Some deplore chivalry as no longer valid in a grrl-power world. Others, mostly women and social conservatives, regret its loss. I cannot say I really deplore it, but I hardly regret its slight decline (and let’s be clear, it has not disappeared).

In the words of Bill Clinton, we should, “mend it, not end it.”

While there may be some debate over its origins, in modern times chivalry is about deference to women. This deference came because society at one time acknowledged that women were weaker, not just physically weaker but social weaker (due to limitations on their activities). Indeed, chivalry was a form of social contract where women received the protection of men but in return were willing to submit to the authority of men. The idea of chivalry may seem quaint to some, but it is not quite as laughable as the idea that modern women recognize male authority.

There was another aspect of older chivalry; indeed, it is the aspect from which chivalry towards women sprang. The older forms of chivalry imposed a duty on all men to protect the weaker and less able. Indeed, along with ideas of fealty to country and subservience to God, the idea of defending the weaker was an important duty of chivalry.

Today, it is not women who are social weaker, it is the ordinary man. A woman may call upon the full weight of the state to protect her; the culture empowers her; she will receive preferential treatment in many areas. It is the ordinary man, the one without money, power, or connections who is the weakest in society. Society offers little aid or support to him.

I believe that modern chivalry should focus more on the idea of helping the weaker. This does not preclude offering aid to women, but also suggests offering aid to weaker or lesser men. However great you think you are you may find yourself in a position of weakness. Likewise, however modest you feel you are there will still be those for whom you will be better.

There are many ways a man can support lesser men: defending a dorky guy from charges of “creepiness” (ask what he specifically did wrong, explain that he might just be shy or awkward, attempt to let the accusers see just how unfair they are); defending a smaller/frailer man from attack (the kind of thing men do unthinkingly for a woman); offering aid to an older man with some physical task (again, the kind of thing men do unthinkingly for women).

I offer a recent example from my own life. I was out grabbing a quick walk for exercise; as such I had just thrown on some old clothes that I cared little for. I came upon a young man pulled over to the side of the road, apparently suffering a flat tire. He had just opened the trunk and had pulled the jack out. He was dressed in a suit and the weather had been raining, so the roads were wet. I saw that his clothes were not optimal for the job at hand. I offered to help, explaining that I was dressed more suitably for the job. He was a young man and judging from his car, clothes, and our conversation, was low on the corporate status hierarchy. He was very grateful; I suspect less for not getting his suit dirty, and more for getting the respect, and unasked for help. Receiving such things is rare for most men. The chivalry aspect is that at that moment I was in the stronger position (no clothes to mess up) and thus offered my assistance. I would like to see more of that kind of chivalry and less of the defending some annoying woman that has attacked a man and received a smack for her trouble.

I would like to see “women and children first” replaced by frail (men or women) and disabled first. This makes sense as only the able bodied can offer assistance and will be better able to make a quick exit if the situation deteriorates. That able-bodied women go ahead of older and frailer men seems just silly.

I do not see male upon male competition ever going away but perhaps we could pause in the battle to help a comrade in arms. If the British and German soldiers of World War I could pause in their fight to enjoy a friendly soccer match, you can pause for a moment to help a fellow man.


More on the The soccer playing Christmas Truce. Wikipedia has a longer article on the WWI unofficial truces.

The men I describe may sound like betas. This is probably correct, as the majority of men are (by definition) beta. However the knights of old had status, this status brought with it the duties of chivalry. I would make the call for male to male chivalry to the alphas too.

4 Responses to “Chivalry”

  1. PA Says:

    One of the differences between Western — nah, I’m mincing words — White men and all others is that we come from a tradition of treating the woman as equal to us before God, however subordinate to us as men in the practical sense. Chivalry was always premised on a transactional basis: we give women comfort and protection in exchange for their virtue and modesty.

    In contrast, other civilizations, even high-functioning ones, saw women as little more than chattel. So it’s no surprise that only our civ that could develop a workable notion of chivalry.

    As to a related phenomenon, which in alt-right circles is known as white-knighting: that’s s perversion of traditional chivalry. A real knight of old did not defer to whores, and would have hid unfaithful wife decapitated.

    That’s why I like my workable definition of white knighting: “to put oneself or a third party ay a disadvantage to assist an undeserving woman.”

    Incidentally, white knighting and feminism itself could also have only sprung from our civilization. They are cancerous mutations of classic chivalry, and they took root among us because too many men are unilaterally still operating under the original arrangement between the sexes.
    [DU: A very good summation. I like your description of white knighting.]

  2. David Foster Says:

    C S Lewis on chivalry
    [DU: Interesting piece. Thanks]

  3. Hope Says:

    I think everyone can offer to help others. It’s called courtesy instead of chivalry. This may be a difference in upbringing. In China, school aged children were taught to give up their seats for the elderly, and to always help out wherever they could.
    [DU: I agree. There is nothing wrong with offering help to others, especially, if due to age or disability, they are less able. The special deference due to all women, at all times, by all men, regardless of her position is what is wrong. Common courtesy is no problem because common courtesy is a two way thing.]

  4. Mucius Scaevola Says:

    we come from a tradition of treating the woman as equal to us before God”

    agree tacitus said this idea specifically came from northern germanic tribes who would ask their woman’s opinion on war or raiding etc.

    “white knight would chop unfaithful wife’s head off” yup lol

    chivalry and feminism are incompatible, ultimately. how many men will gladly stay assuming a male discriminatory role of father/provider/hero when a woman has redefined her role as lawyer/slut/not-mother? the future will tell
    [DU: I think some chivalrous attitudes still exist, to the degree that men accept that they “must” give women the right to be a non-mother while maintaining their own role of protector/provider. Chivalrous attitudes make it more difficult for men to assert authority and more difficult to see where a woman is not playing fair. The question, as you stated, is how long that state will last.]

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