Why Don’t Women find “Chivalry” Insulting?

I was reading this article on chivalry in the TOI blog section where the author (Pooja Bedi) makes the claim that men must treat a woman “like a lady” and that if the guy can afford it, asking their partner to pay for half the meal is boorish. Specifically, she would be “taken aback”. I found myself thinking “Really?” Taken aback? Why does the idea of a woman paying for half the meal “take you aback”?

None of us are new to people self righteously proclaiming things like “Women are like god”, “The purity of a family depends on the woman”, “Women are the backbone of society” blah blah blah. Then turning around and in the same breath demanding that they conform to their social roles of subservience. It seems that treating women overly delicately and abusing them are two sides of the same coin. It is precisely those people who think women are special who also impose unfair expectations on them.

Are we serious about gender equality? If we are, then women need to voluntarily give up all the “perks” that are traditionally forced on them. Only then do we have a platform for equality. It doesn’t wash if a woman views herself as equal to a man in all important areas of life, and expects the guy to foot the bill when they go out together solely due to her gender!

Yet there are some who cling to notions of chivalry. “A woman likes to be taken care of”. Oh really? Guess what, I’m a guy and I’d like to be taken care of too! As long as there are no consequences, why not? But that’s such a loaded statement. Like I said before, “taking care of woman” can justify special treatment – like controlling her for her own good. You can’t divorce one attitude from the other. It’s all or nothing.

It seems that treating women overly delicately and abusing them are two sides of the same coin.

I have the feeling that most right thinking women will agree with me – that chivalry needs to die. No one is talking about disrespecting women – or any human being for that matter. I will treat a woman as I treat everyone else. With decency unless I have reason not to. And if I go on a date, I will expect a girl to share the bill on her own. I would expect her to feel offended if I offered to pay the whole bill.

For those who bemoan the bad manners of this age where no one holds a door open for a woman because she is a woman, I say good riddance. About bloody time. The times – they be a changing. As a side note, I regularly hold the door open for others – not just women, but men as well. You don’t need useless concepts of chivalry to be polite to others. Be decent to everyone – not just women.

Those who think that I’m taking this equality thing too far should realize that it’s the little things that sculpt our attitudes. The minor reinforcements to our world views that justify our behavior. As long as we treat women differently, that sets the stage for having double standards towards them in other ways as well. It’s time we figured out that women are people like everyone else. Not delicate wall flowers that need our protection.

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34 thoughts on “Why Don’t Women find “Chivalry” Insulting?”

  1. A lot of women do find ‘chivalry’ insulting – all one needs is basic courtesy extended to all, men, women, children, elderly. And by all, men, women, children, elderly.

    Also, chivalry seems to require women to act like ladies – honorable, deserving of chivalry by gentlemen, and preferably pretty or atleast attractive to men.

    Because if chivalry was really meant for all ‘ladies’ then it wouldn’t be so classist.


    • In reply to Indian Homemaker

      IHM your last sentence is really a great point. Not only is chivalry just benevolent sexism, it is very classist. I know in the US specifically, chivalry wasn’t (and isn’t) something that extends to all women. Working class and minority women weren’t afforded chivalry. This goes back to a famous speech titled “Ain’t I A Woman” by a woman named Sojourner Truth who pointed out that no one helps her into carriages, no one helps over mud puddles, etc.

      Not only do women find it insulting because it treats them like they’re helpless, it’s also insulting because it’s basically saying that only “certain” are deserving of courtesy and respect. Chivalry is basically insulting all around.


    • In reply to Indian Homemaker

      IHM you made a great point with your last sentence. Chivalry is very classist, I know in the US specifically chivalry (historically especially) didn’t extend to all women. Especially working class and minority women. In some ways, it’s still like this. Sojourner Truth who was a former slave and then become a women’s rights and abolitionist is famous for giving a speech titled “Ain’t I A Woman” where she basically pointed out how no one helped her into carriages and no one helped her over mud puddles, etc.

      Basically, chivalry is insulting all around. Not only does it treat women like they’re helpless, it’s also saying that only certain people are deserving of courtesy and respect.


  2. I need no alms of food from any male, thank you very much. If Pooja Bedi wants ‘bheek’ of this sort, she can go stand at the traffic signals like millions of women who DON’T have a choice but to beg for food. They also don’t have the choice to feel offended if you don’t give them food.

