Chivalry. That word is misused, misunderstood, has been culturally redefined through many iterations, and it is assured to elicit an emotional reaction in mixed company.
A study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, December 2102 issue, titled “Why Is Benevolent Sexism Appealing? Associations With System Justification and Life Satisfaction, (abstract linked, subscription needed for full study) To explain why some would think such a thing as benevolent sexism is a good thing they posit:
But despite its negative consequences, benevolent sexism is a prevalent ideology that some even find attractive. To better understand why women and men alike might be motivated to adopt benevolent sexism, the current study tested system justification theory’s prediction that benevolent sexism might have a positive linkage to life satisfaction through increased diffuse system justification, or the sense that the status quo is fair.
I assume the negative consequences are explained in the study.
benevolent sexism was indirectly associated with life satisfaction for both women and men through diffuse system justification. In contrast, hostile sexism was not related to diffuse system justification or life satisfaction. The results imply that although benevolent sexism perpetuates inequality at the structural level, it might offer some benefits at the personal level. Thus, our findings reinforce the dangerous nature of benevolent sexism and emphasize the need for interventions to reduce its prevalence.
A ban on psychology degrees for women seems worthy an executive order.
Charles Murray, a libertarian social scientist at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the excellent book, The Bell Curve, (which I read on its release, hopefully that affords me just a we dram of heft, though it is not a century old and was written for pedestrians who understand statistics, so maybe not) summed up the absurdity with this observation in his brief blog entry “The bad news is that gentlemanly behavior makes people happy”:
If you’re wondering what “benevolent sexism” is, think gentlemanly behavior. I offer the abstract partly as a window onto the wonderful, wacky world of modern sociological prose and partly in despair at the use of the word “thus” to open the final sentence [see above for the sentence he is referring to] [ ]
When social scientists discover something that increases life satisfaction for both sexes, shouldn’t they at least consider the possibility that they have come across something that is positive?
Following Murray’s blog post were a few interesting comments. One, from a fellow named Charles, tells Murray
You’re a damn embarrassment to social science.
then he rattles off a litany of grievances to prove the danger inherent in benevolent sexism, including this gem,
Glick, Sakalli-Ugurlu, Ferreira, and Aguiar de Souza (2002) noted that individuals who endorse benevolent sexism tend to hold beliefs justifying spousal abuse.
he ends up getting owned by Stewart who tells Charles (the commenter) that,
I’d wager you didn’t read the paper either, since you quote comes directly from this Think Progress blog post:
It started wearing me out chasing this across the web, but the Think Progress article has too many absurdities not to share a random sampling:
“benevolent sexism” was itself linked to discrimination against women and rape victims.
“benevolent sexism” is extraordinarily harmful to women.
There’s also evidence that “merely exposing women to benevolent sexism increased self-objectification” and that “women who read benevolently sexist comments performed worse on a cognitive task and reported increased feelings of incompetence and self-doubt.
Is anything starting to congeal about something the sphere is calling The Feminine Imperative? A comment made here by donalgraeme, after my previous post, had this to say:
I liken the FI to gravity. Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces, but has an essentially unlimited range. It is always at work, but most of the time you don’t notice it. However, when you get a preponderance of mass together, it can overwhelm anything, including light. What Western Civilization is facing now is just such a mass. The reason why the FI hasn’t really been perceived before is because that coalescing of power hasn’t happened until now, or perhaps, happened to such a degree until now.
I liked his imagery because it speaks to some aspect of why the FI may well have been present all along but just now have generated enough widespread observable effects to be noticed. Or, it could have been noticed since time began and we only now have a way to share observations among disparate individuals to find the observations in common. (sure this is anecdote and metaphor and I don’t give a damn).
The Atlantic weighed in with Lets Give Chivalry Another Chance. They pull out the requisite maritime juxtaposition between the Titanic (at least they mention the little known memorial), and the Costa Concordia,
This contrast is indicative of a larger trend—the decline of chivalry and the rise of boorish behavior among men. According to a 2010 Harris poll, 80 percent of Americans say that women are treated with less chivalry today than in the past
Included is the Christina Hoff Sommers observation,
“Masculinity with morality and civility is a very powerful force for good.
They share the elevator girl anecdote:
A story from the life of Samuel Proctor (d. 1997) comes to mind here. Proctor was the beloved pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Apparently, he was in the elevator one day when a young woman came in. Proctor tipped his hat at her. She was offended and said, “What is that supposed to mean?”
The pastor’s response was: “Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things. That I would not harm you in any way. That if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you. That if you fell ill, I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that; so, instead, I just tipped my hat.”
Finally they cite Hanna Rosin who wrote the following in Slate, regarding the men who sacrificed their lives in the Aurora Colorado movie theater shooting:
Couples will often insist that the man is the head of the household even when he doesn’t seem to be checking any of the traditional boxes. When I ask how it’s possible that he should retain the title without any of the attending duties, I almost always get some version of the same answer: If anyone threatened us, he would rescue us. If someone broke into the house, I would call him. If anything happened to the children, if a fire, if a tornado, etc. Papers have described what happened in the theater as “chivalry.” But it’s not really that. Chivalry is a code of conduct connected to social propriety. Throwing your body in front of your girlfriend when people all around you are getting shot is an instinct that’s basic, and deeper. It’s the same reason these Batman and Spider-Man franchises endure: Because whatever else is fading away, women still seem to want their superhero, and men still seem to want to be him.
Pretty good stuff….but…
Don’t start thinking the article could be called sensible, or (gasp) in defense of honest to goodness chivalry and its necessary reflection manifest in women acting feminine. Its only a matter of time before we get to the popular fluffy modern image of fairness, something to lift her up!
At the time, Hanna Rosin noted that what these men did was “deeper” than chivalry. It was heroic. I agree. But heroism and chivalry share a basic feature in common—the recognition, a transcendent one, that there is something greater than the self worth protecting, and that there is something greater than the self worth sacrificing your own needs, desires, and even life for. If we can all agree that the kind of culture we should aspire to live in is one in which men and women protect and honor each other in the ways that they can—and not one in which men are pushing past women and children to save their own lives—then that is progress that women everywhere should support. [emphasis mine]
Who really cares if women everywhere support it or not. Men died.
Finally, what does being a Christian and the existence of the feminine imperative say about chivalry? Denise Morris , on Focus on the Families Boundless blog laments chivalry’s loss and would like to see it return. Note how she frames it,
I have always appreciated when guys act chivalrously. I am a fairly independent woman, and I don’t see myself as needy or weak. But when a guy opens my car door, I really appreciate it. Like the Atlantic article pointed out, it shows a certain level of respect and honor. And in our culture where everyone — men and women — are so individualistic and quick to look out for themselves, it is nice to see politeness and gentlemanly behavior.
So, I say bring chivalry back! (I’d like a spot on the lifeboat.) But I also think it is a way for men to honor and respect the women around them, which is something I think any woman — feminist or not — can appreciate.
Some women find chivalry to be dangerous.Some women think its a cute behavior for , you know, like, guys and gals to adopt for each other, like, saving each other and stuff, and finally the Christian traditionalists came to the rescue, er, agreed with the idea of chivalry because its balance and equal and means men and women should be nice to each other.
Like the girl said, she is fairly independent and she does not NEED any help. Until she does.