OkCupid is what got this ball rolling.
I was conquering the obligatory survey — the one that considers your weed-smoking and bathing habits to recommend cyber soulmates — when one question placed my romantic search on pause.
It asked how I felt about chivalry.
Was the old-fashioned way of opening doors, paying for dinners, and pulling out chairs still the best way for males to function on dates with the opposite sex? Or was chivalry symbolic of a patriarchal way of life — one that treats women like delicate flower petals that can't exist without some TLC?
The first thing I thought was: I'm a gay man looking for another gay man — how relevant is this question, OkCupid? The second thing was: of course chivalry is rightfully outdated. It's innocently condescending at best and borderline-offensive at worst. The majority of my work superiors have been women, most of the people I admire — both professionally and personally — have vaginas, and, in 2013, it's ridiculous (but unfortunately not unheard of) to consider a person's gender a qualifying or disqualifying factor in the workplace.
Of course the idea that women deserve one-way special treatment in heterosexual relationships is absurd.
But then I thought about a friend and former co-worker of mine. A friend who proudly speaks of her feminism at every opportunity and could write an entire book series exploring the evil that has taken bodily form in Rush Limbaugh. I remembered one evening in the old office, when she rehashed a first date horror story and ended it with, "...and, he didn't even get the check!", as if that were the equivalent to vomiting in her face.
I guess I subconsciously filed the memory under Potentially Hypocritical Statements By Friends and forgot about it. Until this damn OkCupid question.
So what is the correct answer? How should I feel about chivalry? Is it okay for women — especially those career-focused, liberal women Rush Limbaugh speaks of — to expect a man to get the check? To open the door? To drive the car? Or are all of those subtle steps backward for gender equality?
I asked some friends, male and female, what they thought. I discovered — from my completely unscientific poll of eight people — that my "non-traditional" viewpoint was in the minority. The small, small minority. All of the poll respondents thought chivalry was "nice". Apparently it's "cute" when guys pull out chairs. Getting the tab on the first (few) dates is "mandatory".
Then I told them what I thought. From their uncomfortable stares and awkward chuckles, I sort of felt like the huge, gay douchebag who doesn't understand straight relationships or what it feels like to be a woman. Am I an asshole for thinking chivalry should be dead?
No, I've decided. And here's why.
From a guy who has spent years listening to conversations in locker rooms and living on all-male dorm floors, I can assure you: a man's ability to pay your tab and open doors has absolutely nothing to do with his level of respect for you as a human being. In fact, ironically, I've found that men who rely on chivalry to prove how much of a gentlemen they are tend to view women less like partners-in-crime and more like pieces of ass.
Let's get real. I've known far too many women who are smarter than me, stronger than me, and more qualified at living life than me to belittle them — yes, belittle them — by pulling out their chairs or demanding I pay for their food.
But why am I in the minority? Why do so many men and women still view chivalry as honorable and timeless — a beautiful relic fighting to stay alive in 2013 — instead of degrading and chauvinistic?
Because chivalry is sexism at its sneakiness. It's not the dickhead boss who pinches his secretary's ass or the Fox News reporter who ridicules Hillary Clinton's looks. Being chivalrous is the kindest, most discreet way men can still feel good about wearing the pants, and — even worse — make women feel more valued while they're doing it. It's sexism cloaked in decades of not only societal acceptance, but importance. Real men respect women by treating them like princesses, right? Because, hey, if men can feel good about being gentlemen, and women can feel good about being treated like ladies, who loses?
Women do. They lose every time. When you chronically welcome special treatment based off what lies (or doesn't lie) between your legs, you can't be surprised when someone believes you have a lower standard of independence and self-reliance. And no, you're not playing it smart to get what you want, ladies — you're playing into demeaning stereotypes that date back generations.
Before anyone beats me to it, let me be clear: courtesy and chivalry are not the same thing. If I were a woman, I wouldn't appreciate men burping, farting, or shutting doors in my face (just like I don't as a man). I'd expect my date to chew with their mouth closed, behave well-mannered in public, and treat restaurant servers with gratitude. Courtesy and selflessness are wonderful traits to find in a significant other, regardless of your gender. It's great when anyone opens the door for anyone else.
Let me also be clear: arguing that women should be treated equally — even when it comes to splitting the check — does not disqualify arguments that they should have special treatment under the law. Federal regulations, like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act, exist specifically to protect females. These regulations and others like it exist because sexism and misogyny are still consequential in very real ways. These regulations help promote equality, they do not undermine it.
Ladies, I know this likely is a direct contradiction to every rom-com you watched growing up, but seriously — what's more important? Who grabs the tab, or if he sees you as an equal? Let's put more stock in men that respect your minds and your bodies, and ditch the Warner Huntington IIIs.
OkCupid-Using Gay Boy Who Probably Doesn't Know Any Better