Chivalry, New York-Style

Now that I work downtown two days a week, I find myself taking the subway much more often. And as I forgot my headphones both days this week, I had ample opportunity to observe subway practices. Here’s what I discovered:

Several times, if a man was sitting and a woman walked in the car, he would immediately get up to offer her his seat. One guy even offered me his seat. When I politely declined (I was getting off at the next stop), he actually looked a little dumb-founded and uncomfortable. So here’s the thing. I’m a feminist. I say that women should not be treated differently because of their gender. But I REALLY like when this kind of stuff happens. I’m from the South, where everyone holds doors open for everyone else and chivalry is still a “Thing.” So when I moved up here, not only do we not necessarily smile at people on the street, but doors were dropped in my face, I had to bend over to pick up the thing I’d dropped myself, and I never, ever hear the “ladies first!” comment.

Is that a bad thing? I guess not. I *can* do these things on my own, obviously. But I also can’t pretend like  my heart doesn’t jump for joy on that rare occasion when someone of the male persuasion makes a point to hold the door open for me. I don’t know what it is exactly about that interaction, but I always think to myself, “What a classy gent! If only there were more like him.”

So, feminists, what say ye on chivalry? Antiquated gender interactions, or acceptable manners for social behavior? On the one hand, we always have a choice: I can decline to take the open seat, or I can opt to hold the door open myself. On the other, I would never think of giving up my seat to a guy, unless there was some sort of extenuating circumstance. Clearly there’s some internalizing of social values going on, and there’s no escaping the gender roles in these situations. But isn’t it OK to just sometimes, enjoy the benefits of gendered social interaction?

What do you think? Chivalry: dead (as it should be), dying, or very much alive (as it should be)?

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One thought on “Chivalry, New York-Style

  1. I hope chivalry is not dead. I have no problem with the door being held for me, because I hold the door for others. I would offer my seat to someone older then me, male or female. I would bend over to retrieve something someone dropped, again male, female, old, young… perhaps what I am looking for is not chilvalry but just common decency and politeness. Is that too much to ask?

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