Is Chivalry Dead, or Maybe Just on Life Support?

Recently, after a series of annoying emails I received from an ex, I posted the following status on Facebook:

“Dear Dude I broke up with last year,
Stop emailing me. It’s really unbecoming. Just like that time you did nothing when those dudes at that Blue Jays game threatened to punch me because you “didn’t want to end up in the hospital with broken ribs”. What a hero you were that day. Sincerely,

The response I got was mostly positive. People making jokes, laughing, the usual flood of “likes” an acerbic post like that can garner. But then this response came in:

“I don’t know your story, Lauren, but recently I’ve been privy to a few different stories where a woman has no problem slinging insults and mixing it up with a group of men, because when it hits the point of violence, it’ll be her husband/boyfriend’s job to take it from there and fight all 3 or 4 of them. I ask you, hot-tempered women of the world — what do you expect of us? Again, this doesn’t reflect on your experience.”

And I responded the following:

“The incident did not involve me slinging insults or engaging with these men at all. A few drips of my beer spilled on one of them, I apologized and then they started screaming at me threatening to punch me in the face. What do I expect of men? That you don’t allow your girlfriends or wives to be verbally abused in front of you. I’m not saying a fist fight EVER has to happen but you can verbally stand up for your partner and diffuse the situation. The fact that this clearly jokey status has become a “real talk” discussion about gender roles is kind of lame, I have to be honest.”

He politely acknowledged my response, thanking me for clarifying. But the whole exchange left a bad taste in my mouth.

Especially the quote: “Hot-tempered women of the world”.

The assumption that it must have been the woman’s fault felt like a really slippery slope to me; the same kind of slope that links clothing choices to assaults. Because here’s the thing, in the world I personally live in, I believe it is unacceptable for a man to threaten to punch a woman in the face even if she was screaming at him. It’s not okay. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

At the time of this incident, my boyfriend said to me “would you have been happier if I ended up in the hospital with broken ribs because I ‘stood up for you?'”  I tried explaining to him that things rarely have to escalate to the level of an American-History-X-style fight that would earn someone broken ribs. But he wouldn’t hear what I was saying, he just repeating “but would you be happy if I was in the hospital with broken ribs because I stood up for you?” I paused, considered his question, looked him in the eyes and responded “Yes. I would be happy if you were in the hospital because you stood up for me.” He was, in a word, repulsed by my answer. So when this joke post received a similar response from an online acquaintance, I reflected on things further.

And here’s the question I feel this issue boils down to: Is it unacceptable for me to expect that my partner protect me from harm? I’m not suggesting (as the poster on my wall did) that I should be allowed to pick fights with packs of men and expect my boyfriend to end them for me. So I’ll alter the question to take that into account: Is it unacceptable for me to expect my partner to protect me from unprovoked aggression from other men? And my personal answer to this question is: no. It is a completely acceptable expectation of a partner. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

I discussed this with fellow HelloGiggles contributor Anne Donahue. She brought up Clark Gable. Her example of a REAL MAN. Which got me thinking about how this situation would have played out 50 years ago. If 2 men had threatened to punch me in the face in front of a gentleman suitor 50 years ago, I think I can safely say that said suitor would have AT LEAST said something. So is this a generational thing for men? Or an individual thing that’s always existed, but has become more acceptable over time?

I’m all for equality and pacifism. But at the end of the day, I want to be with someone who will step up when shit hits the fan. Who won’t lay there quivering on top of me when we hear a stranger enter our apartment while we’re having sex. (That’s not a metaphor, that same ex actually did that in real life…so…maybe this issue is him specifically…?)

But here’s the thing: I believe, in general, the world would be a better place if we just stop threatening to punch each other altogether. And actually did stop punching each other altogether. Men on men, men on women or any possible other combination of the sexes. Just no more punching. Period. Full stop. You get my point.

Featured image via Shutterstock

  • Alex Gloge

    I completely agree, with the fact that your ex should have stood up for you, but not because he’s a man. I get why people try to cling to chivalry, but when people bring it up it does irritate me a little because the whole reason that chivalry existed in the first place in history, is that women were considered the weaker sex. In order for discrimination of sex to stop, women need to stop expecting things to be done for them, just because they are women. Men should still do things for women, but not because they are women, but because they are a person. Women should do the same. Everyone should hold the door for the next person, regardless of gender. Like I said, I get what the article is saying, you have a weak minded ex. But, the article felt like a step backward from equal rights.

