The new chivalry
By Selwyn Duke
When one hears the word chivalry, thoughts of both the fanciful and practical are evoked. There are the quaint images of a valiant hero rescuing a damsel in distress from train tracks or of a man throwing his coat over a puddle for an enchanting belle (Was this obligatory with leather coats, too?).
In practice, though, the manifestations of chivalry were often far less heroic and far more mundane, as they might involve holding a door or carrying packages for a member of the fairer sex. Of course, there was the maritime standard governing evacuation from a doomed vessel, “women and children first,” which, while it might not have held the charm of fairytale salvation, was certainly not lacking in nobility.
But now these images and norms are fading into history. The feminists came along and said that chivalry was condescending, that women were to be viewed as equals in all things and that social codes dictating otherwise were anachronistic. They told boys to treat girls as they would boys, and girls were taught to view a man’s sacrificial behavior as a sign of utter contempt. This explains why some men have encountered hear-me-roar types who considered the men’s attempt to hold a door for them an affront. Ah, the fruits of feminism: female egos as bloated as they are fragile.
So, the great white knight of chivalry is supposed to be dead, slain by the feminist dragon of androgyny. And although he lives on in the stout hearts of the last hard men (no, not the movie), I must confess, the new, egalitarian norms are not entirely without appeal. Why, I find the idea of a bevy of shrieking feminists going down with the ship to be most attractive..
In light of the above, one might be inclined to eulogize that much maligned knight in shining armor and let him rest in peace. After all, double-standards in the treatment of the sexes are a thing of the past . . . or so they say. You see, while that old chivalry’s habitat has been denuded, relegating it to a few pristine bastions of traditionalism, it has not left a void. It has been replaced. Replaced by a new chivalry.
What is the new chivalry? Like the old chivalry, the new version involves social codes and social pressure to enforce them, but also much, much more. The new chivalry has also been written into law; it is embodied by affirmative-action and set-aside programs that favor women, and by legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which now serves as a vehicle through which to empower and fund feminist groups. We see the new chivalry in police domestic violence procedures that automatically place the onus on men and in family courts that are biased against them.
Most of all, though, there are the aforementioned social codes. The new chivalry is all around us, only, it has become so much a part of the fabric of the culture that many of us don’t even sense it. It’s manifested in the commercials that will portray men but never women as buffoons, and in a media and popular culture that use violence against men to evoke laughs while sanctimoniously admonishing against the acceptance of same against women.
We also see it in demeaning jokes, sentiments and symbols (such as the “All Men Are Bastards” kitchen knife block sold online) that are always XY-specific. What is often far less transparent is the constant carrying of water for feminist causes, a practice that runs the gamut from overt advocacy to the most subtle forms of shilling. For instance, so many men who should know better continue to reinforce the fiction that there’s a discrimination-caused wage-gap between the sexes that favors men. And lest you wonder why I label this “the new chivalry,” be not bemused. For all the incessant blather about equality, despite all the preaching and posturing and perturbation to tradition, I can hear a little voice in the background, whispering, ever so softly, like butterfly wings, “Take it easy on her . . . she’s only a girl.”
The best way to illustrate how we have been consumed by the new chivalry mentality is with a few of the abundant examples, and the first one that jumps to mind is the Jessica Lynch fraud. As you may remember, Lynch was the female soldier whose truck took a wrong turn in Iraq and found itself under attack by Iraqi fighters. After a stay in an Iraqi hospital, Lynch was rescued by special forces units, but it didn’t end there. Initial reports cast Lynch as the heroine, a real-life G.I. Jane who was willing to fight to the death as she suffered a bullet wound and fired her weapon until her ammunition was spent. It was a story that would do Hollywood proud.
The truth will out, however, and when it did it seemed that the tale was more Hollywood than little-soldier-that-could. We learned that Private Lynch had no battle wounds but, rather, blunt force injuries that could have been caused by a fall from her vehicle. Moreover, contrary to reports that portrayed her as having faced down torturers with a stoic bearing, she received special treatment from sympathetic medical personnel who took a shine to her and benefitted from the benevolence of an Iraqi lawyer who risked his life to alert American forces of her captivity.
Just as significantly, the nine men in her company had been shot in the head – execution style. This indicates that they were either trying to protect the women in the company – as suggested by military advocate Elaine Donnelly – or that her captors showed her a type of mercy that her male comrades-in-arms would never see. A little old-fashioned chivalry here, perhaps?
Regardless, the truth didn’t matter to the military source that fobbed the fictional story off on the public. Why, this served to legitimize the idea of having women in combat, and you can’t let the facts get in the way of enabling such a noble feminist cause. That’s the new chivalry for you.
Such exaggeration of women’s exploits and facilitation of feminist causes is not the exception but the norm nowadays, and it extends from matters of life-and-death to the downright frivolous. As for the latter, such was the case involving a girl golfer named Jenny Suh.
The story started in 1998 when the Virginia High School League (VHSL) decided to let girls play in the Boys’ State Golf Championship. The goal in affording this opportunity was to encourage more girls to play golf, something that must be absolutely necessary for personal happiness and fulfillment. What was the problem? Well, the chivalric school officials decided to allow the girls to play from tees that made the course twenty-percent shorter for them, a difference that amounted to about sixty yards per hole.
This is where Suh, the best female high school golfer in the state, entered the picture. After competing in the tournament a few times, she finally won it in 2002, causing a firestorm of controversy. Many of the boys complained (How dare they!) that if girls want to play in the same event, they should play by the same rules. I guess those boys hadn’t learned THE rules yet.
