For It: Sanelisiwe Mhlati
Chivalry. Some say it’s dead, others say it’s on life support while others practice it occasionally. We always find ourselves at odds when it comes to defining what chivalry is because it no longer holds the same meaning as it did decades ago. It has evolved with time. So let’s toss the dictionary aside for a moment and come up with our own definition of chivalry. A definition that can be applied in today’s society and one that suits our current standpoint on this concept. Chivalry, first of all, should not just be practiced by men – it is a concept that should apply to both men and women. It’s how a person carries themselves on a daily basis and involves being polite and thoughtful of the next person. It involves simple and basic gestures that one displays to express one’s noble behaviour.
Young men these days have this perception that chivalry should be a give and receive exchange – like pulling a chair for a women is a precursor for pulling her underwear later on. That’s not what chivalry should be about. It’s about undertaking a kind gesture for whoever you come across – male or female.
As much as we “require” men to open doors for us women; we should also pay for the bill on occasion. We also expect men to pull chairs for us but have we ever thought of doing the inverse? This goes back to my main point: chivalry should be about polite gestures of kindness that everyone displays for the next person.
It’s the 21st century; let’s stop supporting the notion that chivalry should be used as a way of impressing women. It’s just good manners. Similar to how water and food are basic human basic needs; chivalry should be viewed as a fundamental form of social interaction.
Because people have differing opinions on chivalry – with some women accepting chivalrous behaviour, while some feminist schools of thought view it as a subtle form of sexism – the topic will always be a contentious one. This is why we should redefine the term to make it more inclusive.
Holding the door, offering to pay the bill and pulling a chair are a few examples of chivalrous acts that still exist within today’s society. And although only a small number of individuals conduct themselves in this manner, I think it’s safe to say that chivalry is not dead.
Follow me on Twitter: @sane_mhlati
Against It: Hakim Malema
Since the beginning of time it has been prescribed that men and woman are to have separate roles. On the planet and in nature, the general makeup of the universe is a duality. But what happens when this duality becomes the root cause of oppression?
The fight for gender equality isn’t a new one. Even before the 21st century the feminist movement had forged a concrete path in a male dominated world. As a man – living in a male-dominated, patriarchal world – brought up by a single mother, I observed a manner of behaving that has been prescribed to men and boys all over the world. At first glance, it might come across as polite but in fact, it’s extremely oppressive in my opinion. Now I’m not trying to be an advocate of anything and I wouldn’t call myself a feminist but I do feel as though I need to share the following when it comes to chivalry:
Why should I open a door for someone who is perfectly capable of doing so themselves? And why can’t a man open a door for another man? Why should I pull a chair for a woman with a pair of working hands?
I’ll tell you why; because society attributes femininity to weakness. That’s why, even though people perceive chivalry as an act of kindness, it is closely linked to the idea that women are fragile creatures hence males are always required to “protect them”. It is an act of power – a hierarchal dominance of men over women. Think about why you really open a door for a girl, or why you pull a chair out at the dinner table. Women are perfectly capable of doing these things themselves, but patriarchy forces men into thinking that women are so fragile that even performing the simplest of tasks is beyond them. This is the thinking that accompanies acts of chivalry.
There needs to be a wholesale change in the way men interact with women and men need to re-examine the gender role concept. We need to stop thinking we need to “protect” women or think on their behalf. This isn’t just limited to chivalry. As brothers we need to allow our sisters to dress however they want without ever making them feel that doing so “attracts rapists”. As fathers we need to allow our daughters to pursue whatever occupation they desire and allow them to flourish instead of antagonistically prescribing what work is suitable for women. As partners we need to encourage and support the ones we love, without making them feel restricted because of their gender.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a woman living and working in today’s world. With patriarchy being as rampant as it is, women are subjected to constant injustices in the workplace, street corners and in their very homes. Simply opening doors will not suffice. We need to teach our boys that little girls are as able as they are. We need to instil a positive image of women in our men, not through the paternalistic sexism that accompanies chivalry, but by respecting women as human beings equal in ability and understanding.
Follow me on Twitter: @HakimMalema