Essay Contest: Modernizing Chivalry {First Place Winner}

April 29 2014, No Comments

We were on our way to Randall’s one evening, when the all-too-familiar, Austin traffic brought us to a grinding halt. I was humming along with the radio when a “CLICK!” caught me by surprise. My girlfriend had locked the doors of the car, and I couldn’t fathom why. I conveyed my confusion with the lift of an eyebrow. She simply pointed past me at something outside the passenger side window. Following her finger, my eyes eventually made out what looked like a small gathering of homeless men. One of the panhandlers had begun limping towards our car.

“So what,” I thought aloud, “Just tell them we don’t have any money.” (This was true. I’m sympathetic toward those in disadvantaged circumstances, but I rarely carry cash as a debt-laden undergrad with a food-service job.)

“Things are just a little different as a girl,” she offered.

We drove off, leaving the homeless fellow and his tattered, trench coat behind, but the simple truth of her blunt words had sunk in. Even in America, the most modern, and equality-driven of countries, women still have concerns for their personal safety.

There is a commonly-held belief in today’s society, that the notion of chivalry is dead. Perhaps it is, and if we’re talking about it in a classical sense, it should stay that way. Many women would even argue that they don’t want or need a man looking out for them.

I agree. Surely, women do not need a man to protect or shelter them based on outdated beliefs. This would be an acknowledgement of difference or weakness. Women are our equals in every sense of the phrase. It’s time to start treating them as such. CodySmith_EssayWinner

I propose a modernized version of the word chivalry. It is not only an acknowledgement of the true equality of the opposite sex, but a need for actually treating them as such. Recognize that girlfriends, on their way to the supermarket late at night, have concerns about their safety. No, you don’t necessarily have to offer to walk them to safety, but let’s not be the creepy, drunken guy, lurking around or staring at them. Let’s make sure we are not objectifying them in the form of awkward and downright disrespectful pick-up attempts.

I can’t fathom an area more prone to acts of sexist machismo than the bars and lounges of our beloved college town, Austin. I’ve witnessed testosterone run wild. One night, I watched a man persistently harass a group of ladies playing pool at Bender Bar until they grew too uncomfortable and walked away from their game.

It is never acceptable to ruin someone’s attempt at a good time. Don’t be that guy. He is the reason females have to worry about their ability to feel safe and comfortable, and as our equals, this is a burden they shouldn’t be forced to endure. I doubt Mr. Obnoxious would have pestered a handful of his manly peers on the pool table.

Growing up, I listened to my two sisters vent their feelings of discomfort toward cat-calling crews of construction workers. Many times, they described going to the local gym only to be met with distasteful ogling. These males may have believed their actions to be socially acceptable, they would be wrong. My sisters’ distress was proof that what is“normal” behavior to one, can have lasting negativity on the psyche of another. I ask, is that the type of social sphere we want our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and perhaps someday, daughters inhabiting? By making women feel more comfortable, safe and valued through modernized chivalry and equality-driven morals, we will foster a society with fewer locked doors and less degradation of our worthy feminine counterparts.

This article has been condensed and edited.

About the Author: Kimberly Hancock

Online Editor - Fall 2013, Spring 2014

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