Date Knight: Is it time to slay the dragon of chivalry?
As we celebrate England’s favourite knight in shining armour St George, writer and dating blogger Jon Hamblin questions the meaning of chivalry in modern-day dating.
“I really, really appreciate it when a guy stands up [when a lady enters the room] or when there is a chivalrous gesture. It makes me feel really good. Not that I think chivalry is dead; it just might have the flu.” – Meg Ryan
Do you long for a time when knight-errants roamed the land, looking to perform chivalrous deeds for fair maidens? Do you secretly long for men to get up at the crack of sparrow fart, so that they can fire pistols at each other in order to defend your honour? Or would you simply like a guy you’re dating to hold a door open for you once in a while?
Now, I might be an unusual choice to write an article about the death of chivalry, given that my blog, The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women is little more than a catalogue of stories, deeds and things that I’ve made for the women I’ve loved in my life. Although I don’t consider the creation of those things to be particularly chivalrous – I just really like making things.
There’s no question though that in the world of modern dating, the concept of chivalry is a thorny issue. While some women might long for a handsome knight to sweep them off their feet (or at least offer them a seat on the tube), many quite rightly find the idea patronising. A recent survey also found that many men were afraid to perform ‘chivalrous’ gestures for women for fear of offending. Even as far back as the 17th Century, Cervantes was mocking the idea of following a rigid code of conduct in the pages of Don Quixote; it’s a novel that frequently pops into my mind when I consider my own Quixotic quest to document my own attempts at tilting at the windmills of romance. So why do I think that chivalry a romantic notion that’s truly had its day? Well, let’s cue up a Scooby Doo wobbly flashback and look at the origins of chivalry, shall we?
Like tennis, the wheelbarrow, and (possibly) adultery, chivalry originated in medieval France, and it quite literally meant ‘Horsemanship’. Over time, the meaning shifted to represent a moral code of conduct that embraced noble values, courtly love, patriotism, and the murdering of infidels on sight. Essentially, then, it was the medieval equivalent of UKIP party manifesto, if Nigel Farage was a bold handsome knight instead of a greasy toad. When people mention chivalry these days, they’re usually only referring to the courtly love aspect, as in duties that are carried out specifically in the name of women. You know the sort of thing; fighting duels, going on quests, programming the PVR to record Gogglebox.
But while the idea of getting Gary off his arse to go on a romantic mission to the corner shop to get you a packet of crisps might seem great, there is no question that the concept of chivalry is horribly sexist. It promotes the idea that women are completely unable to fend for themselves; mewling kittens in need of a saucer of milk and a pat on the head. Perhaps in the Middle Ages it made more sense – women had almost no rights, and so romantic notions of knights who would fight for their honour were wildly popular. But today, thanks to the bold actions of the Suffragettes, and all the great women and men who built on their work subsequently, sisters have been empowered to fight their own battles, and become their own knights.
So given this history, why do people still want a return to chivalric qualities? Well, the short answer is, they probably don’t. Not really. They’re certainly not looking for someone to belittle their gender before going off on a jingoistic rant, which is in essence, what chivalry originally represented. No, when folks ask for a little chivalry, what they’re usually looking for is just some good old-fashioned manners. Small gestures of politeness that are performed, not because of your sex, but because you’re also a human, and humans don’t like having doors slammed in their faces. So the next time you’re on a date, forget about ancient largely redundant moral codes and concentrate on manners instead; then maybe like St. George, we can slay the mis-understood dragon of chivalry once and for all.
Jon Hamblin is the writer of ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women”, an award winning blog that details his frequent failures to impress any women ever. He will open doors for you, but if you have any dragons you need to slay, you’re on your own.
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