Chivalry is a word that is thrown about quite a lot. While some say it’s dead, others insist on ‘opening doors for women’ because that’s the ‘right thing to do’.
A word that originates from the centuries old French word ‘chevalier’ or a ‘man of aristocratic standing’, ‘chivalry’ was essentially a qualification for being a knight during the medieval age. Given the origin, it is hard to imagine the term as being one that transcends the boundaries of gender.
Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t saying that that wouldn’t be ideal. But the real question is, does the youth think chivalry works from both man to woman and woman to man?
So we asked some young Indians to define chivalry, and interestingly, they had very different things to say. Here are our top 20.
1. “For men, the basic chivalrous act of opening the door for a woman. For women, not cutting queues just because you are a woman.” – Taruna Gandhi
2. “Following a personal code of honour.” – Anujeet Datta Majumdar
3. “When a man stands up for a woman being teased on the streets.” – Ashima Jain
4. “The seed of misogyny.” – Robi Banerjee
5. “Consideration for someone else before thinking about your own self. Applicable to both men and women.” – Shilpi Ganguly
6. “Realising equal isn’t identical, and that respect trumps all. Living within a certain structure.” – Agnibesh Das
7. “Sexist. I’m sure each and every woman is capable of opening a car door for herself.” – Tania Goklany
8. “To respect or compliment with no expectations.” – Vipin Kc
9. “Considering women (any woman) before your egoistic self. Most of the time I associate it with manners.” – Mehreen Shaikh
10. “Dead.” – Pranav Joshi
11. “Misconstrued by (some) men, as of today, to feel superior in some trivial ways and by (some) women to make a case for feminism.” – Vishakha Saxena
12. “Giving the respect the other needs. Extends both ways. Even to the same gender.” – Sahil Bhalla
13. “For a knight to not abduct, rape and kill women at their will, especially lower class women, because higher class European men in the Middle Ages were basically entitled ‘dipshits’, so any man extending courtesy to ALL women was so groundbreaking and honourable.” – Laboni Bhattacharya
14. “Gentlemanly behavior.” – Dipayan Sinha
15. “When you’re genuinely trying to help, without patronising.” – Vaishnavi Iyer
16. “The way we treat our elders in Indian society with ji haan, ji papaji, etc.” – Vishnu Narayan
17. “A well-crafted system of unnecessary gestures that apparently concede superiority in a show of humility, while actually reinforcing gendered power equations.” – Rituparna Sengupta
18. “Knights.” – Sandip Bardhan
19. “Giving respect to a person because of that person’s gender even if that person does not respect you. Example: Opening a door for your wife who asks for alimony and your property when she slept with your best friend.” – Madhav Mohan Menon
20. “Inequality.” – Priya Dharmavarapu
Most of the responses point to one thing — that there’s hope.
Two clear answers emerge here. One, that chivalry no longer exists/should no longer exist. Two, if it does exist, it extends both ways.
What do you think chivalry is? Write in.