Do Women Have The Right To Expect Chivalry From Men?

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Do Women Have The Right To Expect Chivalry From Men?
A look at the shifting nature of gender roles, and how they impact male-female relationships.

It seems we're perpetutally trying to answer this question: Is chivalry truly dead? And if not, should it be?

In Jenna Birch's recent article "10 Chivalrous Acts That Make Women Melt," she discusses the long-lost art of chivalry. Basic acts, such as holding doors for women, have become all-too rare, according to Birch. She encourages men to consider being a bit more chivalrous, not because it's necessary or because women are unable to do things for themselves, but because it's sweet when men go out of their way for us. It makes us feel special. Plain and simple. 10 Chivalrous Acts That Make Women Melt

In response, one male reader wrote this: "So, women want to be treated just like men—except when they don't." He questioned the legitimacy of her request, and concluded that women shouldn't expect to have it both ways. Today, women want to be treated the same as men in many respects; equal pay, equal opportunities, equal rights. So they can't desire equality and romance. In other words, they can't demand their independence, yet still expect men to pull out chairs and open doors for them. In the age of feminist thinking, women can only choose one avenue or the other.

As a young, modern woman, I had a mixed reaction to his words. It was the same mixed reaction I experienced throughout the majority of my adolescence, and it made me wonder if this male reader was around the same age as me. Perhaps, he was in his 30s, just as I am, and was the product of an ever-changing society where gender roles weren't concrete, and where men and women weren't entirely sure how to act in relation to one another. Perhaps, like me, his senior year of high school included dancing to Destiny's Child at prom, and listening as the three ladies whine in their hit song, "Bug-A-Boo," about how annoying it is when men call them too often. Perhaps, he then turned on the radio and heard Destiny's Child, once again, proclaiming the glory of being "Independent Women" who are "always 50/50 in relationships." Are You An Equal Opportunity Dater?

"I depend on me!" Beyoncé declares, over and over, in that chorus.

As a teenager listening and dancing to those songs, I often felt an odd sense of ambivalence. On the one hand, the idea of girl power was exciting and fun. It made me grateful to think that generations of women had fought to give me the right to vote for president, earn a college degree, and make the same salary as my male colleagues. Yet, on the other hand, I was a romantic, just like Birch, and I highly enjoyed it when the men I dated would open the car door for me. Was I allowed to want both, and if so, how did the two desires fit together?

Author Elizabeth Gilbert discussed this subject in a talk she gave for the 10th anniversary of O Magazine. She said the following: "We are at the beginning of a vast and completely unprecedented social science experiment. We are in the first generation of women in the history of mankind who have had freedom, autonomy, literacy, education, access to their own economic well-being, access to their own power... And we do not have thousands of years of strong, autonomous female role models to look to for how to solve our lives. We are all doing it for the first time, ourselves." 'Eat, Pray, Love' Author Takes On Marriage

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