Chivalry in Our World Today…What Do I Teach My Daughters?

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Ah, how I fondly remember the olden days, 20 to 25 years ago. Well, sort of… I was old enough to be in the workforce, young enough to enjoy my twenties, and to realize when a gentleman was a gentleman.

Yes, I am somewhat of a traditionalist and perhaps old fashioned, and I valued this display of chivalry. Even stepping back to college, I fondly remember my male fellow students holding a door, asking if they could help with heavy books, giving me and other ladies a seat at a full table, getting up to say hello when a girl approached.

Then at my first job after college, I was one of the few women on a team of men in banking, and I was treated like gold. Generally, in the professional world, by colleagues, and clients, I remember men holding doors, letting me out of the elevator first and such. Coffee run, lunch run, etc., I was always asked if I’d like anything. Wow, what a concept! But what does chivalry mean in our world today?

Is this gone? Is that ok? Is there still a place for that in today’s modern world and society? I hear and read more and more that chivalry has no position in today’s modern world. Does the rise of gender equality speak to this? Isn’t there a difference between a gentleman being a gentleman and chauvinism – or making women feel weak? Or do women think that it innately speaks of women as the lesser gender?

And what do I teach my daughters? Is it ok to accept certain societal traditions and still feel that you are strong and independent? 

I suppose there is a fine line, thinly veiled with the intention of the act itself. The real difference today is knowing that a woman could do all she’d like to do. However, she’d rather have a man take the lead on some things just as she’ll take the lead on others. 

That door can and should be held, but that can be done by anyone! The definition of chivalry has changed and is now transitioning into what we call good manners across the sexes. Opening a door or offering a seat is NOT done, and should not be done, out of the assumption of weakness for another gender. Sure on a crowded bus or train when offering a seat, it is innately due to someone else needing it more than you do. But that could be anyone, whether someone is feeling unwell, pregnant, sick, older and frail, etc. 

So it seems that chivalry has moved from a historically male-dominated role (and expectation) to a more even-keeled approach, where we as people are actively involved regardless of gender. Just good manners. It seems that this has evolved along with our world, and so long as we are kind to one another, all the better. So perhaps it is less about what to teach my daughters, but what we teach all children, that is – kindness and manners regardless of gender towards all. 

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Alla lives in Ardsley with her husband, two teenage girls and fluffy Havanese dog named Oliver. She is a camp director in Dobbs Ferry for the last 11 years which is her second career. Prior to this career change, she was in finance for over 18 years. Alla enjoys cooking, travel, yoga, good wine and reality TV. Her motto is 'I can learn to do anything and laugh at myself trying.' Learning to live with teenagers and sending them off to college may be the biggest learning curve yet!