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:

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

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