Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Last December, I wrote a guest blog post that asked the question: did feminism kill chivalry? I started off by saying that I believe that men and women should be treated equally in society, and that although there have been gains, there is still work to be done.

By the way, I don’t consider myself a feminist.

I’m not really sure what a feminist is or if that term is still relevant, if it ever it was.

Anyway, in my guest post, I went on to say that for all the so-called equality I want for women, I’m a little ambivalent about giving up some of the “perks” of being treated like a woman, such as dividing household chores along gender lines, having a door held open for me, and paying for a “date.”

A few days ago, I was cleaning up my computer harddrive and  doing some archiving. I checked on the link to that guest post and found a comment that was added about a month ago. In part, the commenter said:

There is nothing strong, liberated or equal about expecting the man to be the one to pay because of being a man, expecting men to perform chivalrous acts for women because of being the man, expecting the man to do all the dirty work (e.g. taking out the yucky trash, killing those scary spiders).

Truth is, I totally agree with this comment, while at the same time, I really won’t stop any man from taking out my garbage or paying for my meal. I realize the irony of it all and in part, that was my original point. How many gender biases do “liberated” women buy into?

If you are a women, your thing may not be my thing, but I would be surprised to hear you say that you are in no way affected by the standards of society that keep us in our place.

I sit transfixed watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model, knowing full well there are many young teens and fresh-faced young women who already think they can’t leave the house without makeup.

I bought into the idea that I can’t handle getting my car serviced, or dine alone at a restaurant. I call myself liberated, but now that I am separated from my husband, it appalls me to recognize how much I relied on him to do things I didn’t want to do or thought that he could do better.

And these are just the superficial issues. There are other strongly held beliefs about women and men that are even more detrimental that we all, to some extent, should rethink.

But I am a woman, whatever that means, and I don’t want to be a “man.” So how do we negotiate our friendships and/or sexual relationships without men or women dominating the other–or is that possible? The differences between our bodies suggests something but what–beside the obvious? Do we create a separation between ourselves based on traditional values in same sex relationships?

Is there a place for gender roles?

What do you think?

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011


Comments on: "Feminism and Chivalry Revisited" (50)

  1. ‘Is there a place for gender roles?’ I would be inclined to say no, if it means roles constrained by gender.
    There is an ancient Indian sculpture ‘Ardhanareshwara’ which is a figure that is half god, half goddess. This symbolises both potentials are within us – how we actualise that is the beauty of difference – men/women/trans/neuter- within one humanity.
    I remember work life and home life in the context of the women’s movement in the 70s UK, Some good came from the reclaiming of separate identites, but this went further, got shriller and may I say sillier – into ‘gesture politics’ [eg not accepting the polite gesture of a door being opened by a man!].
    With regards to sharing tasks, courtesies, it is the spirit and the mutual undertanding that counts.

    You mention make-up and the pressures on women [of all ages] – it is a big industry keeping women chained to their looks! [ a form of modern day foot-binding?] – these are insidious, pernicious gender roles that will continue to challenge!

    • These are spectacular comments, Kalpana. I love the symbolism of Ardhanareshwara and you explain it beautifully. Also, I think the danger any group that fights inequality faces is the urge to bristle at small slights instead of staying focused on the bigger picture. Makeup = modern day foot binding … right on, sister!

  2. Courteousness to me means just that being courteous regardless of age or gender. It is not something that is written down that a man should do the things that are expected by some rather it is how we communicate with whom we may be with. I think most of it just comes down to respect.

    As for Spiders umm nup! You get it Love…


    • So true, A. Men and women can do for themselves and each other as long as one doesn’t start to feel entitles because of her/his sex. And as long as nobody steps on the spider!! It’s inhumane and and ooky!

  3. No but there should be room for individuals’ roles based on their abilities and strengths. I know nothing about cars, for example. Is this because I’m a woman? No. It’s because I’ve never been interested. My boyfriend is terrified of spiders. I’m not, so I deal with them. I do think there is still a need for feminism, however. The working woman is seen as someone who has to juggle career with home-life but the working man is not seen as someone who faces this challenge. Why is that? And why is it that if a man and woman go on a date the man is expected to pay? I like a free meal and I have to admit, I have been known to enjoy this ‘perk’ but only on first dates. After that, I expect to be able to split the bill – or pay myself. A man who refuses this needs to remember that penises do not make money – unless you work in porn, I guess. As for holding doors open for people – that’s a courtesy – whether you’re a man holding a door for a woman or vice-versa.