    I would be really uncomfortable if I had to go on a date and not pay part of the bill. Of course, if I am in a relationship, I’d like to be treated occasionally, but I’d also be willing to treat the other person occasionally.

    This is also the kind of thinking that drives men to be more career driven and ambitious and money minded, and less into spending time with the family and doing chores and looking after the kids. You can either choose to take alms from a man or you can expect equality in housework and childcare and pay your own food bills.


  3. Its all on you.

    If you want chivalry, great, if not ,fine.

    You can’t force a man not to act chivalrously.

    Shouldn’t we talk about gender “fairness” and not equality? Like it or not, men and women aren’t equal.

    1+1=2, always, right?

    men=women? Heck they are both spelled differently.

    The right side of the equation HAS TO BE EXACTLY equal to the left side of the equation, right?


    • In reply to Western Point of View

      But two men are not the same either. They may have different hair color, different heights, skin color or whatever.

      When determining whether or not to treat two people the same, you need to look for relevant differences and not just any differences. So unless we can prove a logical relationship between a certain type of difference and unequal treatment, those differences can be ignored.

      For example, the anatomy of men and women allows us to have different restrooms for both sexes (even though we can have unisex toilets as well). So that is a relevant difference as far as toilets go. Similarly, every difference in treatment between the sexes has to be logically supported by relevant differences, and not just any differences.

      Besides, I don’t think I talked about forcing people to behave non chivalrously. Or did I mention that somewhere and forget that I said it?


      • In reply to bhagwad

        Agreed, no two men are the same either and therefore also deserve FAIR not EQUAL treatment.

        Chivalry in itself can be relative as well. Picking up the check? Statistically, men make more money than women, therefore it would be FAIR for a man who has no idea what the woman does to pick up the check. Is it equal? No. Is it fair? sure, based on statistics of the land, say the United States, women GENERALLY make less money than men. Therefore it is perfectly acceptable for a man, who MOST LIKELY makes more money than the woman to pay for the dinner.

        You mention one point I would like to address–restrooms. As you mention, as far as toilets go, there is a relevant difference between men and women anatomically, and therefore, based on fair treatment, the relevant difference is for men and women to be treated fairly but differently in that they relieve themselves in different areas. However, this is the GENERAL population. The General population of women makes less money than men, right? However, there are great exceptions to this rule? Well, as it pertains to restrooms, there are exceptions as well. The exceptions are those men/women who differ amongst men/women anatomically. Perhaps a person who appears like a full fledged woman (breasts and all), identify herself as a woman, but was born with both a penis and a vagina. What then?

        In many facets of every day life, chivalry is totally called for. Men IN GENERAL can lift more weight than a woman and therefore it is most appropriate for a man to hold the door for a woman. Does she lack the capacity to do so herself? Probably not (unless otherwise obviously shown for example an extremely frail shape, lacking the ability to walk properly as the rest of the human population does, missing limbs, etc.). However, if a door to, say a nice Las Vegas Resort, which tend to be quite heavy is in the way, it is perfectly acceptable and praiseworthy for a man, who can GENERALLY bear more weight than a woman, to hold the door.

        Chivalry false into the “relevant” differences just as the toilet example does. Men and women have relevant differences. Men generally make more money than women, but there are exceptions. Men tend to be able to bear more weight when lifting, but there are exceptions. Women tend to withstand pain much easier than men, but there are exceptions. Women’s brains tend to multi-task much better than men.

        How are these differences not relevant as they apply to chivalry?


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        It’s not enough to show that statistically women make less money than men. If a bill is so low that it falls within the means of both groups, it’s illogical to use statistics to justify paying the bill. So if a man earns $100 and a woman earns $80 on an average, it’s illogical for a man to foot a $10 bill.

        In everyday life, bills in restaurants are well within paying range of the average man or woman who go to such places to eat.

        Similarly women are physically weaker than men. But the number of situation in everyday life that justify men helping women because they’re weaker is almost negligible. Opening doors? Pulling chairs? Even helping with burdens? Hardly. I would say anything less than 20-25 kilos is well within easy capacity for both men and women. But the number of situations where a man can help a woman with such weight will almost never happen in real life in today’s civilized world

        Chivalry is usually applied to useless superfluous situation when the woman is perfectly capable of doing things herself. We’re not talking about edge scenarios. At least I’m not.

