November 13, 2014

CHIVALRY FOR THE MODERN KNIGHT

The evolution of the gentleman: how to treat a woman in the age of equality.

While dressing the part can go a long way, we know that the clothes do not a gentleman make. The way you treat the people around you, from your family and friends to co-workers and romantic interests, is how the world will know just what kind of man you are. Our friends at The Gentlemen’s Expo in Toronto have been thinking a lot about this matter too, and we loved what they had to say about rethinking some notions of gentlemanly behaviour so much, we decided to share it with you here.


It’s an interesting time to be a dude these days, and if you follow the news it might seem like a modern gentleman is hard to come by, but that’s not necessarily true. Chivalrous bros don’t make the news, because they don’t need to, the knowledge of doing the right thing is enough. But how does one do this? I’ve broken down modern chivalry into three categories where I see guys make the most mistakes in the hope that you won’t.

Concessions

I’m not talking about corn dogs and cracker jacks, and that’s the bad news. Good news is this is important, and you’re on your way to being an all-star just for opening yourself up to this learning opportunity. Way to go, stud, I’ll be the sensei, and you’ll be the kid that skipped straight to yellow belt because I like the cut of your jib. What I mean by concessions are things like refusing outright to let a woman pay for dinner, standing up at the table when a woman comes to sit down, or insisting aggressively that you carry her bags. Let’s adjust the lens through which we view these behaviors, and think about what they used to mean, versus what they mean now.

Paying for her dinner

Back in the days of Mad Men and smoking in elevators, always paying for a woman was necessary because the assumption was that she had no money of her own, and if she did, she’d better get used to not paying because if she winds up with you, you won’t approve of her working another day. The modern woman likely has her own source of income, might even make significantly more than you, and no modern dude could count himself among the chivalrous if he still holds any of the previously mentioned conceptions about women.

Standing up at the table

This used to be the only bone thrown to a woman at a dinner table, because chances are it was considered unladylike for your great-grandma to offer up an opinion on anything, or talk out of turn. Standing up at the table is objectification cloaked in a gentleman’s tux, it’s as if the men must take a reprieve from the real business to admire the arrival of the newest table ornament. Women today expect to be treated like the educated and informed people they are, and they should be judged on their contributions at the table, not how they look walking towards it.

Carrying Bags

If she’s not someone you know, under the age of 70, or anywhere near her child – don’t approach a woman and ask if she needs help carrying anything. This is the modern world we live in, dudes, ladies know that the boogey man isn’t always ugly and that most predators don’t walk around in a ski mask all day. There are exceptions to this rule, that I trust you will be able to identify when you see them, but in general you should let a woman go about her day – plus, who knows, maybe carrying those heavy bags is part of a bright new fitness trend.

Manly Overboard

A lot of guys will default to whatever they think, ‘a man does’ in a situation they don’t know how to handle, and often times that’s a mistake. People can probably guess what I mean here, what’s that? Do I see a hand in the back? Violence? Yes, young squire. I’m talking about dudes getting belligerent in scenarios when all that’s at stake is whatever misguided sense of manliness their assuredly troubled upbringing has bestowed upon them. Guys talking to your girlfriend at the bar, yelling something at the two of you through a car window, even a bartender ignoring your attempts to order a drink are all reasons I’ve seen idiots get violent. You’re not Swayze, Segal, or Statham, and while that stuff is cool on screen, it makes you look awful in real life. Plus, 9 times out of 10 you ruin everyone else’s night when you act that way, so there’s nothing manly or chivalrous about it.

Sexpectations

Just because you posses the equipment doesn’t mean you’re necessarily entitled to use it. This is a big one, it’s at the root of a lot of ungentlemanly behavior and social blunders that can make guys look foolish at best and sexist at worst. Sexpectation often comes from what many refer to as the ‘friendzone,’ basically the idea that if a guy is nice to a girl and makes her laugh, she’s obligated to be attracted to him. In other words, dudes feeling that they have a right to dictate a woman’s feelings towards them based on their own opinions of what she should or should not be attracted to. Nobody is owed anything in this life, certainly not sex or the attention of the girl you’re into. Play your game and they’ll play theirs, but don’t take it out on someone if and when they have a different idea of what you two should be doing together. And if ambiguity just really isn’t your thing . . .tough luck, because this is the human experience we’re talking about, not a spreadsheet. Relish the mystery and understand that nobody owes you anything just because you’re into her.

I’d like to close this out with a few Classics, three things that have always been chivalrous and continue to be that way.

Holding the door

I’m sure we’ve all heard stories of a confrontational feminist tearing a dude apart for holding the door for her, but honestly, I think that’s an urban legend. This is just a nice thing to do for any person regardless of their gender.

Standing up for women and elderly folks on public transit

Not everyone gets to earn themselves some good karma on their commute. Be one of those lucky few and give someone your seat if they look like they could use it more than you.

Asking a woman her age

This one is rapidly becoming irrelevant considering that a cursory Google of almost anyone will deliver her age, but I think it’s still a good rule of thumb. Adds to that whole mystery thing – let’s keep at least a few things ungoogleable for as long as we can.


Come meet Indochino in person at The Gentlemen’s Expo, November 14-16 in Toronto.
John Marshall’s “Chivalry for the Modern Knight” was originally posted here.