    • Indeed, Louise, women still make only about .77 to a man’s dollar. Society needs to do something about that. I do think there’s a gray area about what the goals of “feminism” are. As long as I was with somebody who was interested in cars, I didn’t have to be. Now that I’m not with that person, I’m thinking maybe a little cross training would have been good. And if men were cross trained to cook and clean house, they could share the duties after work.

      • I hope you don’t mind if I make a point (or 3 about the so-called “wage gap”) since you brought it up.

        The feminist movement would do much, much, much more good by training girls and women how to succeed rather than complaining about the predictable results of the choices women make, such as what career to choose and how much they focus on it.

        Feminists should encourage women to become electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, sewer workers, HVAC technicians or the like instead of hair stylists, manicurists, child care providers or cashiers. Beat that drum over and over and over.

        They should teach them to major in engineering, business, or math and science, and to NOT take Women’s Studies, literature, history, philosophy or similar subjects that will almost guarantee a lower paying job compared to the others.

  4. I remember your original post and loved the ideas that you posed with it.

    ‘Feminism and Chivalry’ It’s not really for me – give me manners any day. If walking along a corridor and there is a door and a man, do I expect the man to open the door for me? If he gets there first yes, but if I get there first then no, of course not I’ll open it and hold it for whoever is passing through. This doesn’t make me a feminist, it doesn’t make the man chivalrous if he holds the door for me but it does make us equal as polite individuals.

    As for dinner, well If I’m asked out on a date should I expect the other person to pay or should I pay, I ask myself this if I was invited to someone’s house for dinner would they expect me to cook it myself? just a thought 🙂

    • I like your logic, SJ. I think maybe back in the day that having a man pay for the date was a source of pride for him and a sign of earning power for women looking for a husband!

  5. I really loved this post , I stumbled it. I still feel the “need” to hold a door for a lady or let a women go before me if we both get to a point at the same time. But over the years more women ( not a majority) will simply walk through without a word or even a small nod. especially if their on the dreaded cellphone. I think the traditional niceties have a place no matter how equal we all are!! By the way one bright spot is most of the young women I hold doors for actually say thank you it is the older women that do not. Interesting that it would be that way. Maybe the younger ones have been told to be nice to their grand dads lol.


    • Lol! No way the young women think that, Jim!! Maybe they’re surprised you would do that. Are younger men still taught this gesture?

      Heartfelt thanks for the stumble. I’m getting better but I’m still figuring that site out! And the cellphone really is the spawn of the devil.

  6. sulekkha said:

    Like SJ says it boils down to manners…I have held open doors for men and women, depending on the circumstances. As for paying for lunch or dinner, when two friends decide to go out with each other, they go dutch but if I invite my friend out I pay same should be the case with a couple, irrespective of their sexes. Lovely post and thought provoking question, Loved it Sweepy.

    • Yes, I do agree with this notion. Maybe we are getting out of the mindset that the man has to take care of us and pay for everything? I see this attitude with younger women. I’ve been out of it for so long, do people even still date? ‘p

  7. Is there a place for gender roles? I don’t know about gender but I do think their is a place for roles. I am not a feminist but I believe in equality. I think of door holding as a matter of manners if I approach a door first I will hold it open until the person walks through…If it is my hubby you bet he will open the door, unless I’m 20 steps ahead of him in which case I would get the door, but that will never happen he has long legs and walks really fast. But, then again he will open the door for any woman, child or man! He is an incredibly considerate man ~I have never had to worry about equality with him so I guess having ‘relationship roles’ is not a negative! I prefer my husband to take care of all things automotive…I don’t know if its a man-woman thing or if its just the way I’m wired. He comprehends that stuff better than I do and if I did not have him I would probably turn to family or friends. I know this about myself and I accept it. I prefer him to be the ‘bread winner’ (I’m sure this will make someones skin crawl but I don’t care); I want to take care of our home, him and our kids…I want what I have ~to me that’s what is important.

    I think most people would agree their is a difference between degradation and identifying ones role in a relationship (whether it personal or business). I think what bothers me the most about any movement, ideal or action is when its taken to the extreme…what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else!

    • I love your comments, Amy! I was a stay at home mom for a time and like you, it was a choice I made as to what I wanted to do for my family. In some cases, I felt as though I was being judged negatively for it and that is one of the things the so-called feminist movement handled badly. Equality in the workplace, yes, but there should also be support for those who chose a different route.