        “Therefore it is perfectly acceptable for a man, who MOST LIKELY makes more money than the woman to pay for the dinner.”

        Depends on the amount. If it falls well within the capacity of most women to pay, then paying for them is illogical. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. You must apply it accurately or else risk making things worse.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        With that rationale, it comes down to picking and choosing. Perhaps it is illogical for a man to not foot a bill that is $10, but then again, what if the woman simply makes minimum wage and only works part time while the man makes $25/hour fulltime? Statistically, women are more likely to be working minimum wage and part time than men. Though these are more extreme, these are well within being reasonable.

        Now it is understandable how a woman may not want or accept chivalry, that is their discretion, however many women do feel the need to have a partner that is financially, emotionally (and/or spiritually) secure and acts as a complement. So opening doors, pushing chairs, etc., is simply a sign that one party is committed to making the other party’s life easier.

        Ask yourself, who does a better job multi-tasking at home? Generally women. Who does a better job bearing weight? generally men. Sure some of the more everyday activities such as opening doors and pulling chairs etc may be negligible, however for a woman particularly interested in finding a compatible complement to herself may be searching for this.

        Also, in the general populace, general knowledge IS important.

        Sure, women generally have vaginas and therefore must use the women’s restroom. But what about those that lack a vagina and identify themselves as a woman? Or the other way around with men?

        General knowledge is imperative and is necessary.

        Is this something that should be regulated? No, absolutely not. This falls within the desirable parameters in which the party of interest lays out.


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        Either we talk individually or statistically. If statistically, then logically it makes no sense for a man to pay for a woman if the bill is well within her statistical average wage. And a man will in most cases know if a woman is making minimum wage or unable to pay for herself. I used to pay for my wife when she was still in college and not earning. That is not chivalry. I would have done that for a guy in college as well!

        “So opening doors, pushing chairs, etc., is simply a sign that one party is committed to making the other party’s life easier.”

        If so, then she must open doors and push chairs for him as well. Commitment goes two ways.

        “Ask yourself, who does a better job multi-tasking at home? Generally women.”

        I’ve yet to see any peer reviewed scientific study that demonstrates this. If you know of any, let me know and I’ll take a look. Not just any link from anywhere – a proper peer reviewed study. This is far from “obvious” to me and it seems extraordinary that any such conclusion can be drawn.

        “Sure, women generally have vaginas and therefore must use the women’s restroom. But what about those that lack a vagina and identify themselves as a woman? Or the other way around with men?”

        Like I said earlier, I’m not discussing special cases here. This discussion is not about that.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        Multitasking in general–women are better at it.

        see the two below.


        “A Deeper Look at Gender Difference in Multitasking: Gender-Specific Mechanism of Cognitive Control ”

        Usually home tasks require more multi-tasking then do “work” tasks but it depends on circumstance.

        “And a man will in most cases know if a woman is making minimum wage or unable to pay for herself.” How so?

        “If so, then she must open doors and push chairs for him as well. Commitment goes two ways.” Sure, a man opens doors and pulls chairs. Perhaps the woman does the more typical feminine jobs–tidy house, cooking food, multi-tasking at home etc.
        Are they equal? Nope. Is it fair? I’d say so.

        Special cases? Everything is a special case, as you mentioned yourself. These special cases statistically also deserve attention.

        Paying a guy going through college? I wouldn’t do that. At the end of the day, due to biological reasons, hormonal reasons, etc., we are more inclined to help our female counterparts. For example, if a woman were going around the street asking for money for a charity, she is more likely to be successful than her male counterpart.

        Why? At the end of the day, every guy thinks he will get laid. And lemme tell you, this mentality works ;)


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        Actually the issue on multi tasking is a myth. The first study in 2010 Keith Laws has since been overriden by further research into the field. In another study in 2009 by Dongning Ren, Haotian Zhou and Xiaolan Fu, the authors conclude that none of the results apply in real life.

        A couple of months ago in yet another research, men outperformed women at certain periods of time correlated to their monthly cycles.

        So the research is very far from conclusive and there is very little (if any) accepted data to support the hypothesis that women are generally better than man in multi tasking.

        “And a man will in most cases know if a woman is making minimum wage or unable to pay for herself.”

        How so?

        If a guy takes a girl on a date, I presume he knows enough about what she does for a living no? At least I’ve known that about all the women I’ve taken out on a date!

        “We are more inclined to help our female counterparts.”

