thought they were simply lost in thought, contemplating their academic future or how they might get out of taking the dreaded public speaking class. I shrugged it off for a while because I think everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.
I must interject here that I am very much an independent woman who does her own taxes, pays her own bills, and does not hold any notions about needing to be “rescued” by a man. I am also in a very loving and mutually respectful relationship with a man who is, in fact, very chivalrous. Chivalry is, in essence, acts of courtesy and respect, which begs the question, what has happened in the past 10 years to make these young men disregard acts of courtesy toward women?
Well, the emergence of pop sensation Britney Spears did not help our case with her ever- increasing sex appeal and ever -decreasing attire. Neither did Christina Aguilera, or X-stina, as she was known for her raunchy videos and even raunchier clothing. More recently, the Pussycat Dolls, an all-girl group known for seductive dancing and song lyrics like, “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me, “ have made objectifying women an art form. The other night, I was flipping through the channels and caught a few minutes of “Girliscious” on primetime network television, which is a reality show that attempts to seek out new group members for another all-girl group. This particular episode focused on teaching the techniques of pole dancing.
It’s no wonder young men have become lax in their treatment of women when young women have made being viewed as a desirable sex object more important than being respected for who they are as individuals. But, I guess dignity, modesty, and respect don’t sell enough CD’s, or pull in enough viewers. I get to enjoy the liberties the strong women before me fought so hard for, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still wish to be treated courteously. I believe chivalry is dying, but I don’t think it is dead, and I hope for the sake of the daughter I may some day bring into this world that today’s young men and women will work harder to achieve a society based on mutual respect in honor of those who worked so hard to establish the rights many of us take for granted. In the words of Sojourner Truth, I ask all you young men out there, ain’t I still a woman?
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.