If Chivalry Is Dead, Who Killed It?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss chivalry – is it dead, and if so, who killed it?
If chivalry is dead, who killed it?

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Now, let’s talk about chivalry – is it dead, and if so, who killed it?

In the 2008 motion picture, Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran whose wife has just passed. Walt is full of conflict; while he is prejudiced towards foreigners, he is also plagued with guilt about the people he killed in battle.

One afternoon, as Walt sits on his porch, he looks across the street and sees a lady struggling as she drops her bags of groceries while a group of three boys walk past her. One boy pauses to mock her from behind and the others laugh and walk on by.

“What the hell is with kids nowadays?” says Clint to himself.

“Alright. Alright” Walt says to himself resignedly as he gets up off his rocking chair to go and help the lady. But he pauses when he sees Thao (played by Bee Vang), his next door neighbor – a teenage boy crossing the street towards the lady. Thao just a few days prior had tried to steal Walt Kowalski’s prized possession – his 1972 Gran Torino car.

Thao crosses the street, picks up the fallen groceries and carries the bags inside for the lady.

Turning to his dog, Walt expresses surprise:

“How about that? How about that, Daisy?”

And now Walt suddenly is able to see redeeming qualities in the young boy; he sees the caring, gentle, considerate and honorable side of Thao – a vast cry from the boy who had broken into Walt’s garage and tried to steal his car.

Thao’s actions and behavior towards the lady can be described as chivalrous.

Chivalry is the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval knights. The Knight’s Code of Chivalry was a moral system focusing on service to others; it that stated all knights should:

  •  Use their power to protect the weak and defenseless – those whom cannot protect themselves – widows, children, and elders
  •   Be loyal, generous and “noble bearing”
  •   Tell the truth at all times
  •   Always respect the honor of women
  •   Fight for the welfare of all

Over time, chivalry came to describe courtly and honorable behavior from men towards women expressed as loyalty, courage, respect, integrity, kindness, consideration and protection of women. Examples of chivalry today include opening doors, allowing the lady to enter first, pumping gas for her, giving up his seat for her, walking her to her car, opening the car door for her, ensuring she arrives home safely, holding her hand walking down steps or a staircase, seating her first at a restaurant or dining table and, pulling out the chair for her, being alert to the surroundings – being protective of her, giving up your coat for her if the weather is cold, and so forth.

“Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.” – The Broad-Stone of Honour by Kenelm Henry Digby

Chivalry can also be summed up as common courtesy and consideration. But it is no longer common with many women often complaining that chivalry is dead.

“The only thing that bothers me in society is the way that men and women don’t get along no more…chivalry is dead. And women killed it” Comedian Dave Chappelle told an audience.

“Chivalry got killed by the feminist movement on the magazines…women got too much advice about men from other women…And then the magazines trick the women. The magazines start picking at your self-esteem. Every page you turn, you start feeling fatter, uglier, and you feel like your clothes aren’t good enough. And the magazines have you forgetting how beautiful you are. And then you forget how beautiful you are and we all suffer.”

Also read my articles “Who is brainwashing and controlling you?” and “The poison of perfectionism and self-centeredness.

The feminist movement began in response to the inequality and oppression of women, and instead of seeking to achieve equality between men and women, it often promoted that women are superior to men.

Accordingly, women began to reject chivalry, believing that it is insulting and demeaning to powerful, independent, autonomous women who can do it all and have it all on their own and whom don’t need a man for anything – particularly not to open doors or protect them in any way.

The problem is the result: “men and women don’t get along no more…chivalry is dead.”

Women are not happy, satisfied or fulfilled in their relationships, often bemoaning the men who no longer show respect, kindness or consideration.

The mistake that so many women have made is thinking that chivalry and equality cannot co-exist. They can when the gestures and behavior by the men are intended as acts of honor, respect, kindness and consideration and they are not acts of condescension or acts whereby men expect women to submit or surrender.

As a result of the feminist movement, some women also began to incorrectly label chivalrous men as ‘male chauvinist pigs.’ But the male chauvinist pig is the man who expresses malice and hatred towards women, believes that men are the superior gender and that women are the inferior gender, especially intellectually.

As Dave Chappelle points out, insecurity and low self-esteem, namely women forgetting how beautiful they are, has created suffering for both men and women. And this leads to the key point: the rejection by women of chivalrous acts by men is driven by insecurity and low self-esteem.

A woman who is truly strong, secure and confident in herself, and recognizes her own beauty, value and worth welcomes it when a man puts her first. The very gesture of opening the door and allowing the women to enter first signifies her value and importance. The queen enters first, not second.

Being chivalrous or accepting chivalry are both personal choices. And when a woman allows a man to be chivalrous, she also gives him a sense of significance with an opportunity to express his masculinity and to be protective of her. But if a woman chooses to do everything on her own, she needs to be careful that she does not end up entirely on her own. A woman can still be independent and allow men to be chivalrous. Allowing people of either gender to support you does not take away your power but rather signifies your value in their eyes, for when people give, they give because you are worthy of it.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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5 replies
  1. Avatar
    E Wanis says:

    Hey Patrick

    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog.

    It’s true that too many women have low self esteem and this blinds them to the chivalry behind these acts. I used to feel that way once believe it or not!

    Christian has really helped me to change my view of myself which had made me respect him more too! You should be proud of your brother.

    <3 Erin

  2. Avatar
    Frank says:

    Well said! and unfortunately too true. I am a 75 yr old man who still remembers chivalry, and when women began rejecting anything a man did to honor them and the value they had to him. I still open doors, and do the things I have always done, figuring that if the woman feels insulted, I don’t really want to be with her anyway. I have always preferred strong women, but many women think that in order to be strong, they need to be bullies and brutes. I have always hated bullies and brutes, whatever sex they are, so am not interested in the companionship of such a woman.

    But women interpret that avoidance as a rejection of their strength. They don’t understand that their behavior is objectionable, which makes them avoidable. My preference for strong women is based on my avoidance of women who need to be carried in all things. I prefer a woman who knows how, and can, stand on her own 2 feet when need be, just as I do and is a true partner in life, instead of a daily opponent.

    Unfortunately, most of the women I meet these days, fall into one of those 2 groups – the clingy, whiney type, or the bully/brutes. If people would remember the Golden Rule, and treat others, in this case men, the way they would like to be treated, more men and women would be happier.

    This has become one of those “be careful of what you ask for” for many women today who are finding themselves alone and unhappy. If you push them away, why is it you think they will stay? Consideration doesn’t take a lot of effort, nor a smile instead of a snarl.

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