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June 11, 2013

Chivalry Amongst Equals

Text by Shreya Shah. Illustration by Farzana Cooper. Published: Volume 21, Issue 6, June, 2013.

A woman, no matter how independent, should be able to enjoy the little things of life that in no way undermine her, but in fact celebrate her. After all, a man should be able to be solicitous without being accused of unequality…

Ah, the days of yore. A man overcoming all the hurdles of society that dared darken his beloved’s doorstep. Travelling miles at a time to get a particular flower for her. Leaping over bushes and shrubs in order to be the first to catch her fluttering handkerchief. Eagerly fanning her face when she would promptly faint, overcome by the attention. Oh, on a side-note, the too-tight corsets and the scandalous display of an ankle, which quite sensibly, has been left far behind.

But then, those were the days of unadulterated romance. Let’s get real, no man is going to travel from one city to even its far-off suburbs to get her something as frivolous as a flower. You can just Google it, and then Instagram it with your little personalised hashtag note. So much more convenient than perfumed love-letters, dripping with sighs! And in today’s busy, deadline-driven world, who has the time to faint? Any man who actually indulges in a little too much pampering of the lady-love is regarded with either derisive amusement or wary suspicion. And this mockery comes not just from society, but from the lady in question herself!

It is rumoured that a feminist compromises on her fundamentals if she allows a man to open the door for her, or pull out her chair, or some other such so-called old-fashioned nonsense. Being independent does mean being able to fend for oneself, do one’s own chores well, and basically be in a position wherein one doesn’t need to constantly need support; but can in fact offer support. But now, we hold the door open for ourselves and leave the person behind us to either have the foresight to quickly hold it themselves or have it slammed into their face, because we don’t have those extra ten seconds to be polite. Several men while holding open the door for a stranger receive an almost accusing glance in return; and the woman would pointedly hold the door herself, instead of just a quick “thank-you”. Do we seriously consider small things like this an arena wherein we can show our do-it-myself ability?

I draw the line at anyone else paying for me, because that’s a fundamental of independence. Dutch is always the way to go. But on a first date, it’s insulting to the man if you yank the bill away. Offer, by all means, but don’t insist.

It’s really not too much to allow for some things to be as they once were, and dare I say, as they are meant to be. Holding out the car door, making sure you walk on the side away from traffic, a firm hand on your shoulder when you’re amidst a crowd… these are the little things that would please a woman and heighten a man’s sense of propriety, without really compromising on any parameters set by feminism. Otherwise, what’s to separate the two and their differences?

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