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Should Chivalry Be Relevant Today?


I’m often asked in my presentations if chivalrous acts are still appropriate for men today, such as standing when a woman walks into a room or allowing her to get on the elevator first. Older men especially seem concerned about this question since they were raised in an era when chivalry was expected and the rules were very different 30 plus years ago.

What is chivalry?

An online dictionary states chivalry is “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.” The  word is associated with the medieval institution of knighthood” when “knights’ and gentlewomen’s behaviors were governed by chivalrous social codes,” according to Wikipedia. Chivalry is most thought of as courtesy and gentleness to women.

Chivalry has changed quite a bit since it appeared in the middle ages. So, what is the current thinking on chivalry? Because women make up over 50% of the workforce and hold more than just support roles chivalry no longer applies in the workplace. The rule is if a man wouldn’t do the act for another man he shouldn’t do it for a woman. However, there is one exception in the workplace and that is a man should let a woman get on the elevator first. I don’t know why it’s an exception, but it seems rude when a man boards or disembarks the elevator ahead of a woman. That said, a man should not hold up traffic to let a woman get on or off first.

Related: The Competitive Advantage of Kindness

In social situations, chivalry is still acceptable. That said, I think it comes down to men and women being courteous to each other rather than men being the only ones practicing courteous acts. A woman should hold the door open for men and women.  And, a woman should not be insulted if a man holds the door open for her. It is not meant as a put down or suggestion that a woman is weak, it’s simply an act of courtesy. Be thankful.

Here are other chivalrous acts that I think are still appreciated and should be practiced socially with women, or really with anyone because they are nice things to do:

  • Helping her with her coat
  • Sharing your umbrella when she forgot hers
  • Waiting for her to sit first before you do
  • Letting her order first at a restaurant
  • Standing up for a woman if she is harassed
  • Letting her go through a door first

Some chivalrous acts that seem to be going away and appear somewhat antiquated in social situations include:

  • Ordering for a woman at a restaurant
  • A man standing when a woman leaves the table or enters a room
  • Opening the car door for her if it means having to run around the car to do so
  • Lifting your hat when you greet a woman. But do take that hat off when you’re indoors
  • Paying the bill if she invited you. The rule is whoever invited is who pays

What do you think of chivalry? Men, do you practice any chivalrous acts? Women, do you like it when men practice courteous acts with you? Are you ever offended? Why? Would you add anything to the list?

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