      Sometimes our lives change for whatever reason and at first it’s a rude awakening. But then it feels good to know that although there are things we don’t like to do or are hard to do, but we can do them. We don’t need somebody to do it for us.

      I know so many men who are not handy around the house an have no knowledge in or interest of automotive things, But they learn to do it or at least fake it because that’s what people.

  8. This is a great post Sweepy. I dont really believe in feminism being a romantic I still appreciate chivalry. I think if both the sexes respect each other this gender difference need never come into play. Loved it.

    My latest post:


    • I think that is a refreshingly honest comment, Rimly. You are not alone. There are plenty of women who like the traditional interplay between men and women. Then there are the half steppers, like me, who want some of it but not all, although most would not admit it. ;p

  9. Is there a place for gender roles?—-The term ‘gender’ is socially constructed (unlike ‘sex’ which is biological). As such, my answer would have to be ‘no’. Sex roles though?…yes. Biologically, we are different and that’s just how it is as far as I’m concerned. As you had suggested, there is much to be debated on given this issue but one thing is clear to me. Though it is IDEAL to simply relate to one another has ‘human beings’, I’m afraid we will never be able to do away with who we are as sexual / biological beings. Our cognition capacities are different (in terms of how they work, our wiring, how we process), hormones, ergo emotions, and I think the key is to really build upon these differences not to dominate the other, but to cooperate and ease each other’s lives. Let’s just admit that we can never do away with these innate differences and stop antagonizing each other in the name of ‘isms’. Thank you for bringing this to the fore and making me think more about it, A!

    • I appreciate your comments, Joy. You have really hit the nail on the head as to what I’m getting at here. I do wonder, though if there is an overlap between gender and biology?

  10. A thought-provoking post. I was brought up thinking that there were no gender roles. Now, after two kids, I am not so sure. Falling pregnant, delivering the baby and breastfeeding are pretty much down to women, whether we like it or not. Maybe, as Joy said, these are just sex roles. But they are pretty real. And they shape our life!

  11. I would agree with what Joy says here.

    Just the other day I was in the bus and we have the privilege of having seats reserved for ladies… a certain thing that might irk men in over crowded buses; they have to vacate seats for women..that is the rule here. Is that making them chivalrous, I wouldn’t think so. It is just an individual choice we all have to make. Would we rather have women get the attention and equality they deserved, or do we want our men to wear the chivalry armor!

    • Very interesting, Hajra. It brings up the question of how women’s rights are perceived worldwide. What women need varies from culture to culture and I would love to learn more about that.

  12. I have the same dilemma as you Sweepy – what do we want really!!! I had come to this conclusion a while ago – I want to be liberated meaning I don’t want to be treated inferior or recognized as the weaker sex. I want to think I am as capable as a man is but I will leave it to the man to make his own choice – let him choose whether he wants to be chivalrous or not. I will love it if he pulls the chair for me but I won’t loathe him if he doesn’t … Its his turn to choose his identity : )

  13. Penelope J. said:

    I was brought up at a time when feminism, chivalry, and manners were prevalent. Now I see women behaving like men and getting angry when they are treated like women, men mistreating women or acting aggressively towards them, and the young displaying a complete disregard for if not ignorance of good manners. They seem all but forgotten or ridiculed in the U.S. (well, parts of) and in England especially when compared to the emphasis on good manners in Asian, African and Latino countries.

    As for feminism, one thing is for women to cross over into male dominated professions, but that does not mean they have to cease being feminine. As an example, just look at Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, probably the most powerful woman in the world.

    I don’t think chivalry is outdated. A chivalrous man is more likely to win a woman’s heart any day. But I do think that there are some rampant feminists who are challenging chivalry as sexist while others blatantly show off their feminism as pointed out above.

    I may be old-fashioned but I still think there is a place for gender roles even while treating both sexes with equality, something we haven’t yet achieved in the U.S. A total of 66 women have held higher office in other countries in the world, including male dominated ones such as Pakistan, Shri Lanka (first country to have a female President), India, Bolivia, Argentina, Rwanda, Burundi, etc. I also have found, much to my surprise, that most male Americans don’t really know how to be friends with women or at least, not the kind of pals I have in Mexico and the U.K. Or maybe that’s just me.

