Chivalry and Gynarchy

People seem to have the idea that chivalry (the opening-doors kind, not the slaying-dragons kind) was killed off by the equal rights movement. For some reason, the two are seen as incompatible. This is a strange idea.

Yes, there was an undercurrent of condescension in chivalry, because it could be taken to imply that Women needed looking after. But it did not have to be seen that way. You could as well interpret it as suggesting that Women deserved to be looked after.

A century ago, a man with my instincts would surely have felt that the act of standing when a Woman entered the room was a completely natural gesture of respect. On the other hand, the mysogynist Colonel sitting next to me could have consoled himself that standing up for Miss Emily was a display of civility to an inferior.

Perhaps that is why chivalric codes had such a good run; individual men and Women could internally process the symbolism in whatever way best suited their own world-view.

This has been brought home to me recently reading a little manual from the 1920s (The Diners Out Vade Mecum, reprinted Old House Books, 2012) which sets out for young bachelors the social codes to be observed in various situations. Personally, i found the precedence that was given to Women in many of these rituals rather touching, and certainly not incompatible with Female Supremicist beliefs. Even better is the relection that young men were taught these codes at an early age – and Girls were taught to expect it as Their due. One did not thank a man for opening the door; one simply walked through.

Some passages are quoted below. A future Gynarchy could learn something from this, though not necessarily copy it.

The bachelor, as a rule, is not a carriage man, and if the evening be fine, and the distance short, he may with all propriety walk to the house of his host. Should he do so, he must take care, if he turns up the legs of his trousers before starting, to turn them down again before entering the reception-room. If he has worn heavy gloves out of doors, he will also take the first opportunity of substituting the light ones suitable for the reception. He should not offer his hostess a glove which has been handling a cane or an umbrella, twirling a moustache, or manipulating a cigar…
The guest will immediately approach and shake hands with his hostess, and then his host. If he is accompanied by a lady, she will precede him at the reception. In no case should they either approach the room, or enter it, arm-in-arm.
The guests assemble in the drawing-room and proceed informally to the breakfast-room at a signal from the hostess, who, in company with the lady of highest rank, leads the way. Ladies first, and gentlemen after, is the order observed, the host following with the gentlemen…
Gentlemen leave their outdoor garments and appurtenances in the hall, and ladies remove their coats and furs, but not their hats, which they continue to wear at the luncheon table. Elbow gloves are also retained at table, but short gloves are removed…
…in walking, the pedestrian keeps to the right. If accompanied by a lady, he must give her the inside place, whether that be on his right or left hand… It is his place to see that she is not unduly inconvenienced by other pedestrians, to walk near her side, and only to vacate that position for a moment by stepping behind her when it is necessary to allow other ladies to pass.
It is for the lady to determine the measure of intimacy that she is willing to permit, and for the gentleman to loyally observe the limits she may impose. The measure of recognition permissible in public will of course depend upon the level of intimacy observed in private. If the lady makes no sign of recognition, the gentleman should make none, and the degree of familiarity shown by the lady may be taken as the measure of that which may be shown in response. In recognising a lady’s salute, the hat should be raised, and a slight bow made. In recognising a gentleman, a nod is commonly sufficient between equals of age or standing…
On meeting a gentleman one knows who is accompanied by a lady one does not know, the hat must be raised, and the bow made. When walking with a lady, a gentleman should always raise his hat, and bow when passing every one, lady or gentleman, whom his companion may salute. This is not so much a personal compliment to the third party as an act of acquiescence in the compliment of one’s companion, and as such is better performed without any attempt to catch the eye of the unknown…
A gentleman should always remember that “his sisters, his cousins and his aunts,” not to mention his mother and his wife, are none the less ladies because they are relatives, and that as such they are entitled to at least equal consideration with that shown to others of their sex.

 

 

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