The feminist movement and its sequential waves have brought newfound rights, freedoms, and desires to generations of women, but have left the sexes more confused about what to do with each other. In Medieval eras it was appropriate for men to treat women as if they were delicate objects to be treasured. Today if a woman feels she is being treated as an object her accompaniment might just loose his most treasured possession. There is confusion in relationships. Men want to live up to standards of treatment that will make women comfortable and women want to be pampered without feeling like they are considered less capable. Society has reached a medium; women and feminists no longer live in the kitchen and men no longer live solely in the office. Men and women in relationships need work to establish a similar medium between demeaning chivalric behavior and the newfound liberties of women brought about by the feminist movement.
- Forever remembered; Forever hated by some and admired by others; the forever famous and infamous, FEMINISTS.
In this essay the words feminist or feminism aren’t referring to the movements throughout history, they are referring to all and any woman. This reference comes from an old teacher who said; “Any and I mean ANY woman in society and the world who believes that she is entitled to the rights she has or believes that appreciates her rights is a feminist. It doesn’t matter whether she is out marching for the modern day feminist movement, any woman who checks a ballot at the voting booth is a feminist.” Feminism is defined as the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes and the movement organized around this belief. Feminism gained recognition during the women’s suffragist movement, also known as the first wave of feminism. The second wave of feminism occurred during the 1960’s and 70’s centered on gaining social equality. During the First and Second World Wars, women were depended on; women became the bulk of the work force for goods production and manufacturing products for the war efforts. When the wars and global conflicts were resolved men returned. The work force no longer required the services of women and her place was once again in the home. With each phase of feminism women strive for different and more modern rights. The emerging third feminist wave is stirring up controversy over the goals of feminism; “Critics argue that the third wave of feminism concentrates too much on sexual liberation, to the point that it has encouraged the growth of tacky ‘raunch culture’ that cheapens and commodifies sex” (Update Feminism). From 1930 to 1960 the number of female professionals considerable dropped and while the philosophy of feminism began during the enlightenment the “…the word "feminism" ricochets like a verbal bullet across the cultural landscape. It seems to defy any single meaning for women or men but still carries within it a world of profound social and political change” (Changing the Face of Feminism). Whether the “world of change” the word feminism carries with it has positive or negative charge in people’s minds it carries a charge. Women have gained equal legal rights but the struggles of past generations tug at women’s fears. Often women are defensive and distant toward men and chivalrous actions, this causes more complicated relationships, and greater distances between the sexes.
- “Please enjoy the ring back tone while your party is reached.” Complicated communication. Should I call? Should he? “Momma always said…”
With changes in time come changes in acceptable forms of communication. Sit at a table and observe what is said by the sexes; men and women speak in different languages and growing technology has just increased the language barrier. “Sex is what distinguishes the relation between men and women from the other systems of social division and inequality (like race or class) and gives unique depth, breadth, and power” (Mysteries of Sex, pg.3). The distinct division between men and women remains. Means of communication and introduction have changed. There are now internet dating sites, chat rooms for singles, friends sharing phone numbers, and blind dates. The days of the man calling first and the male expecting to pay are becoming fewer and further between. It is often the woman’s prerogative to make contact. In a world of text messaging and e-mails, emotion is lost from one person to another. Men and women have difficulty communicating as it is. New ‘virtual’ communication makes this barrier much harder to avoid. While a man may be willing to call he is unsure of what communication method to use. Being a creature of simplicity he may be tempted to leave the ball in the female’s court because he just doesn’t know what to do with all the options there are. As a result of simple advancement and technology one aspect of chivalry has been forever changed!
- Men! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. He wants to treat us one way; women don’t know what we want. How has his world changed?
At one time it was acceptable for men to treat women in a wholly chivalric manner. As time has changed the expectations of how men should treat women have also changed. Society is becoming more feminine. The man’s role in society is also changing; the growth of the feminist movement is talking power and influence away from men (Edwards). Other cultures are adopting alternative methods of sharing the once female responsibility of child rearing. Sweden was the first nation to grant both mothers and fathers access to parental leave in 1974. In Sweden granting parental leave was an attempt to give equal parental rights to parents as well as economic advantages in providing child care for working families (The Impact of Taking Parental Leave). While society was once male dominated, the feminist movement has changed the balance; in the past, women weren’t allowed to own land, and their political influence involved the opinions they shared with their husbands. The suffragist movement and actions toward equal social rights opened a door where opinions and believes of women are now being heard, and the man’s once dominate role has taken the back burner to shared rights; “Lurking underneath all this is a perception of modern men as, in essence, emasculated, passive, lacking in self-esteem and out of touch with the nature of their instincts” (Edwards). Men are working to find a place where they are able to treat women in a traditional way without offending her modern rights. No doubt, as much as society and the political system have changed for women a man’s role in both has also changed.