        I’m not. Is there any data to support the idea that men are genetically (and not socially) programmed to help our female counterparts? I know that women get things more easily. But if we remove the social programming from it (and the hope of sex), is there any other substantiating data point?

        And many women refuse to accept help. I’m saying that’s a good thing.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        Well you are correct about multitasking in itself, as when all of us multitask, as the Lewis studied has shown us, we just do badly. At the same time, are we to trust wikipedia on Human Multitasking?

        We are more inclined to help our female counterparts.

        Why? As I said–hope for sex, c’mon why else?

        Genetically? Sure, we have sex, have kids, maintain our fitness. Why not?

        Many women refuse help? That’s fine, it is their perogative to do so, right?

        Sure you knew about what the girl does for a living, but most others do not. Heck, most of the world doesn’t even practice dating in the first place. Most relationships in India are arranged (just like my own). So apples and oranges, right?


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        Wikipedia itself is as good as its sources. In this case, the sources check out. Besides, even if we do accept that women are better at multi tasking (for the sake of argument), it comes down to a question of “how much”. And that “how much” should determine a change in behavior just like earnings and physical strength by themselves do not constitute a basis for behavioral change.

        If you’re positing that sex is the reason, then fine. As long as you’re not saying “Women deserve it” or “They need to be treated gently” or whatever. But that clashes with “chivalry” for random women where there is no hope of sex or for women to whom one is not sexually attracted.

        The notion of chivalry is by itself about gender per se. Not about specific aspects of gender as a “chivalrous” person would pay even for a woman whom he knows earns far more than him.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        the how much question is a good question, point taken.

        But what is wrong with the “women deserve it” argument or the “gently” argument? Isn’t that up to the person acting chivalrously in the first place? What right do we have to correct that mentality?

        Chivalry is a strange thing in itself. I thoroughly don’t believe women and men should even be inter-mingling, so my viewpoint is biased. So obviously i disagree with Westernised dating as it simply provides false pretenses to both parties. but that is just me.

        Acting genuinely kind to all people is a good thing, but it is up to the person (ie the receiver) to receive it how h/she wants.

        The fact, however, that women and men are different should be accepted. Nothing should be regulated, but people who believe men and women are equal are simply lying to themselves. It is like me saying a sperm is equal to an egg.


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        I don’t think I (or anyone else) is talking about forcing people to change. I’m pointing out that chivalry is illogical and potentially harmful to attitudes in general. People are free to ignore or use my observations as they see fit.

        As far as men and women being different goes…everyone is different from everyone else. It’s a question of degree. And in determining whether or not to treat women equally in a particular situation, we need to determine whether there is a relevant difference in the first place and if so, is it of sufficient quantity to justify the difference in treatment.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        Arguing that something is potentially harmful is different than saying something is actually harmful. Swimming in water is potentially harmful. Should we stop swimming?

        You make excellent points that chivalry may be illogical, I dont deny that, but I don’t see how it could be potentially harmful.

        Arguing that women should feel insulted about chivalry is essentially telling a woman “hey, you are smart. Stop feeling that way. Then you’ll be stupid.” Isn’t that kind of arguing against someone’s predisposed feelings in the first place? Isn’t that an indirect method of forcing equality so hard, it just becomes unfair?

        You are correct, everyone IS different and, therefore, generalizations of a certain populace are more than fair. It is completely fair for me to lock my doors if I see a black man whereas it might seem dubious if I do so if I see an Asian man. It is perfectly fair for a woman to expect the man on her date to pay for her.

        You mentioned the “relevant” difference, but since EVERYONE is not equal, those relevant differences become arbitrary from person to person. One person may think it is completely relevant to hold a door open for a woman simply because she looks small and petitte. Since you and I are not equal, we may see this situation differently and the relevance in itself as you argue no longer becomes relevant. Quatifying such a difference in treatment in itself is subjective and relevance may have no bearing. Since none of us are equal, the relevance in itself also is not equal.


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        Depends on the benefits no? When I say “potentially harmful” it’s implied that the harms far outweigh the good. Or perhaps I was wrong not to mention that…

        Of course, anyone can find anything relevant. I’m just saying that some positions are illogical and if someone find a certain action relevant, it might not be sound. They can continue finding it relevant if they want. It’s just my job to show them that it’s illogical. No law preventing people from being illogical after all.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        The harms outweigh the good? I mean, can’t swimming fall under the same category? Or drinking alcohol? The relevancy issue is what the harms are specifically and how damaging they are. Living in a society that has minimal regulations can be potentially harmful. Living without liberty is potentially harmful. Would I give up freedom? Heck no.