    • Penelope, I think you and others point out something that can’t be denied: There are differences between women and men, starting with biology and because of biology. So why can’t we be different but equal? As far as femininity goes, I bet there are some things that are innately feminine and some things that are feminine as dictated by society. And that’s where the problem comes in. Some would argue that chivalry is not just a set of manners but a mindset, either conscious or unconscious, that women are delicate flowers that need to be protected and are too weak to perform certain tasks. It could be said that when men perform these chivalrous acts, they don’t see women as individuals, but as stereotypes.

  14. […] Feminism and Chivalry Revisited « Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World 4.1 Great discussion in the comments about "feminism" Join in! Source: sweepyjean.wordpress.com […]

  15. Gender roles in relationships – pphhhmmmm
    Well in my relationship we have them but out of choice not because we have to and their fluid, we can easily slip into the other at times. I do enjoy being a woman and like being bought flowers and having the door opened for me. I cant reach the top cupboard very easily and I am not very strong. I know my man likes getting pressies, having me offer to drive for a change, helping him with a task. Who says we cant have gender roles and not be feminine or masculine or equal.
    I believe in equality of education, employment opportunities and respect. In relationships I believe in communication, respect and flexibility – it works for us.

    • Sounds like you have a harmonious relationship, Maureen! Having someone who is taller or stronger help you out is not necessarily a gender thing, and I like how you help your partner out the way you do. Now that I live without a tall man in the house, I found the need to buy a step stool. I put the things I use only on occasion on the highest shelves. Instead of waiting for my heavy packages to be brought in, I make quite a few trips back and forth from the car. It occurs to me that once we strip out the “gender role” part from our relationships, we are left with what we truly need from each other, the companionship, the intimacy.

  16. As others have commented some roles are biological and cannot be changed. I believe in gender equity, I also believe in mutual respect. I don’t think roles in a relationship should be assigned or assumed by gender. They should be assumed by personal strengths and abilities.

  17. suburbansatsangs said:

    I grew up in an extremely sexist household. On the farm, the men worked in the fields and the women did the “housework.” Only trouble is, the women (my mother and I) were expected to work in the fields during the day at critical times like hay season, harvest, etc. AND come home to fix dinner (always from scratch) and do dishes and laundry while my father and brother sat and watched TV. Ever the equality-minded, I would mention this double-standard only to be ignored or dismissed by my mother. Funny thing is, it was my mother who set up this imbalance, not my father. While I admit I never had the body strength of my male counterparts, I could still hold my own on the hay wagon and my mother endured stifling heat while putting up food in the uncooled kitchen, all while my father rode in his air-conditioned tractor cab with my brother the only other driver allowed.

    Needless to say, my marriage is pretty opposite. My husband and I trade roles as needed. I thank anyone (male or female) who goes out of their way to hold a door open or give me a helping hand. I appreciate the courtesies given me as a woman, but I know I can make it on my own if necessary. And I will never be stuck in those gender ruts again if I can help it.

    Great post, Adriene. You made me think about what message I’m passing along to my daughter.

    • Very interesting! When comes down to work, either in the fields or in an office, women toil as hard as men do. Yet when it comes to the extras, like cooking and housework, all bets are off. It may take generations for us to turn these and other attitudes around, but like you, we should all think preparing our daughters to fight for themselves.

  18. Gender roles…..well this is definitely something that is different for every person. When I was very young I lost my father and from that point my mom made sure I would never dependent on a woman to do any of the traditional jobs of cleaning, cooking, laundry.
    Sure if my fiancee does my laundry it is a great treat but I think you just have to strong enough to survive independently. Then when these “manners” or gender based roles do happen they are just unexpected “treats”. When this happens I say don’t feel bad for enjoying them, bask in your happiness, so the next time we can enjoy it just as much.

    • Hats off to your mom, Aaron! I’m a firm believer that the world is changed one mind at a time. In addition to parents teaching daughters to be independent, we should also teach our sons the same, starting with chores that are traditionally “female” tasks. Hand in hand with this is helping them foster a healthy respect for women.

