THE BLOG
07/05/2014 08:47 BST | Updated 06/07/2014 06:59 BST

Chivalry and the Modern Man

Chev Wilkinson via Getty Images

Men suck. It's official. Or at least I think it is.

We're all closet perverts, wolf whistlers and general layabouts. Although to be fair, it can all get a little confusing.

Wax or shave? Beer or cider? Tinder or Grindr? (Decisions, decisions).

While the role and rights of women have transformed over the last century, the role of men has remained relatively stationary, caught in some sort of twilight zone between chivalrous carer and dominant provider.

But what truly makes a man? It's an enigma that has run and run. Often hinted at, but never quite defined.

Ask any woman and you'll receive a dichotomy of answers. Strong, protective, caring, the list goes on...and on.

But one virtue they'll all mention - is chivalry.

Think Mr Darcy. Even Matthew Crawley. A perfect cocktail of masculine and sensitive.

Chivalry has long been viewed as an essential ingredient, the epitome of manhood - from pulling out a chair at dinner, to offering your coat in the rain. These are the bench marks of a true gentleman who can treat a woman with the respect and dignity she deserves.

Indeed these are the images we've been programmed to embrace - blasted from our TV screens - think Bridget Jones, clamouring topless through snowy London, rescued by the warm embrace of the charming, gentile Mr Firth.

Because chivalry is great. Wonderful. A throw back to a simpler time when men were men and knew how to treat a lady.

Not quite.

Chivalry is a lie. An illusion. A Jane Austen fantasy.

And like the books - while pleasant to the ear, they always tend to end the same - with some poor sucker getting screwed.

Pleasantly veiled sexism, is still sexism - the truth is, rather than challenging these ideas, many are actively encouraging them.

How many women's magazines have lamented the decline of the modern man? Article after article on the disappearing gents, apparently banished to Downton Abbey reruns or Hugh Grant B-Movies.

There seems to be a reluctance to accept that equality for women can never be achieved until sexism towards men is addressed. The two are inextricably linked.

From an early age men are taught archaic social rituals towards women, such as - holding open doors, giving up your seat on buses, never hitting a girl under any circumstance.

These simply serve to perpetuate the patronising myth of women as week and feeble, while similarly pigeonholing men as tough and strong.

I'll happily hold a door open for anyone in close proximity. I'll give up my seat on a bus not because of a particular gender but if I deem a person elderly or frail.

If I see a lady struggling with a pram I'll help her, but I'd also help a man in the same position.

Would I ever hit a girl?

Yes - yes I would. If she hit me first. Just the same way I'd hit a guy if he hit me first.

If you wouldn't then you're a dirty stinky sexist!

That ladies and gentlemen, is equality.

There has been a marked rise in female only golf clubs, gyms, business seminars - even BBC quotas. The pay gap between males and females has narrowed, there are now more female boardroom members than ever before, yet there seems to be a reluctance to embrace this modern viewpoint in all walk of life.

Take dating.

There is still an understanding that men should always pay for meals on dates. Even the polite "offering" to split the bill, is deemed somewhat unmanly if accepted.

What happened to two equals meeting and discussing who they are and what they have in common? There remains an inherent sexism in the whole process.

I once overheard a man vehemently telling his date, "I would never let a woman pay...it's disgusting".

The only disgusting thing about it, was that the woman didn't smash her plate over his chauvinistic head, instead of swooning eagerly.

Centuries of struggle for freedom, equal pay, voting rights washed down the drain for a couple of glasses of Prosecco and a chocolate soufflé.

We are bombarded with stories of young women being defined by body image and dress size but much less is heard of young men. The pressure to look masculine, the rise of the gym buff, increased use of steroids to fuel some fantasy view of manhood.

Indeed blatant sexism towards men has become widespread - from male models being paid considerably less than their female counterparts - to TV ads like the recent Muller Light campaign - describing men as "thick"!

Of course any objections are swept aside with a joke and a laugh or a chirpy "man up".

Even the popular Diet Coke ad where the guy takes off his shirt, after being sprayed by female admirers. Switch the roles and suddenly they're pervy lads preying on the vulnerable female gardener.

You can imagine the uproar. Guardian commentators up in arms - "those sexist advertising pigs". "More needs to be done", they'd cry. "Is there any saving the modern man"?

Quickly, it's time to remove Page 3, because that's sexist too. Forget about personal choice and the rights of women who want to flaunt their flesh. Half of female magazines use naked men to sell their wares, but hey that's different - after all men enjoy the attention...it's a little confidence booster.

The time has come to challenge this gender imbalance once and for all. We are either equal or we aren't. We either have full equality or we don't.

The question must be asked - do we really want absolute equality?

Or simply some diluted version, where we hanker back to good old chivalry - lurking ever present, trapping us in the sexist world of polite sensibilities and gentile niceties.

Are we brave enough to embrace true equality, even if that means losing some of the customs and traditions we currently treasure?

I hope we are.