Monday, October 18, 2010

On Courtly love and Chivalry

The progress of sexual equality is very slow, no doubt upsetting many in favour of the feminist movement. Though the idea can be traced back to abstract Platonic protofeminist concepts, our contemporary human behaviour capacity is about 50,000 years old. But hey, after a measly two and a half millennia, it seems we’re finally beginning to get on track. In many societies today woman can vote, speak their minds, and we’re beginning to chip away at the glass ceiling. And yet, there’s still one very obvious and very old sexist practice which continuously slips through the net. The other day, I held a door open for my girlfriend. A harmless gesture to both assist in the passage of my girlfriend through said doorway and to subtly express an appreciation for her. She even mentioned how she approved of such gestures. And why shouldn’t she? There certainly was a door in the way. But as a woman, did she have more right to have doors held open for her than I did? Was I actually practicing chivalrous courtesy?
If I was, it seems a little unnecessary and even counterproductive in these times. I wasn’t about to go burn some pagans, and she wasn’t about to go embroider a tapestry or polish her underpants. Courtly love was based around the idea that woman require special treatment. Delicate, feeble women surely can’t be expected to hold open big heavy doors or get their shoes dirty. They need all their strength and cleanliness to be pregnant and cook relatively protozoa-free boar heads. Sound demeaning? It didn’t a millennium ago. At least not to male nobility. These honourable protocols that involved fetching a woman flowers from the meadow or poaching a fresh dodo would surely make up for her subsequent lifetime of servitude.
Sexism is still everywhere. Even in the schoolyards. How many men remember being hit by girls in primary school but when they hit them back, they were called ‘girl-bashers’? It’s all well and good to say violence against women is wrong, but violence against men is a very real problem that remains mostly ignored. Violence against anybody is socially reprehensible. Just don’t hurt someone else. You’d think that was a basic enough idea. I’m not going to pretend that as a species the two sexes have evolved in the same way, but I’m not going to justify generally being an arsehole either. And then there’s phallic symbolism. When all-girls high school girls weren’t busy masturbating to Purple Stain, they were busy pointing out the vast amounts of phallic symbolism which must’ve been deliberately placed by the patriarchy. This may have upset some of the all-boys high school boys who were busy masturbating to… well… anything really. Actually, now that I think of it, they were probably pointing out phalluses too.
So why do we insist on retaining these blatantly sexist motions? As stated before, there are women who like it, and some women still demand to be treated in this fashion. Many feminists would agree that there are numerous women who work against feminist ideals, indirectly or otherwise. And hey, maybe there are some men who really would like things to change too. That’s why I’ve never really warmed to veins of radical feminism which believe all men work against women. The good news is that we don’t necessarily have to stamp out courtesy to achieve true sexual equality. I consider myself a socialist feminist, and still indulge in the odd door-holding and drink-fetching. Although I may have hunted the odd dodo if they were still around. I don’t hold open doors for people because they’re women (or I think they’re women). I simply wish to express courtesy from one human being to another. It falls into the same category as holding elevators, lending umbrellas and avoiding crowded urinals. Bill and Ted had the right idea. Be excellent to each other.
So what are some changes you as a human can make? Well, try opening a door for someone, regardless of their gender. Maybe they’ll appreciate it. If you’re playing ‘spot the phallus’ with your pretentious friends, maybe you could try spotting a little yonic symbolism too. And of course, don’t hurt people!
Maybe if you can all master these basics, we can move on to the complex stuff.


  1. I was masturbating to Purple Stain ... ? What's Purple Stain?

    I agree with you though - as people we should be opening doors regardless of gender and treating everyone equally. I hate opening doors fors guys, only to have them stand there gaping at me as if I'd flashed them instead : P

  2. Why? Because feminism has taken several leaps backwards, with young women happy to reap the its benefits but not to practice its responsibilities, and pretty much ignore the whole deal until they feel their tootsies have been trod upon and then react in righteous indignation.

    Because I believe men and women are equal in both good and bad I am against radical feminism (see a very provocative article here by a woman I very much admire:, but I also believe the baton has to be taken up again, as does the baton of man's rights. Why do men, for example, accept being portrayed as fools and buffoons in television ads? This portrayal is because marketers know that women are responsible for most purchases in the home, but still, what the media portrays actually informs social attitudes at large, and men should rise up against this. It doesn't matter that most people in positions of power and income worldwide are male; it is still wrong.

    A lot of work still to happen, with parties on both sides arguing, "Why should I do X when he/she does Y?" and neither side taking into account basic human rights.

  3. No argument there, eclectictripewriter. I'm pretty against the guys acting like idiots thing. We still have a LOOOOONG way to go.

    Thanks Sarah. It's great we can both take all the best things away from the 80s.

    And Natalie, Purple Stain is a song by Red Hot Chili Peppers. But that was very much an exaggeration. :)
    But hey, if you keep treating people that nicely, the trend just might shift!