Hannah Holland ’15
On Wednesday November 28, the Trinity College PRIDE association hosted a discussion-based forum entitled Is Chivalry Dead? As the forum advanced it became evident that the event-goers differed on the topic in a number of ways. Many members of the audience argued that chivalry is an antiquated concept that has lessened as women’s rights have increased. Chivalry, in a traditional sense, is a knightly system of moral, social and religious code that translates into the way a man might act towards a woman. Yes, chivalry is synonymous with politeness but, more than that, it is gallantry and valor. Many people argued that considering women have more fully inserted themselves into the workforce and hold positions of power, comparable to their male counterparts, that relationships are two-sided. Men should treat women with respect, chivalrously if you will, but women should treat men with similar adoration. The debate began, within the audience, as to how women might treat men that translates the same way. In a relationship context, the longer a couple has been dating the more room there is for the girl to begin to pay for dinners and act in such a manner. Many of the men in the audience argued that they felt it was their responsibility to pay for dinner, to hold the door and to do things of that nature. If a woman is cold, they said, they would offer her their jacket even if they themselves were cold. However, if the roles were reversed and a woman was to offer a jacket to a man, not only would he decline the offer but he would also feel emasculated. It touches a man’s pride. Therein lies the chivalry catch-22. Conversely, many members of the audience argued that in a modern context chivalry is merely a euphemism for respect. Chivalry should simply be considered common courtesy. Men and women should just treat each other well despite being in a relationship or otherwise. Men should not treat a woman well who he is pursuing or in a relationship with but all women, all people, in general. Just as women should not rely on men to be the sole providers of traditionally chivalrous actions, women should be kind to men as well. Then, Jacob Rivers, one of the forum holders, posed the question does sex ruin or change chivalry? The audience argued that it should not. Sex has become more relaxed but the way people treat each other should not follow suit. Sex is easier to come by, especially in the context of a college campus, but it still does not replace a relationship. If a man has been raised to be chivalrous or feels it is in his moral fabric to act chivalrously, then sex will not change that. One member of the audience even stated that he feels he finds himself especially nicer to girls after he has had sex with them. Based on the content of the forum, it is safe to say that although chivalry has changed from the days of knightly valor, it is still prevalent in our society. Chivalry will continue to change as the social roles of women and men continue to as well.
On a campus such as Trinity’s, these questions of equality and percieved equality continue to have startling relevance. The recent debates on the social policy have been largely focused on the idea that, despite students not actively pursuing sexism, the Trinity environment and social scene is largely male-centric. All students should strive to pay better attention to the way in which their actions can be percieved as supporting inequality and to maintain friendly and polite behavior when with both genders.