A long, long, long time ago during the Middle Ages, a time period in which people walked on streets covered in human shit, courageous men sat atop noble steeds, trained for the very real prospect of violent combat, and gracefully courted gentle, docile women in the name of chivalry.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... so it seems.
Well, chivalry -- you know, that buzzword we all throw around when we lament about the "hook-up culture" and the fact that men don't take women on dates anymore, or something -- is dead. But not for the reasons you think.
If I were to go into the semantics of the word, you would want it dead, too. The historical definition of chivalry is, literally, for a man to cater to the weak.
I don't know about you, but I am no weakling, so I'm ready to cast any modern-day variation of this definition that may imply I am weak and therefore need saving to the side.
However, we don't exist in a vacuum. We're all surrounded by social cues that dictate what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, and we all abide by them whether we are conscious of it or not.
Similarly, in relationships, there are certain roles considered traditionally masculine and certain roles considered traditionally feminine. "Chivalry" happens to be muddled somewhere in that definition of traditionally masculine roles.
Paying for the bill at dinner, mowing the lawn, opening the door, being the breadwinner, killing the scary bugs -- that's all man's work. Anything including cleaning, cooking, taking care of kids, and just generally being nurturing is for the ladies. These lists aren't exhaustive, but you get it.
I have issues with the concept of chivalry for a variety of reasons.
For one, there's no real female equivalent. I mean, when you do all of those nice things for me, it's called heroic. When I do all of those also nice things for you, it's called oppression. It's called me lowering myself. Why is there no word for the selfless things I, as a woman, voluntarily do for you?
I truly have no problem with making you feel like a man if you make me feel like a woman. I love being feminine. I embrace my gender wholeheartedly.
So what's the harm in me cooking a delicious meal for you and, in exchange, you take out the garbage filled with remains of the chicken we ate?
What's the harm in you picking a restaurant for date night or paying the bill, and I iron your shirt or do your laundry for you?
Keep holding the door open for me, and I'll keep packing your lunch for you when you go to work. Kill this cockroach in my apartment, and I'll do that crazy sexual thing you've always wanted to try.
In an ideal world, relationship roles would not be gendered at all. But, again, we don't live in a vacuum, so that's not possible.
If we're going to assign gender to relationship roles, we have to stop valuing gender so differently. There's a reason there's no female equivalent to chivalry, and it's because society values traditionally masculine roles in relationships more than it values traditionally feminine roles.
It's because what women contribute to relationships just isn't reflective enough of "strength" and "power," so it just doesn't matter enough -- and this way of thinking has to stop.
The gendered nature of roles in relationships is troubling not because they're gendered, but because they differ in value.
I want to live in a world in which men choosing to adhere to traditional masculine roles and women choosing to adhere to traditional feminine roles is considered an equal partnership, not where one set of roles is considered "valiant" and another set of roles is considered "lessening."
Even more so, I want to live in a world in which gendered relationship roles are interchangeable because they have equal worth, which means we can choose to abide by either set of roles without any kind of social consequences.
I'm positive that you are just as capable of cleaning the house, cooking dinner, taking care of children and being as nurturing as I am; I promise, your masculinity won't be revoked if you do any of these things.
I'm also positive that, just like you, I am capable of paying for the dinner bill, mowing the lawn, opening the door, making a substantial amount of money and killing bugs. Objectively, all of these tasks can indeed be completed by both genders.
Find me any woman who wouldn't be absolutely thrilled seeing her boyfriend cook or help out around the house, or any man who wouldn't breathe a sigh of relief during a particularly bank account-draining month if his girlfriend said, "I got this!" when the dinner check came. I won't believe you.
To be honest, though, I'm not trying to swat bugs, do landscaping or foot the dinner bill. Sometimes, bugs are huge and scary, and I want you to protect me from a freaky pair of googley eyes and a nasty stinger.
I also have no idea how to mow a lawn. And it's kind of nice when you pay for dinner.
I'm ready to start valuing what women bring to the table more. There's nobility in your strength, yes, but there's also equal nobility in my nurturing.
I'm ready to say that being feminine is okay and that choosing to adhere to feminine roles is okay because femininity is just as important as masculinity.
I'm ready to say that if you want to make your man a sandwich, Jesus Christ, make him a damn sandwich. It doesn't matter. You are not any less feminist for making your man a sandwich.
I once made my boyfriend an amazing grilled cheese and bacon sandwich dripping in both cheese and bacon, and my God, I felt great about it.
So yes, chivalry is dead. Gone. Buried forever. And I couldn't be happier.
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