Chivalry Should be Dead

Definition of Chivalry: A feudalistic facade concocted in the Middle Ages to deflect attention from the barbaric conditions under which women lived.

   Chivalry included exaggerated courtesies and control of the female sex through moral purity standards which males were not required to adhere to. The female sex was falsely “cherished” and her movements and freedoms were severely restricted under the guise of “protecting” her. It was a Middle age version of the modern mafia protection racket; “Pay me and I’ll protect you. Protect me from who? I’ll protect you from me!
   During the Middle Ages, highborn women were the primary recipients of chivalry, as they were the primary targets for abduction, forced marriage, and rape in order to further men's ambitions for rank and power.
   Chivalry included a range of superficial gestures designed to emphasize the appearance of female helplessness and to remind her of her utter dependency on men.
   During feudal times, women were indeed at the physical mercy of men who have the physical advantage. But instead of crafting laws, back then, to protect women, chivalry was born. Chivalry gave the appearance of protecting women while reinforcing the harsh reality of her physical helplessness against men, and  her social, material, and political dependency on men.  
   What has this to do with women today when recourse can be taken to courts of law rather than to the sword, when lawmakers have crafted laws to protect women from brutes? It is simply this: A few civil rights and outlawed physical brutishness does not exclude men (who continue to rule in public policy and attitudes) from harboring the same brutish sentiments of male superiority women have been up against throughout the ages.
   “Chivalrous” behavior continues to mask the same attitudes among many "gentlemen" as among brutes—that woman is created a subordinate creature and should remain so—no matter how many civil rights is given.
   Modern chivalry continues to include many culturally ingrained—superficial—gestures designed to reinforce the idea of woman’s helplessness and dependency on the physically stronger man. Complementarian leaders admit this is the case. They take the case even further by publicly teaching that common courtesies can be used to demonstrate what they call, the “realities of manhood.”
   Finally, some honesty about chivalry!

   This is explained more fully in the following excerpt from the book, Woman this is War! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System:

“It is shameful that even courtesy has become a twisted tool for complementarian men who are desperate to demonstrate the “realities” of manhood and womanhood. In explaining how courtesies can be used to masculine advantage, pastor and author, John Piper, who believes that it is inappropriate for women to hold equal or superior positions to men in the workplace, described some ways in which men can exert their masculine personhoods over women who may be equal or superior to them on the job. Piper calls upon men to exert their “mature masculinity” or “manhood” over women they are not married to by practicing simple courtesies such as opening doors and holding chairs for them, etc..

Quote from John Piper in, Recovering Biblical Manhood And Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, Edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Crossway Books Wheaton, Illinois, 1991).: ‘If, in the course of the day, a woman in the law firm calls a meeting of the attorneys, and thus takes that kind of initiative, there are still ways that a man, coming to that meeting, can express his manhood through culturally appropriate courtesies shown to the women in the firm. He may open the door; he may offer his chair; he may speak in a voice that is gentler.  It is true that this becomes increasingly difficult where a unisex mentality converts such gentlemanly courtesies into offenses and thus attempts to shut out every means of expressing the realities of manhood and womanhood… (end of quote).’

 For men to use their superior physical strength in defense of woman’s equality is noble. For men who are dedicated to protecting the autonomy of women to open doors or hold chairs is more than acceptable. But to use courtesy as a way of lording it over women, in situations where acting lordly would be unacceptable, is unacceptable. Courtesies extended in order to stroke one’s own ego are selfish in the extreme, condescending, and sinful. Treating others condescendingly (even masking it with politeness) is not courteous by any stretch of the imagination. It is insulting, and it is wrong. No woman should feel honored or appreciative when courtesies are sullied by such men.”
   In response to offensive remarks about women made by then Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, Speaker, Paul Ryan, announced, "I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.” Ryan’s response was little more than complementarian chivalrous dribble.
   It did absolutely nothing to empower women.
   In fact, it furthered the ancient feudal and modern complementarian narrative of the inferior (subordinate), weak, and dependent woman.
   Ryan was correct, in that women should not be objectified. But as long as men hold to the idea that women are subordinate creatures and therefore need to be “championed and revered” to cover the [barbaric] fact that they are not permitted functional [or even Constitutional] equality with men, women will continue to be objectified.
   Woman do not need nor want to be “championed and revered.”
   The idea is obsolete. It is nothing but continuing the false, hypocritical, and medieval, idea of chivalry which should have went the way of the dinosaur long ago, but has now been revived, pushed forward by the desperate complementarian need to put woman back in “her place.”
   Women ask only the respect due them as beings created in exactly the same image of God as men are. If there was ever any merit to the straw man “No Differences” argument— made up by complementarians to solve a non-existent problem—It would be the fact that there are indeed no differences between men and women in the spirit realm—beyond that, most reasonable people acknowledge and embrace differences between the sexes without the need to implement a phony front of unscriptural, outdated, and overstated courtesies in order to make little men feel big.

Jocelyn Andersen is best known for her book, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence.  

She is also editor of the Hungry Hearts Online Bible Commentary  

For more information about her work, visit her website at 

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