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Did Women Kill Chivalry?

A man showing a woman chivalry by opening the door for her
Have women set an unfair standard, expecting from men the chivalry of old while holding tightly to the success life has afforded them?

There’s a comedy bit by Dave Chappelle in which he says: “If chivalry is dead, women killed it.” In this week’s Boundless podcast, That’s HOT!: Episode 118, Lisa talks about a guy who came to visit her under the pretense of courtship and then refused to pay for any meals. Lisa received this critique from one listener:

Now, we have Lisa blazing away about men who don’t pay the tab for dates … while simultaneously saying men can score points by paying not only for their own dates, but for their female companions as well. Which, presumably, doesn’t constitute “golddigging” on the part of the woman.

Hmn. So, women have been preferentially treated over the past few decades … which has resulted in higher education levels … which causes higher salaries … but men are still expected to pick up the workload, even when they don’t have the same resources. All the while, women shouldn’t be pushed too hard — and men shouldn’t have standards that are too high.

Have women set an unfair standard, expecting from men the chivalry of old while holding tightly to their newfound benefits as highly-educated, successful, liberated women? Can these two things coexist? As a woman, if I desire chivalry, must I abandon the success life has afforded me?

I don’t think so. The answer to this dilemma is less in circumstances and more in attitude. I have long appreciated Carolyn McCulley’s classic article “Humility That Attracts and Encourages.” McCulley advocates an attitude adjustment: Here’s my take-away point for women: “There is a godly humility that we should cultivate that will both attract men and encourage them.”

A woman should not be ashamed of her accomplishments. The woman in Proverbs 31 sounds like Super-Woman, yet her husband praises her for the way she uses her abilities and resources to serve her family.

The problem is when pride takes over. A woman’s accomplishments may cause her to feel superior to her male counterparts. She may feel entitled to a man who surpasses her own accomplishments — while looking good, exercising perfect etiquette and being a spiritual giant to boot. This attitude is a recipe for disaster.

Guys, on the other hand, need to be courageous. The fact that today’s women are accomplished is no excuse to be less than what God is calling you to be — protector, pursuer, leader.

Guys, this is a matter of the heart. What determines your standard for how you treat women? Do you treat them based on what you think they deserve? Or do you treat them the way you believe God asks you to treat them? For example, “as sisters [affection and care] with absolute purity [integrity]” (1 Timothy 5:2). From a woman’s perspective, I can tell you that a man’s ability to acknowledge a woman’s abilities as a positive and still commit to taking care of her is very attractive.

In the end, I believe both women and men have contributed to the death of chivalry (though I don’t think it’s actually dead) through ungodly attitudes and selfish actions. There are things both sexes can do to cultivate and encourage the revival of chivalry. Cultural circumstances do not relieve us of our God-given duties. Sure, those duties may not include picking up the tab (for guys), but they do include respecting and caring for one another — whatever that looks like.

Copyright 2010 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved. 

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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