        Some positions are illogical, but even that depends on the bearer in whatever subject of discourse. Happiness in itself is illogical at times. In the case of chivalry, perhaps the giver and receiver are just that much happier for practicing chivalry. and why not?

        Logic in itself can subjective as well. It is perfectly logical for people in the United States to own guns, but does that logic carry in, say Somalia or Afghanistan? It depends. There are too many variables and the fact that not all things are equal make logic, well, kind of asinine.

        If you find it illogical, does it mean it is illogical to begin with?


      • In reply to Western Point of View

        Whether or not the harms outweigh the good is a question to be determined by logic for each individual situation and each individual person no? I’m hardly saying that all dangerous activities always outweigh the good for everyone. Is that what you think I’m saying?


      • In reply to bhagwad

        but why would chivalry be deemed the other side of abuse? It is a long shot at best. What correlations are there? Sure women may be patronized, but I’m sure there are more “liberated” women out there who also suffer abuse from instances that have nothing to do with chivalry. They seem like two entirely different entities. Apples and oranges.


      • In reply to bhagwad

        “I’m pointing out that chivalry is illogical and potentially harmful to attitudes in general.”
        Exactly. The bottomline of chivalry is – women who expect chivalry, do so because they feel their worth is measured by how much a man is willing to dole out on them. Men who are all to willing to dole out to a particular ‘type’ of women, do it because they expect some sort of pecuniary payback (~getting laid, etc.).
        It all comes down to the sense of entitlement amongst those who are a part of the cult of chivalry. Fostering this kind of culture as some sort of courtesy, lays down the groundwork for a lot of exploitative and antagonistic behaviour between the sexes.
        “Living in a society that has minimal regulations can be potentially harmful.”
        Expecting men to be chivalrous during dates AND shaming those who don’t conform to such notions of chivalry, comes under the heading of the said societal regulations that can be ‘potentially harmful’. Hence, the existence of discussions like this – that challenge and question the status quo.


  4. Hi Bhagwad,
    Came on to your blog via HIM and really liked your posts. So I started reading your older posts and couldn’t help commenting here. This post reminds me of chivalry even forced by the government in India on females. The Delhi metro coaches have this sign above some of the seats: ‘reserved for the elderly, disabled and women!’ I’ve often given up my seat for someone more in need of it, but I guess I’m really not expected to do it cos I’m a girl..how patronizing!!
    Do carry on with your blogging. .its nice to know sane people are around. May your tribe increase!


  5. Women fought for the same rights as a man therefore should be treated all the same. When i was younger i would get frustrated when teachers would pull gentlemen out of the classroom in order to lift things for them. One reason being, though they’re a women, they were also grown compared to the children they were teaching, so it shouldn’t of been hard to lift a box or something of the sort. it’s pure laziness on the womans part if they are expecting a man or even boy to do things for them, such as pay their half of the check as you suggested or open a door(which should be done for anyone, man or woman, out of decency) or even carry something. I couldnt agree with this 100% more.


  6. This article is like my own views… I do find chivalry insulting, so much so that I refuse to stand in different queues while booking the tickets, or anything of the sort. When I travel in a bus, I refuse to take seat, if offered, by a fellow passenger. Instead, I have many times offered seat to disabled or elderly. I remember, a frw years back, on a radio show, there was Kiran Bedi and they were supporting the 33% reservation for women in Parliament. I just could not bring myself to support it and even could not understand why Kiran Bedi was doing so. She being my role model that she was the first woman IPS officer, she could reach that stage without the reservation, why in the world, was she in favour of woman reservation. I called up at the show and asked her the exact same question that we talk about men women equality, why then we want women reservation? Isn’t that contradicting? Isn’t that in a way telling that women are not really equal to men? She could not give me any convincing answer and just said that I belong to some 5% liberated women of this country, rest all would need reservation to come forward… I absolutely discard this point of view. If one has the calibre, then only he/she should come forward, reservations or chivalry are not the solutions..


    • In reply to Smriti

      Indeed. I have no issues with financially assisting those to fund their education or something like that. But reservations and special treatment in general…no, I don’t see how that can be justified.


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