Is Chivalry Sexist?

This originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished here with permission.

A male blogger named Anthony Michael Rojas posted a little list entitled “How To Treat A Woman On A Date: The Basics” on his Tumbler blog and it got quite a few angry reblogs from women who felt like his suggestions were sexist. Rojas clearly believes his suggestions to be basic “chivalry,” while his detractors seemed to suggest that there is a difference between chivalry and manners, because chivalry is rooted in sexism. I found many of the responses to not only be silly, but also bordering on unintentionally satirical of “feminist” anger. It was clear to me that the original poster wasn’t being a jerk, so why did the responses treat him like one? Still, the back-and-forth did bring up the issue of whether these eight seemingly harmless gestures are actually offensive because they supposedly treat women as the weaker sex. Let’s go through them one by one, shall we?

1. Do not let more than one day go by without contacting her.

I think Rojas’s point was that if a guy enjoyed his date with a woman, he should get back in touch with her sooner rather than later to demonstrate that he had a good time and, in theory, would like to go out with her again. Now, I have always been a proponent of women doing the same and not playing coy about expressing that they like someone, had a good time with them, and want to go out again—would this tip have appeared on his list of “How To Treat A Man On A Date?” Who knows. It would appear on mine. Reblogger “placeholdertext” wrote, “Stalker much?” which seems like a hypocritical response, considering that’s the sort of retort a sexist men’s rag might throw out in reference to a woman showing “too much” interest.

2. Be On Time.

Pure politeness that applies to all situations and both men and women—I don’t think he was implying otherwise by including it on his list and none of the rebloggers had a bone to pick about this one.

3, 4, 5 & 6. Open her car door, help her put her coat on, hold the door open for her, and pull her chair out.

These seemed to particularly infuriate the rebloggers because these actions could, in theory, imply that the woman needs assistance and cannot do them on her own, as if she’s weak or childlike. One reblogger wrote, “Treat me like a human being, not a pet,” while another said, “I can dress myself too, I’m a big girl now!”

Is the assumption that if a guy does these things he’s going to treat you badly and that the relationship itself won’t be based on equality? For a couple to be equal, does that mean everything each of them does for the other has to be reciprocated, exactly? My question to these women is, if a guy pulled out your chair for you, helped put on your coat, or opened the door, would you refuse? And when the check comes, do you always split or alternate who pays? How equally do you conduct your relationships?

7. Order for her. (This does not mean tell her what she’s going to have for dinner. Have a conversation about what she wants and then when the waiter comes, order for her.)

This tip is definitely potentially problematic and antiquated, not to mention over the top. My advice to any guy who would like to order on my behalf? Ask if it’s cool with me, i.e., “Do you mind if I give the waiter our orders?” When I’m out to dinner with friends, it can often be more convenient for one person to relay the entire order. When I would go out to dinner with my ex, sometimes he would do the ordering, other times I would, especially if we were going to share. However, ordering for her without her saying it’s OK takes away her opportunity to ask the waiter questions or make special requests.

8. At the end of your date, don’t drive off until she’s safely inside.

“Placeholdertext” responded, “Because a mouse might run out of the bushes and I’ll lose my wits and be unable to find the door.” Um, or a rapist. In today’s society we should all be looking out for each other’s safety. A woman I know went out with a male friend a couple years ago and at the end of their evening, they parted ways down the block from her apartment. When she got inside her building’s vestibule, she was attacked and sexually assaulted. When her guy friend found out what happened, he felt awful—he still feels awful—that he didn’t walk her home and make sure she got in OK. Now he makes sure to do that with every female friend or date, so as to ensure, as best he can, that it doesn’t happen again. What a jerk, huh?

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