A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I wrote about how chivalry was dead. At the time, I declared us women responsible for that death. It was our fault. We were the ones that had stabbed it to death. We let the blood drain from its body and we watched as it went cold and stiff with the void. I tried looking up that old blog, but I forgot how to log into that online account. Then I remembered having archived all those old posts in a Word document somewhere. I searched for that file, but came away empty-handed. I looked in my computer, old social media profiles, ancient emails and my external hard drive. I even checked my cloud and found nothing. I got nothing. I looked for so long I forgot where I was going with this whole thing, and so I stopped. Instead of desperately typing key words into Finder for another hour, I’ll just get on with it.
Chivalry isn’t dead. That old post was wrong. I was wrong. I’m an idiot, and I’m glad I grew out of that mindset. Don't worry; there are still people out there who are thoughtful, courteous, generous and charming. The knights of the chivalrous army exist and they’re here to remind us that some folks still have an enviable sophistication to them.
Today, I don't even define chivalry as a uniquely masculine concept. It's 2015 and women can be chivalrous too. We were born to be chivalrous. We’re expected to be polite, courteous and gracious the moment we shoot from the womb. Modern-day chivalry is unisex and rare.
Google defines it as follows:
You’ll notice, nowhere in the above definition does it say “complimentary.” It’s not implied, listed or even mentioned. From what I gather, the men of this medieval knightly system did not appear obligated to give women compliments. What they were required to do was be gracious.
Compliments aren’t part of a noble code of conduct. They’re nice things we say about and to one another. They’re tricky and they aren’t usually invited. That’s not to say they’re all unwanted. It just means that folks don’t usually ask for them outright. They can be many things including alluring, charming, distracting and even creepy. And, when you’re working with a real peach of a person, they’re backhanded.
Despite the fact that chivalry and compliments are two very different things, I’ve heard many folks insist that by bluntly rejecting compliments, women are single-handedly killing chivalry. As mentioned, I used to be one of those people. I have since learned that sometimes giving a compliment is the least chivalrous thing one can do.
The ladies know what I’m talking about, but I must say, I did feel that collective masculine eye roll just now.
Last month Charlotte Proudman called out a LinkedIn connection for creepily commenting on her looks after accepting her request to connect.
Proudman told Alexander Carter-Silk, in no uncertain terms, that she’d been offended by his message. Yeah, she may have gone a tad overboard rebuffing his remarks, but she definitely got her point across.
When I shared this story with my husband, I told him I agreed with Proudman. The moment I said that, he shot me a pointed look, which seemed to ask if I’d lost my damn mind. My jaw hit the floor in disbelief the moment I caught sight of his reaction.
“Does that mean I shouldn’t compliment you anymore, since compliments are sexist now?” my husband asked. “That’s not what I meant,” I replied. Irritated, he snapped, “Christ! Chivalry is dead.”
I'd shared this same article on social media previously and had gotten the same kind of response from other folks. Lots of people saw Proudman's behavior as evidence that chivalry was either dead or dying. Even I used to think bitchy women coming down on nice guys for giving them compliments, was actively contributing to chivalry’s demise. Who was I to judge, right? Well, I’m older and wiser now and I’m Jane motherfucking Smith, that's who.
First of all, chivalry does not specifically involve giving compliments. I believe I’ve already established that. Second, it’s not so much that these compliments aren’t welcome. A beautiful, well-timed compliment is a work of art and always appreciated.
But alas, you are not Jack Nicholson, I am not Helen Hunt and this is not As Good as It Gets.
The actual problem is that people expect women to be grateful that someone found us (or one of our body parts) attractive enough to comment on openly. Did my careful wording fail me? This is probably one of those instances where it’s better to be direct, so let me rephrase.
What the fuck do I care what you think of my physical appearance? Better yet, what do any of us care what you think of our faces, lips, legs, ass, tits, eyes, profile pictures, hair cuts, outfits, etc.?
That's harsh. I know; I totally just pulled a Proudman. However, it has to be harsh because people are harsh. As women, we’re not usually running into positive, life-altering compliments like the one in the video above. Oh no, my friend. Most of the time we’re getting told what people would like to do to us. Other times strangers critique specific body parts. And sometimes we’re being told we’re ugly or unfukcable. None of it is welcome or appreciated. What’s more, oftentimes the “compliments” come out of left field, at inappropriate times and in inappropriate settings such as LinkedIn.
Chivalry isn’t dead; it’s just misunderstood. The next time you want to grace some woman with your uninvited judgment of her physical appearance, ask yourself first if the chivalrous thing to do would be to keep your trap shut.
Note to husbands, boyfriends, manfriends, etc.:
Compliment your woman. If you're already together, timing isn't really an issue for you. This is not some feminist double-edged sword to use as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Be sincere and don’t be a dick. Chicks dig that.