The MacGregor brides,
The Hawk and the jewel.
As sure as the dawn.
I spent most of my teenage years reading books like those listed above. Pages filled with vibrant descriptions of tall, dark and handsome men causing red hues to rise in the hearts and faces of maidens, mine included. Scenes of majestic horses galloping through bloody fields, guided by strong muscle ribbing arms, arms that will through the pages learn to cradle and caress another tenderly.
I also watched a lot of movies, My fair lady, Odyssey, Gone with the wind, North and South, Oscar, Sinbad, and the seven seas, Gladiator, etc. Movies with similar themes to the above novels. Together (the books and the movies) would transport me to eras gone by, to a time when life wasn’t so complicated and courtesy/manners were things to aspire to, not weaknesses. However, they would also carry out a more sublime form of social conditioning.
Good/real men became symbols of salvation (people who put others first), confidence and a certain allure of mystique which enabled them to make sound decisions. Good/strong women, on the other hand, were considered as calm, demure, wily (for positive outcomes), emotionally attuned, strength wasn’t necessarily good or bad. Then we had the atypical individuals who due to nature or nurture did not fit these profiles, but would through the course of the movie/book find themselves and would ultimately align in some way with the above.
Chivalry was a major theme of such stories. I found it endearing, as I believe it showed how humans regardless of era, societal norms and culture, acknowledged the innate human need to be heard by another.
a. Very polite, honest, and kind behavior, especially by men towards women
b. The system of behavior followed by knights in the medieval period of history, that put a high value on honor, kindness, and courage. (Cambridge dictionary).
Should we get rid of chivalry? Is the act something to be frowned up? Is chivalry anti-feminism? Is saving women and children first, anti-feminism? Is chivalry against gender equality? I do not know if there is a straightforward answer to these questions. However, I do think the following:
1.Feminism isn’t about the oppressed subduing the oppressor.
2.Feminism is about giving everyone male or female (who wants it) a sit, a corner, an angle on issues that interests and affects them.
3.Feminism is about treating everyone with dignity, kindness and having the courage to stand for what is true, what is right and what is just.
4.Feminism is ensuring that you can be you and I can be me within confines that harm no one, including the individual in question.
5.Feminism isn’t about erasing our differences, creating a unisex environment and blurring every line of divide.
6.Feminism is allowing a man to be as masculine as he desires provided it does not harm another or break the law. It’s allowing a woman to be as feminine as she desires, provided it harms no one or breaks the law.
Eliminating the use of pink or blue for girls and boys respectively, or shop aisles designated for different gender or buying only unisex toys or clothes are in my opinion distractions from the wider debate. Bringing up your children to view human life from conception to old age as sacred, teaching them life skills irrespective of gender, effective communication skills and equipping them with the tools to be resilient and attuned to their emotion is far more valuable.
The following quote is often used to discuss the value of education across the world especially in third world countries: “If you educate a woman, you educate a family, if you educate a girl, you educate the future.” Queen Rania of Jordan. Is the quote true or reflective of reality? Should we discard of this quote? If you answered yes and no respectively to the afore questions, then it is safe to say that women and children should still be saved first in the face of crisis. It is important to remember that those who are physically vulnerable are often prioritized before other groups such as children and women. Equally important is the ability and right of a woman to say, ‘don’t worry about me, let me help out first’. This has been known to happen and until you are in those conditions please do not make statements that can have damaging consequences. Perhaps we could say children and their caregivers first.
The new school of thought that propagates the destruction of all traditional guidelines or beliefs is worrisome. ‘Out with the old and in with the new’, sadly I find the new to often be half-thought arguments, centred on indulgent premises, rather than a holistic approach. (Take a look at Brexit, at Trump and climate change or gun law) I stand to be corrected if my thoughts are ill-founded.
Having said the above, I must admit that there are things which still need to be re-evaluated; including the view of marriage in different gender circles. Women are taught to view it as an achievement, while men view it as an entrapment. Women approach it as a child would a kinder egg surprise, men approach it as a child would a fist pointed in their face from a dark shadow. It is no surprise that both end up having a tumultuous time in the first few years. Marriage is only an achievement if you both acknowledge and respect the time, energy and resources the other has pledged to you. I don’t think we ever deserve people, we earn people. We earn their affections, their respect, their allegiance. Our prices/ values both emotional and economic change as we grow older, for some, it becomes cheaper and for others, it becomes more expensive.
There will always be issues for every human era to tackle. In a bid to effect change we must not turn situational solutions into lifelong rules. In the same manner, we must not be afraid to tackle the status quo. Through it all we shouldn’t be hasty to pledge allegiance, loyalty is still an admirable and faith building trait.