    • Claire Emery Tassin

      Agreed! The situation the author described bothered me because none of the men were acting like decent humans, not because the boyfriend wasn’t chivalrous. The sex of the companion doesn’t matter – if your date/partner/BFF/casual acquaintance is threatened, you back them up and try to diffuse the situation. Like Alex said, everyone should hold doors for everyone, at least until you get into that awkward situation where you get stuck holding the door for an endless stream of people and need to let it shut on someone to get on with your day.

      • Katharine Macpherson

        I was going to write a post detailing my feelings but now I don’t even have to because you stole the words right out of my mouth. Chivalry is for everyone, and if we all help out in potential violent situations, then perhaps the offender will back down. But your friend/date/random person will feel so much gratitude and will hopefully do the same for you someday! No gender specification required.

        • Alle Connell

          It absolutely is for everyone. If my best friend gets yelled at by a bouncer at a club, I’ll step in and help. If some dude grabs me or says something lewd or threatening to me, I’d want my boyfriend or best friend or WHOEVER to stick up for me. You speak out for your friends and more-than-friends. You have their backs, and you trust they have yours. That’s how it should be.

    • Lauren Elizabeth Ash

      I agree, Alex, that this should not be a gender issue. As I mentioned at the end of the article. Violence needs to stop regardless of sex. But I disagree that my article was a step back from equal rights. I believe that as long as men are threatening to punch women in the face, it’s important that we raise dialogue and conversation about such issues. Thanks for reading!

  • Lisa Knox

    I recently saw a post that first made me laugh (as I did when I saw yours), but then made me think a little – not saying I agree, but I can (sort of) see this from the guy’s side. the post said “chivalry is not dead – it just followed wherever ladylike went.”
    I completely agree with your assessment of how your s/o should react if your threat is unprovoked, and I am also thinks it’s a little lame that this became a talking point, but perhaps if more discussions began in such a lighthearted manner, more people would participate, and we would all gain more understanding. Or maybe I just put way too much thought into all of this. :-)

  • Lisa Knox

    sorry for all the typos and grammatical errors in that last post – it’s Monday after Superbowl, my mind hasn’t quite caught up yet

  • Darryl Pring

    I’m not sure why violence is even part of the conversation. Standing up for someone can be an intectual endeavour as much as a physical action. Reasoning with people or calling them on their shit should be one’s first instinct, especially in the instance you described. If you truely care for a person and see them being abused (verbally or otherwise), how could you not defend them? Because of the possibility of physical harm? I’d prefer that than the shame of not doing anything, IMHO. Regardless, buddy was a douche.

  • Hilary June

    Lauren, you win.

  • Nikita McInnes

    Speaking from someone who has experienced violence in a club, I can see the worth in walking away rather than directly engaging with someone who you believe has the potential to get physically violent (whether they’re a man or woman). I’m not saying that your ex would have been bashed had he done something, but sometimes it’s best to be cautious.

  • Jody Saunders

    This article has upset me in a lot of ways. First off, you say the phrase “Hot-tempered women of the world” left a bad taste in your mouth, but your original comment was clearly written when you were angry at your ex. I thought the comment was reasonable and very well written. He never attacked you personally or anyone else, just tried to show you a different viewpoint which you didn’t want to see.
    As well, you spoke about people making the assumption that it’s the woman’s fault, but this situation had nothing to do with you being a woman. Those men likely would have yelled at you just as much if you had been a man. Also, why was it your boyfriend’s job to fight those men? You never mentioned the men actually hitting you, only threatening you, so clearly physical violence was not actually needed. I can understand feeling that your significant other should stand up for you, and if it had been your boyfriend that spilled the drink I hope you would have stood up for him, but it seems that you feel he needed to actually put his health at risk for you to be happy. Of course he was repulsed by the idea of it. He just found out that his girlfriend would want him to be put in the hospital when there was no need to fight. I go out of my way to stop my boyfriend from standing up for me by fighting others, because I don’t want to see him get hurt over something as trivial as a spilled drink.
    I definitely agree with Alex Gloge that this article was a step back from equal rights, because you seem to think that you didn’t need to stand up for yourself because you had a man beside you. I also think your comment to him that violence needs to stop regardless of sex was hypocritical since the entire article was about you believing your boyfriend had a duty to fight because he is a man. I agree that no man should threaten to punch a woman, but I also believe that no woman should expect her boyfriend to punch anyone for her.

  • Marty Gould

    I’ve read your article. I’ve read the comments. And all I’m going to say is that if I were your boyfriend, I would have stood up for you.

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  • Eshele Lee

    Well written, Lauren. How much can you expect from a guy if he doesn’t even had the guts to defend you verbally?

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