'Chivalrous men are damned if they do and damned if they don’t'

"I will explain to him that polite, honest and altruistic behaviour towards women does not mean he is a sexist pig."

Today’s parents have a hard time getting things right. 

There are countless columns explaining why parents should buy their kids ‘genderless’ clothes and make sure they don’t instill old-fashioned gender notions such as ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ and ‘boys don’t cry’. But at the same time, many parents still want their children to be courteous and kind – to hold open doors, offer seats to those less able to stand – and in the case of boys, to be chivalrous.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Louise Roberts says she believes “chivalry and equality go together like bread and butter” but that she fears for her teenage son in a world where everything has become a gender debate – a place where men “live in fear of what they might say because they are men”.

As a result, Roberts wants young feminists to “dial back the outrage and stop stacking up alleged gender crime like kindling in a backyard to set fire to and burn all men at the stake”.

Roberts refers to a recent Daily Telegraph  opinion piece in which writer Karlie Rutherford laments the decline of niceties after being forced to stand on a bus, despite being 23 weeks pregnant. The mother-to-be said she was clinging on for dear life while a bunch of young men sat comfortably nearby. She was eventually offered a seat by a woman.

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“Should I be flattered that men don’t stand up for me because they see me on the same level?” Rutherford asked in the column.

Roberts doesn’t think that that’s it, though. Instead, she argues that the fervour for equality has killed kindness between men and women.  “We’ve allowed the current narrative to flourish because feminism has been corrupted beyond its actual definition — equality for men and women,” Roberts reckons. “[This corrupted feminism] has massacred manners. And it has rendered empathy almost extinct because men are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

Roberts said that as far as her son is concerned, she will “explain to him that polite, honest and altruistic behaviour towards women does not mean he is a sexist pig”.

In the comments section, it was clear that many agreed with Roberts’ description of the changing dynamics between the sexes, but many also pointed out she was wrong that it was possible to couple chivalry and courtesy.

“Feminism and chivalry are diametrically opposed. They can’t co-exist because neither is about mutual respect and understanding. Feminism (being generous) is about women being equal. Chivalry defines [women] as weak and needing special treatment,” one user wrote.

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Some noted that perhaps offering a pregnant woman a seat wasn’t the best example, since that is not a state that can be equally experienced by men and women. Instead, they said, consider everyone an equal and be courteous to all.

“Far better to teach one’s children that all people should be helped if they need help, no matter their gender,” a user said. “Don’t open a door for someone because they are female. Open it for someone who can’t do it easily for themselves.”

Do you agree with the writer? Do you men are worried about being chivalrous because it could be misinterpreted? Or is being courteous entirely possible even while respecting equality?

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