In Defense Of The Caveman
By Stephen Doherty
“The age of chivalry has passed. Bores have succeeded to dragons.” –Charles Dickens
There is a great cultural and societal debate being waged on equality as it relates to men and women. It is a vigorous debate that is challenging traditional male-female roles as never before. I think it’s a healthy debate that’s consistent with this nation’s history of evolving freedoms and choices. The knowledge that my daughter has life and career choices today that weren’t as available to her mom and grandmother, is a good thing by any measure. Any time unreasonable obstacles to freedom of choice are eliminated-I will applaud it. That said, I am troubled by the growing insistence that we simply ignore the obvious biological differences between the sexes and turn our backs on age-old traditions of respect and honor that once bore the coveted name of chivalry.
Since the dawn of time, men have traditionally been the physical defenders of country, family, and things that go bump in the night. This was no slight to women-quite the opposite. This was a simple recognition of the observable fact that men and women are different. Period. Men are taller and stronger and as such, traditional roles were adopted that played to these strengths. Did this make men better? Women better? Or was it merely humankind gravitating to what was easier or more convenient? For better or for worse-this social compact of roles and responsibilities made sense and on we went until just the last several decades. There was freedom and there was choice, but they were greatly compressed by the default expectations of the time. By and large, there is little today that both sexes cannot pursue equally with similar odds for success.
What troubles and saddens me is that traditional gestures of true honor and respect for women by men are increasingly seen as unforgiveable slights or an irreedemable bias. As a man, extending gestures of courtesy like opening doors, or letting ladies enter first, or walking women to their cars after hours is NOT a dismissive or disrespectful act. It is an obligatory gesture born of tradition and coupled with admiration and respect for women. It was a code passed down to us through the ages and it was something as deeply ingrained into us as breathing.
The world we live in today wants so badly to see the negative intent or disparagement in a simple act of decency. To many today, there is no positive in life that doesn’t have a corresponding exponential negative. Good intentions are subordinate to dogmatic labeling and hyper-sensitive reactionaries that litter today’s social landscape. In today’s world-the mere fact of being a man invites derisive slurs of toxic masculinity and other such ignorant tripe. Indeed, men are increasingly under attack merely for biological realities.
As for me? I’ve yet to open a door for a woman that wasn’t appreciated. I always pick up the lunch or dinner tab and allowing a woman to walk alone at night into a parking garage is neglect of the highest order. My son knows that looking out for his mom and sister is part of his life’s mission as is placing himself between jeopardy and women and children. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. It’s why we’re different. Not better or worse–just different. In my heart of hearts, I believe that today’s women are stronger and smarter and more accomplished than at any other time in history. I also believe that most women have zero problem with letting men be men. In fact, I believe that most women prefer that men be allowed to be men. Chivalry may be under attack–but it’s demise is more myth than reality.
“Chivalry is not just a fancy word with a neat meaning; it’s a way of life.” –Vaughn Ripley