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Is chivalry compatible with equality?

Is Chivalry Compatible With Equality?

I’m in a quandary.

The modern woman is empowered and independent yet, as female kind collectively, we still allow our dates to foot the bill, open doors, and help us into taxis (I know, I know, all the clichés). Why are our inner feminists not in uproar? Isn’t it these very actions that set women up to be forever subordinate to men? Fifteen years after Carrie Bradshaw questioned whether women simply want to be rescued by men, I can’t stop thinking: are traditional ideas of chivalry and courtship flawed, or is it acceptable to crave something different in the boardroom to the bedroom?

This is a topic that has taken up much of my mental real estate recently. As women living in a free western society, we should have just as much involvement in paying the bill at the end of a date. With the implementation of equal pay, it seems wrong to assume men must settle up at the end of a meal, as we are perfectly capable of matching their salaries. Indeed, 82% of British women would prefer to pay for their own dinner on a first date (The Telegraph, 2013), so why is that at the end of what was either a complete success, or horrendous mistake, men still feel the need to whip out their wallet?

In the name of transparency, I should probably hold up my hands now and confess: if and when a man offers to pay on a date, I don’t tend to succumb to an overwhelming state of anger or offence that they want to do so, which perhaps is part of the problem. We willingly subject ourselves to reliance and passiveness, which as independent women is a complete juxtaposition to our current view of equality. To expect a man to pay because it is the ‘done thing’ contradicts all that we and our ancestors stand for. Ms Pankhurst didn’t throw herself in front of a horse in order to gain an equal vote, equal pay and equal rights for women, for it then to be reversed by a flawed view of chivalry.

Now it may appear I’m being rather pedantic and over-dramatic, as what’s £50 over dinner? Surely it is flattering that a young gentleman is willing to spend his hard earned cash on me? But rather than the money itself, it is the principle in question. That for a man to assume he must pay in this modern age is flawed. Even more so, it seems that when a woman insists she pays, she is met by a string of reasons as to why she must not: “It’s my treat”, “It’s what I’m supposed to do”, “I couldn’t let you pay”.

Well I say, why the hell not!

Consider what Emma Watson eloquently articulated: “I love having the door open for me. But I think the key is, would you mind if I open the door for you?” This is the exact point, that chivalry is a two way exchange. Equality is the fair treatment of all, the fair chance of opportunity – which both men and women should experience. In fact, one might say it is verging on sexism towards men if they continue to assume they should pay!

Last month, a new dating app – Chivalry Not Dead – launched, with the premise that only men can make the first move. Despite being designed for those who feel disengaged with the hook-up culture, it feels, by its very nature, the antithesis of what modern women want from a dating site – something traditionalist and patronising, where men hold the power. It also leaves me wondering what modern society understands chivalry to be: an act of respect, loyalty and honesty towards someone seen as your equal, or a (medieval) code of conduct in which men are needed to enable the ‘weaker’ sex?

I guess, for me, what is boils down to is this: if the empowerment of women solely depends on the attitudes of men, then are women really empowered at all?

Image courtesy of: Vann Piazza

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