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Chivalry Is Dead! Good Manners Shouldn't Be Gender-Specific

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CHIVALRY
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A survey by Socked.co.uk announced this week that traditional chivalry is dead, as the majority of women frown on traditional acts of male kindness as "suspicious." Fair enough, I say.

The findings, which included 82% of women claiming they prefer to pay for their own dinner on a first date, and 78% saying they wouldn't accept the offer of a coat from a man on a cold day, are bound to be met with outcry in some quarters.

In a world where old-fashioned manners appear to be increasingly forgotten, it's understandable that the 'things ain't what they used to be' brigade are nostalgic for the days when a Cary Grant type would give up his seat for you on the bus, because you happen to be lacking a Y chromosome.

But these were also the days where women were treated as second class citizens, confined to the kitchen and beneath the glass ceiling. Chivalrous acts of kindness maybe have felt nice, but they were also our consolation prize for inequality. And with women across the world still fighting daily against sexual harassment, objectification and oppression, is it any wonder we assume that a man offering us his coat might have another agenda? It's sad, of course. But then sexism IS sad, and our safety a little more important than offending a well-meaning bloke.

The problem lies partly with the word. 'Chivalry' naturally conjures up images of Arthurian affection, of gallant knights laying their cloaks down in puddles so that fair maidens needn't get their ankles wet. And nice though it may be to think every gent on Oxford Street would be as concerned about your suede wedges as you are, to me the attitude still smacks of outdated ideals. However much you dress it up in ideas of gentility and kindness (and a wimple), at the core of the concept is still the idea that women are weaker, and that we need men to lend us that helping hand.

But of course, I'm not advocating rudeness. No, rather than the outdated notion of chivalry, I'd champion the emphasis on good manners for all. Not because you're a man and I'm a woman, but because we're all people and it is nice to be nice. I reckon most men who think themselves chivalrous have got the right intentions, but perhaps the wrong targets - don't stop doing it, just question your motives and spread the goodwill a little further than the nearest skirt. Were general, across the board kindness more common in public then perhaps over time, our suspicion might fade.

Try this as a general rule of thumb: ask yourself, would I be doing this if she were a man? Or a 60-year-old woman? Or a woman I found unattractive? If the answer to all is 'yes', then congratulations! You're an excellent human being. By all means carry on.

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