My dear sweet husband is a benevolent chauvinist. This came as quite a shock to him because he always thought he was chivalrous. And he thought that was a good thing. The poor man was quite horrified to find out that when he carried the heavy shopping, opened the unwieldy doors, chopped the wood, emptied the bins; he was in fact being condescending and re-inforcing my supposed female weakness.
But here is a Fact:
Men are generally physically stronger than women. Physicality between men and women is not an even playing ground.
If women could physically fight back on equal terms there would be so much less domestic violence against women, less rape, less assault. If women were as physically strong as men we would have mixed gender sports and cheaters wouldn’t dose up on testosterone.
Fact: If I ever had to physically fight my five foot eleven husband there is no way I’d win – thankfully there is no physical violence in our relationship so this will never be put to the test. But you just have to look at him – solid five feet eleven and me, less solid, five foot seven, weighing in at least fifteen kilos less.
So, is chivalry rubbing salt into the wound?
Is it him putting it right up in my face that I am physically weaker than him? That because of my physicality I need him to look after me as university papers are claiming.
Well I’ve thought about this a lot over the last week or so and come to the conclusion that I don’t think so. At least not for most men.
I think Chivalry is in fact as Aretha sings RESPECT.
I think its men saying “Hey I know I am physically stronger than you and I’m going to be respectful about it.” I think it’s an effort by men to balance the scales.
Certainly that’s what my husband feels when he carries the heavy shopping bags, or pulls open that monstrous door because he has both arms free and I have a handbag to carry my girl-stuff, or when thank god he saves me from the heavy gardening – and I say go for it! There are enough things where I do it better than him.
And what’s more I will thank him for his consideration and politeness as the strong, independent, successful woman I am.
Because as a strident feminist woman it takes more than politeness and respect to make me feel weak, belittled or condescended to.