- Balance and Boundaries. Mean Stares and Disrespectful Glares. Men and women may be equal in rights but they are inalienably different.
“The fewer barriers, the more muddied the waters. It never occurred to me that the more women aped men, in everything from dress to orgasms, the more we would realize how inalienable different the sexes are” (Dowd, Pg.3). Physique, communication methods and almost every aspect of life for men and women are different. Chivalry must change with society, where women may have once taken the role of a possession now men and women are sharing rights. That role is no longer valid. Women are as confused as men about how they should to be treated “I struggled with two competing images of the opposite sex: oppressor, and dream date” (Changing My Feminist Mind). Women struggle with ideas of how they should be treated by men, as men struggle with ideas of who to treat women. Should she accept that she is delicate compared to the opposite sex, or should she find a balance between being treated as delicate without losing the power she gained through the feminist movements. (She in the collective sense of the female population) It is reasonable for a man to want to hold a door for a woman, and even more reasonable for that woman to accept the gesture without being offended or feeling belittled. Women want attention. At the same time they feel a threat that in being vulnerable they will be less capable. Women are confused and struggle to not fell threatened. What’s acceptable for men to do and the man’s role in relationships is changing. Ever watch a man hold a door and get glared at? His good manners are being treating with bad manners. Chivalry isn’t about disrespect, it’s about the opposite. The days of chivalrous pigs have passed, the meanings of each contradict. A pig is just that, dirty and disgusting. Chivalry is respect and grace. Mixing feminism and chivalry is like making a complicated dessert; so many things can go wrong.
- The rules have changed! We’re pushing them away and even more we want their attention, women can be scary enough. Don’t build up a barrier, being a feminist doesn’t mean making yourself less feminine, you have rights, don’t assume all men want to belittle you with their compassion.
Men have the unique ability to not get attached. Women are cautious when entering a relationship. Women build a barrier around themselves in an attempt to not get hurt. While trying to not be vulnerable women are likely to do the ‘random thing’ which tends to make them more vulnerable. In trying to wear pants women make it more obvious that they are nothing like men. “Ambitious young women do emotional damage to themselves by getting physical- making out to having sex- with men they are not dating or may have met for the first time” (A Disconnect on Hooking Up). Whether through experience or fear women have learned that trusting men is too difficult, experience has taught some women that men are after one thing, but judging the entire sex for the actions of the select is unreasonable. Believing that every man wants one thing is like believing that every feminist hates men, it’s untrue. Every woman wants to meet a knight in shining armor; he will whisk her off her feet, and make her a real live Cinderella. In a society where women were once considered lesser than men it is difficult to believe that actions and efforts are in her best interest. It is safe to say that women don’t expect all men to be the same. Stereotypes collide in the world of what is real in relationships, and confuse the differences between men and women with the similarities.
The world changes every day, feminism, masculinity, relationships, and chivalry are all things the modern anyone is confused about. Different ideas of how the sexes should treat each other are scattered though history. From a time when women were delicate and could ‘lose their flowers’, to a time when women were burning their bras in the name of rights, and now a time when men and women have now reached a time when they are recognizing the need for a little bit of both. Women have gained social and political rights; they can vote, own land, and even choose whom they marry or who will be the one they lose their flower to. There has to be a place and time where a new husband has the right and ability to carry a new wife through the threshold of their door. Every relationship is different, every woman has different desires and every man has different ideas of how chivalry fits into this new society. The rules are different for every relationship: you can buy my dinner if I can buy the dessert; carry me through the door if you aren’t cradling me like a baby; I’ll make dinner if you’ll help; as for the changing sexual encounters that is something to be personal for each couple. Women in relationships no longer have to right for every right. If a woman feels like fighting is the only way to gain respect something is wrong, the world isn’t like that anymore. Making a woman fight for her place is no chivalric action. Change can be fun, experiment with what your boundaries as a feminist, a woman, a knight or a man. Find where you belong and how your relationship will balance, as society does, feminism and chivalry. Each member of a relationship should belong to the other equally while belonging to themselves. Feminism and Chivalry belong in society with balance in the same way men and women exist in society.
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