After this brouhaha the VHSL mandated that girls who wished to play in the boys’ event must play from the same tees, although it was just a wee bit too late for the second-place competitor, who finished one stroke behind and was denied his chance to win the title.
Moreover, a couple of curious contradictions were left unexplained. For one, how is it just to allow girls entry based on an equality argument but then cast equality to the winds during the competition? Then, if it’s wrong to discriminate based on sex, why were the shorter hitting girls given this handicap but not the shorter hitting boys (some boys who compete in such events are younger and less developed)?
Not that any of this matters to feminists, among whom I will count Miss Suh. She responded to the boys’ righteous indignation not with ladylike graciousness, but with in-your-face comments such as, “I won it and there’s nothing they can do about it” and “I would have beaten most of them anyway.” Interestingly, though, despite this show of bravado, Suh also stated that she doesn’t “. . . believe the girls should play from the same tees as the boys.”
Ah, she has learned her lessons well. No surprise, though, given her influences. After her “victory,” her principal went to her classroom and proclaimed her to be the “best” golfer in the state. But that’s modern feminism: preach equality, accept favoritism, win with stacked decks, pretend you had no advantage, then rub salt in the wound. And it’s tolerated, nay, encouraged, because of the new chivalry.
Not that you have to plumb the depths of obscure athletic contests to find the exercise of this newly minted virtue. Just last year we had Danica Patrick, the much-touted female racecar driver who was turned into a feminist icon during the Indianapolis 500. Her exploits on the track were portrayed as a victory for women and girls by the media, which quite conveniently omitted a sobering detail. You see, it seems that Miss Patrick lost control of her car and spun out during the race, knocking two other drivers out of it. Not that this is unusual; it’s a common rookie mistake. What is unusual, however, is for a driver to make such an error, finish fourth, and then receive infinitely more exposure than the winner, Dan Wheldon, who has the distinction of being the first Briton to win the race since 1966. But, hey, she’s only a girl, and the media is most chivalric.
One major difference between the two chivalries is that the new one is far less discrminatory, in that a woman doesn’t actually have to still be alive to benefit from it. In fact, owing to chivalrous revisionist history, heroic men of bygone days are now being de-emphasized, often in favor of women of limited or even dubious accomplishment. And this is obvious if you read many modern textbooks.
For instance, a famous 1896 picture of co-Nobel Prize winners Pierre and Marie Curie was presented in the textbook SciencePlus: Technology and Society. That is, in a manner of speaking. Taking a leaf out of Joseph Stalin’s book, they cut down the picture so as to eliminate Pierre Curie. In the textbook Creating America (A better title would be Creating History), the authors identify “ten representative American heroes.” But while neither Thomas Jefferson nor Benjamin Franklin was among them, the list does include: Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Queen Liliuokalani and, get a load of this, Zitkala-Sa (don’t ask). Yet another book had five pages about Marilyn Monroe but only five lines about George Washington, who, I seem to vaguely remember, might have done something noteworthy at one time. But, hey, who needs good history when you’ve got the new chivalry?
The truth is that the new chivalry is so all-encompassing that capturing its magnitude would require quite a tome indeed. I haven’t even touched on feminist-inspired junk research, which I wrote about in my piece, “She’s Blinding Me With Science: When Science and Feminism Become Bedfellows.” But now for the million gold-Sacagawea-dollar question: does it really matter?
The problem with the new chivalry is illuminated by the reason it has been embraced by the left. A group’s characteristic qualities give you an indication as to what place it has in the world. For instance, we know that a bird’s domain is the air and a fish’s is the water because we understand the qualities of birds and fish. Moreover, social-engineers are intensely aware of the fact that your conception of a group’s characteristic qualities will shape your grasp of its place, for good or for ill. If we were blind to the differences between birds and fish, for example, we would have a lot more trouble understanding why they should have different places.
And this is the purpose of the new chivalry. The left has endeavored to destroy traditional views of men and women, fatherhood and motherhood for decades now. To that end its minions have tried to convince people that the sexes are identical in natural inclination and capacity. They have indoctrinated little girls with the idea that fulfillment lies in doing what men do, and to “liberate” them from the guide rails of traditional precepts they have trotted feminist “heroines” before them. But these individuals aren’t truly great women like Mother Theresa and her Sisters of Mercy but, rather, are valkyries, masculinized figures who are occasionally authentic, often exaggerated, and sometimes imaginary. We have traded the mother for the myth.
This may be why so many nowadays are confused about their identity, with men not knowing how to be men and women rebelling against femininity and domesticity. It is why so many feel like a fish out of water.
If the metaphor for chivalry was the knight in shining armor, that of the new chivalry is the hen-pecked capon of a Western man. He does his chivalric duty obediently, as he throws his coat over the puddle of scrutiny and escorts mediocre women from Humble Avenue to Exaltation Lane.
Ominously, we may soon pay a terrible price for the embrace of this destructive obsession. There are some men who have intimated that they would be disposed to vote for Hillary Clinton for president because “It’s time to elect a woman,” an imperative that ranks right up there with getting Zitkala-Sa into history books. Well, that certainly would bring self-sacrifice to a new level. But it’s a mighty high price to pay for the new chivalry.
Selwyn Duke lives in Westchester County, New York. He is a tennis professional, internet entrepreneur, and writer whose works have appeared on various sites on the Internet, including Intellectual Conservative and Mensnet. A large number of his works can be found at his site www.SelwynDuke.com.
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