The Return of Chivalry

Mannered men are manly men — and they may be making a comeback

Daniel Craig, the star behind the smash hit James Bond movies, was asked what he likes most about his classic character.

“He’s a considerate person … and he looks out for other people,” he told RedBulletin.com.

This is one reason we love Bond. He has a problem with misogyny, true, but his outward behavior toward women is chivalrous. It stands out in a time when manners are rarely on display, and the culture’s obsession with “equality” has misled men into thinking they have no ritual obligations toward women.

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Another case in point is the new movie “Learning to Drive,” in which Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh driving instructor with unfailingly good manners. Repeatedly, the viewers are invited to ask: Whatever happened to men who know how to behave toward women?

A final example is the romantic drama “The Longest Ride,” which features Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) romancing Britt Robertson in all the traditional ways — bringing flowers, opening car doors, listening carefully, generally showing respect.

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Are manners making a comeback? Are we seeing the dawn of a new chivalry? It’s long overdue.

Men need to get better at the art of being gentlemen — and women need to come to expect it.

Judging from the daily frenzy on social media, we are desperately in need of better ways of improving relations between the sexes. To achieve this, we’ve deconstructed and deformed the English language, joined ever more activist groups, and accused everyone who doesn’t go along with our latest preferences as being insensitive.

But there is one way that actually works to smooth relations. Call it chivalry, manners, or traditional modes of showing respect — it all comes down to the same thing. Men need to get better at the art of being gentlemen, and women need to come to expect it.

“Chivalry isn’t incompatible with feminism,” said Cathy Reisenwitz, a popular feminist writer. “It’s a subtle way of acknowledging the ways in which women have been, and continue to be, undervalued and seeking to be a small part of the solution.”

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She added, “Manners say to someone that they’re important to you through your actions. Men who are chivalrous are saying that women matter. Women can and should have manners. But under the current power structure, there is something special, courageous even, about a man showing deference to a woman.”

While there are signs that chivalry is not dead, men are out of the habit of exercising basic manners. Many don’t even know where to begin.

“It makes sense for men today to at least symbolically show they are protectors.”

Blogger and columnist Amy Alkon agrees people are clamoring for a new approach — not the old stuffy scrupulosity, but an etiquette extending from the basic rule, “Do unto others …” If we understand this rule, and apply it well, our behavior would become more gracious and elegant, especially with regard to relations between the sexes, she said.

“Chivalry actually traces back through millions of years,” Alkon told LifeZette. “Women evolved to prefer men who would protect them and their children — a preference that is still with us today.”

She provides a case in point: “This is why it makes sense for men today to at least symbolically show they are protectors, like by putting their coat around a shivering woman’s shoulders.”

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If you listen carefully to many feminist complaints about men, it is about their lack of sensitivity to power differentials. Men are unwilling to undertake simple and small efforts to signal that small degree of deference, and thereby come across as wielding power in pushy ways that rub women the wrong way.

This is why we are hearing about “male privilege” and its expression in things like “mansplaining,” “manspreading,” and so on. Such behavior used to be identified as rudeness. It was corrected by being gracious, courteous, deferential. In a word, it was corrected by chivalry.

Another example concerns dining and standing up when women arrive at the table. This is a very small gesture, requiring nothing other than some simple movement. But the signal it sends is powerful — you are welcome and appreciated at this table, not excluded on grounds of your sex. (It needs to be done only once at a meal, so you don’t have to keep getting up and down at a buffet.)

There are many other examples — offering a woman your seat in a crowded subway, helping with bags on the airplane, allowing her to order her food first, deferring and letting her enter doors first, and so on.

Basic manners will not end all struggles, but they could go a long way toward smoothing out relations between the sexes. Certainly it is worth a try, men. You have nothing to lose.

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