Gospel Chivalry?

female warriorLadies.  (How do you feel about being called ‘ladies?’ Would ‘women’ be better? Gosh, this is a minefield and I’m only on the first sentence…)

You’re standing on the bus.  A man taps you on the shoulder and offers you his seat.  Do you:

a.) kick him in the groin. How dare he patronise you – and in a public place?

b.) Politely decline.  You’re just as capable of him as standing.

c.) Say ‘thank-you’ and sit.  You feel a bit guilty, but it’s rude not to after he’s offered.

d.) Demand to know why he didn’t offer earlier.  Can’t he see that you’re a LADY?

Chivalry. Good – or bad?  Patronising – or inspirational? A remnant of a bygone era?  Or exactly what our culture needs?

I don’t have an answer.  But as with most things, I reckon it’s a question of definition. An excuse to keep us within limiting gender roles? Or something deeper? A way of loving – and protecting each other?

I’m torn.

I don’t need you to open the door for me, or spread your coat across a puddle.  But when you do, I quite like it. It makes me feel special.  But – uncomfortable too.

Are you putting me on a pedestal?  Do you expect me to be fragrant and gentle and burp roses?

Leaving aside the fact that I am actually half your size and carrying some extremely heavy cases – are you looking down on me?  Do you think I’m weaker or inferior to you?

Here’s something I’m beginning to suspect. Maybe my instinctive dislike of chivalry is less about how men see women. Maybe it’s about how see myself. Because actually, I don’t see myself either as an exquisite flower or as an amazonian warrior. I dislike both caricatures and would rather deflect the attention any way I can. It may be that my love-hate relationship with chivalry has less to do with misogyny and a whole lot more to do with masochism. So how should I handle that?

When we look at Jesus, we see the perfect Man: not just laying down His coat for his bride, but laying down His life. He shows us a gentleness and strength that goes beyond mere courtesy; a rejection of social norms for a deeper reality, where each person is valued – independent of their own worthiness. This is wonderful- but quite honestly, it’s something that I also find difficult to accept.

Jesus loves me more than I love myself.  He acts like I’m a princess, when I feel like a tramp. Everything that He has He gives to me: because, in His eyes, I am unutterably lovely. I don’t understand it and I don’t deserve it. It breaks me and brings me to my knees. But it – He – brings me life.  And from the ruins of myself, I am remade into the woman I long to be.

What has this to do with giving up your seat on the bus? Nothing: but everything too.  A willing surrender of my rights.  A grateful acceptance of grace. A fragment of the gospel in the everyday.




7 thoughts on “Gospel Chivalry?

  1. I don’t mind chivalry in the sense of putting others before yourself. At the same time, I often offer my seat on the train to men and hold the door for men – I think it’s just part of loving people.
    But the notion of it affecting how I view myself is definitely true, too, I think.

  2. Love the blog, Emma!
    I think there’s something to be said for accepting chivalry when offered. When someone opens the doors for me, or offers me a seat, I remember that it is good to accept such gifts of grace (because all being said, the person offering me his seat is making life more difficult for himself, and that little bit easier for me!) Joyfully saying thanks reminds me of the need to wholeheartedly accept God’s grace. We gotta be willing to accept nice things from people we can see, as this indicates how we feel about God, who we can’t see!

  3. As a male its all about how you go about being polite, I get the whole equal rights thing but I think the world has lost respect, especially for women. I often find myself looking after the kids on my own whilst my wife’s away and it makes you appreciate all those typically mum jobs. As Christians we share gods love by what we do just as much as what we say, so for me an opportunity to give up a seat, open a door is all part of that, after all we teach our kids, what would Jesus do?

  4. Hi Layo: I agree, when someone offers you something, they’re making themselves vulnerable, so it’s important to respond with grace, (even if we don’t always want what they offer)

  5. I am not offended at being seen as the weaker vessel, ever. Seats, doors, first place in line, I am exceedingly grateful, thank you kind sir.

    Perhaps it is because of too many experiences of the opposite: either being taken advantage of because of a position of weakness, or being ignored as if I am invisible, but I really appreciate differences being noticed and honored.

    The world has lost respect for all humanity: women, men, old, young, the weak, the broken. Not only is chivalry quite dead in most corners of the world, but even basic civility is pretty rare.

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