  19. Hi Adriene –

    I’m wondering if we just stuck to the basics of whom we are (men & women) and forget all of what society tells us to be…and leave the rest up to the heart. Instinctively & naturally, respect and admiration should prevail…as long as the heart leads the way. 🙂

    • Awww! As much as I want to reject this sentimentality, I sort of wish it could be so, truth be told. Then as soon as I wish it, I’m reminded that the struggles for dominance probably is a natural instinct, at least it is in the animal world. Then I lament and wonder when did I become so jaded …

  20. […] and nations that we can get trapped in, but also in our gender identities, which Sweepy Jean recently posted about, which got responses from men and women eager to share their […]

  21. I think it all has to do with what people want and feel comfortable with. If a man wants to be a “gentleman” and open doors and pay for the wining and dinning experience, and the woman wants to be treated that way, then let it be. But if one of them lets it be known that they don’t want that, then their opinion has to be respected. My parents always insisted that I HAD to to these things because I am a guy, and I made a few ladies uncomfortable.

    For example, I once went out on a date and insisted on paying the bill. The lady after several protests finally agreed only with the condition that I go to her house another day and she make dinner for me. I agreed, I went to her house (she also invited other friends, she was not alone), she made dinner. We were even, she never saw me again. Clearly I had made her uncomfortable as she thought that in my mind now she “owned” me something.

    So don’t act your gender stereotype out of obligation, do it for fun if the other party consents to it too.

    • I think these gender roles are so ingrained in many of us that we mistake things like who pays for dinner as natural consequences of being a man or a women instead of behaviors we have control over. While for some, like you, paying is the polite thing to do, there may be some men who see it as leverage. Quite a few young women I have talked to have told me that they don’t allow men to pay for their dates. At first I thought they were doing themselves a disservice, but I soon realized that my upbringing was coming into play. I like your idea that it all should be about mutual consent.

  22. Chivalry and feminism are mutually exclusive, which is why true feminists call chivalry “benevolent sexism.” The reason feminism and chivalry are mutually exclusive is that it means that women and men are to be treated differently merely based on their gender, which is anti-feminist.

  23. Barry, I am responding to your comment about how the feminist movement should encourage women to train in specific areas. My response:

    1. You miss the point in that women should feel comfortable studying the fields they want to study.
    2. Yes, some jobs pay lower than others, but the comparison in wages is between women and a man with the SAME job.
    3. Just because I don’t know any women sewer workers, I don’t assume there aren’t any.
    4. I happen to know successful women (plural) engineers and business persons, and those who study the sciences. Welcome to 2011.

    • Thank you for your reply.

      “1. You miss the point in that women should feel comfortable studying the fields they want to study.”

      I agree 100% that everyone should study what they wish to; however, if they study a subject with low earning potential, there can be no complaint about lower pay than male dominated professions. Agreed?

      “2. Yes, some jobs pay lower than others, but the comparison in wages is between women and a man with the SAME job.”

      I’ve heard people say that but have never seen any objective evidence of that. I have only seen averages, and studies that don’t factor in personal choice. Would you please site some evidence that accounts for choice, such as choosing to take months or years off for personal reasons. (Whether one is male or female, it’s not realistic to expect to keep pace with those who did not take months or years off if you have).

      “3. Just because I don’t know any women sewer workers, I don’t assume there aren’t any.”

      Of course not. However, do you truly believe that 50% of sewer workers, plumbers, electricians, etc. are female ? Not until that is the case will the wage disparity will change.

      “4. I happen to know successful women (plural) engineers and business persons, and those who study the sciences. Welcome to 2011.”

      Of course, as do I. I work with loads of smart, very highly compensated women ($200K – $1M+ in compensation) My managers 3 levels up are all women and extremely sharp. I CANNOT imagine any one of them putting up with earning 23% less than a male (or female) peer for equivalent productivity. Sorry, that simply would not happen. Which is why I cannot believe your $0.77 statistic until I see some evidence but I do welcome it.

  24. […] most controversial post was Feminism and Chivalry Revisited. For the most part, people were polite, but I’m not sure anyone actually agreed with me […]

  25. Gender roles don’t really cause me much pause. I tend to be internally driven. And because of that, I make more money than my counterpart who has been with the same company for 15+ years to my one year. And I have hard evidence to refute what Barry has stated. My daughter. Years ago, hired in with another person (a man) and he was paid more, promoted more, while she carried the brunt of the workload. The bottom line when she asked me what to do? I told her to stop crying and talk to her boss like a man. The result? A raise. So Barry, don’t lump all women together. We all, as humans, are entitled to be paid according to skill, training, and aptitude. NOT gender. Unfortunately, not all people are as forward thinking as I am.

    And here endeth the lesson. 🙂

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