Should chivalry be stopped?

17:00, Jul 21 2011

I am a feminist. I also like men to be chivalrous, kind to women and open doors before I walk through them. It's polite; it's manly and it's darn bloody sexy. So you can imagine my surprise when I came across a new feminist study the other day, which claimed that chivalry should be banned and that men who practise it are guilty of so-called benevolent sexism.

Say what!? Yep, according to the study, titled Seeing the Unseen, carried out by psychologists Janet Swim (of Pennsylvania State University) and Julia Becker (of Philipps-University Marburg, Germany), men who open doors for women are guilty of sexist behaviour and they should be stopped immediately.

While the survey had me a little outraged and almost embarrassed to call myself a feminist, I was eager to find out more. According to the authors, any behaviour that "reinforces the idea that women should be protected and financially provided for by men" is sexist.

They cite examples such as men helping women with long drives, buying their computers, carrying their shopping bags, complimenting them on female-orientated skills, paying for their dinner and dropping them home - all of which they reckon constitute sexist acts that imply women are incapable without a man and therefore should be stopped. 

"There are many acts of unnoticed sexism taking place every day through acts or comments that suggested women could not cope without a man's help," the researchers concluded. They even went so far as to define chivalrous acts as "damaging" to women.

Damaging? Seriously?


When I polled a bunch of blokes on the subject, they were as confused as the femmes. Most men actually like to be chivalrous (believe it or not) because of the basic biological differences between the sexes.

"From an evolutionary perspective, I'm meant to do the physical stuff because I was born stronger than her, and because she is busy with the children or whatever," said Ned, a 30-something finance guy. "Opening a car door is a tiny manifestation of that." 

Another bloke, Tom, a successful entrepreneur, told me that he couldn't even date a woman who wouldn't allow him to do things for her. "It makes me feel good to do something for a woman because that way I feel needed. If I don't feel like I serve a purpose in her life, I don't really want to be with her."

A third, Jed, said the study made him rather angry. "Feminism is anti-evolution. The whole point of sexual attraction is to have polarity in relationships. Humans exist because women are meant to be maternal and physically weaker, but emotionally stronger. I think most men wouldn't want to be with women who believed in total equality. A healthy relationship should have two different halves to it, not two people equal in all respects."

A fourth, Kent, had an interesting point: "Should I be angry that I can't have children? Because that's essentially what the feminist argument says, if you think about it. It's fundamentally flawed."

And Eric said this: "Reading this study is a bit irritating. I'd hate to think there is a great section of society that thinks women really should be able to live without men and vice versa. To me it just stinks of having been rejected or slighted in the past."


When it comes to feminism, we are grateful for things such as equal pay, the right to vote, own a credit card, drive and get a university degree. We are thankful to the feminists before us who fought for those rights.

But when turgid research studies are released by the same feminists who made such positive differences to our lives, it's no wonder many blokes and the rest of us women who call ourselves feminists, aren't exactly impressed.

If a man didn't want to open doors, pay for dates or have the natural instinct to want to protect and provide for a woman whom he loved and adored, I'd think there was something wrong.

But to say that it's benevolent sexism that should be stopped immediately? Now that's just plain stupidity ...

Sydney Morning Herald