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Do you still think a guy should open a door for you or pull out your chair? Or do you think that it’s all just a bit old-fashioned and sexist? Is the age-old concept of chivalry finally dead? Afua Adom investigates.

The other morning, as I was coming out of my apartment block pushing my daughter in her pram, a man came out of the lift and ran in front of me so he could open the door for us and we could go through first. Now, I’ve devised a quick and efficient system to navigate the entrance and the door so I can get in and out easily with the pram and without help. For some reason as I passed through the door and thanked the kind man I found myself feeling slightly irritated. “Ugh, I could have SO done that myself,” I thought. “I do it without you every day!” Then I had to stop and check myself. What kind of bitch am I? This guy went the extra mile to open the door for us so we could go through first – a classic display of chivalry. I’m sure he had better things to do, work to get to and loads of other guys could have just stood behind me and let me struggle. I guess what irked me was I felt like he thought I was helpless or weak. So is that how chivalry makes us women feel these days? Shouldn’t we like feeling looked after, pandered to and taken care of? Apparently not.

I asked my husband if he thought chivalry was dead. “What is chivalry really?” he replied. “Isn’t it just politeness? And why should it only apply to men? Shouldn’t you be polite whoever you are? I hold doors open for anyone, men, women, young, old, it doesn’t matter. It’s just common courtesy.” He’s got a point. Chivalry these days is just a term for old-fashioned politeness that for some reason only applies to men. Relationship Advice Expert for Jenni Trent Hughes says, “Yes, it is true that we no longer have knights in shining armour, nor do most of us appreciate being considered a damsel in distress. However the original meaning of chivalry, ‘bravery, courtesy, honour and gallantry toward women’ is just as relevant as ever – it’s just that now we call it good manners. There is nothing wrong with someone holding a door open for you – I do it for both men and women. Getting up and giving a seat to someone on the bus doesn’t mean you think they are an inferior being – it means you’re polite or see that they’re tired.”

In this day and age where women are constantly fighting for sexual equality some may find the concept just a little patronising and demeaning – not unlike myself the other day. We feminists feel like we should be constantly proving we can and will do things for ourselves; opening doors, pulling out our own chairs, all the while breaking the glass ceiling at work and raising the next generation. Some of my girls agreed. “I don’t want any man to think I’m helpless and I can’t do anything for myself. I don’t need any guy to force politeness on me,” my friend Cath said. I then asked her if she would want a guy to pay on the first date. “Of course!” she replied instantly. That’s chivalry I tell her. “Oh – well I guess it’s okay sometimes,” she said. It seems that we women want to pick and choose when, where and how we want to experience chivalry. For instance, when I was pregnant I expected people – especially men – to give up a seat for me so I could sit down on the bus or train. I expected my (now) husband to pay on our first date (he did). But when a guy opens a door for me I somehow find it irritating. Yet if he hadn’t I would have been cursing him under my breath. Let’s face it, even though we may protest that we don’t need a guy to be chivalrous there are times we expect it and if it doesn’t happen we feel peeved. Imagine a guy asked you to pay the bill on the first date. Most women would think less of him – we would expect him to pick up the bill. We want the best of both worlds really don’t we – we want guys to know we are strong and capable but also there are times when we want to be treated like a lady and that’s where chivalry comes in.

One of my male friends Tony told me that chivalrous guys are, to put it mildly, a bit wimpy. “If you’re the kind of guy that is constantly pandering to and trying to please a woman then you’re a bit of a sap really aren’t you? Running round the car to open the door for her, putting your coat over a puddle so she doesn’t step in it, ordering for her at dinner – what kind of guy are you? You need to man up a bit! I bet she’s always singing about how she’s a “strong independent woman” whilst waggling her finger so let her act like one.”

Although it seems antiquated, and us women can’t decide if we want it or not, it appears that chivalry isn’t dead. Common courtesy is still out there, practised by men all over who don’t always get the credit they deserve. And whilst it’s okay for us women to show that we can do anything just as well (if not better than) men and fight for equality it’s also okay for us to accept a bit of politeness from the opposite sex. Something I’ll try and remember the next time I’m leaving my building and a guy holds the door open for me…

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