It is 2,000,000 B.C. A small tribe of early humans known as Homo habilis have made their home on the plains of northern Africa. Of the hundred or so humans in the clan, one woman sticks out from the rest. She is beautiful; wide hips that signal she has a good chance of surviving childbirth, big breasts that are certain to contain a bunch of milk for hungry babies. The cavemen all drool over her, clamoring for her attention. One caveman looks around at his competition…he is strong and handsome, but then again, so are the other men. How can he stick out?
As the cavemen all take their turns flexing their muscles for the woman, displaying their strong biceps and hairy, masculine chests, this particular caveman has an idea. He approaches her with a bouquet of berries he has picked in the wild. She smiles…what a lovely gesture! Berries are delicious. She accepts his invitation to tour his caveshack. He plays some Barry White on his iPod, gives her a few more berries, and the rest is history.
Chivalry is born.
Modern chivalry, at its most basic level, is a sexual display that signals a man is both capable and willing to provide a woman with things she needs. They may be small gestures, but they are meaningful. A Victorian gentleman who throws his coat on a puddle for a lady is saying “Look at the spectrum of things I can do for you. You know I can do the big things, like provide you with food and shelter, and protect you from danger. But I can attend to your smallest needs as well, such as keeping your feet dry. If I weren’t fully devoted to you, I wouldn’t sully my coat. And if I weren’t affluent enough to get this coat cleaned today, I wouldn’t so effortlessly sacrifice it. As you can see, m’lady, there is no reason for you not to have sex with me.”
And it’s not just humans. The males of many species must demonstrate their ability to provide gifts or services to females as part of the mating ritual. The male bowerbird, for instance, decorates his nest with pretty, monochromatic arrangements of flowers, stones, and feathers as gifts for his beloved. You may ask: Why is it the male gender that must be chivalrous? Nature’s rule. Women bear the greatest costs of childbirth, not men. Thus women must be choosy. That means men must compete for women’s affections, and chivalry gives men a leg up on their competition.
And yet despite its two million year existence, every week I see some article on the interwebs about how “chivalry is dead.” There seems to be a feeling out there that when women got the right to vote, equality in the workplace, and their own NBA league, they sacrificed their right to chivalry. Evidence includes men no longer buying flowers for a first date, opening car doors for women…and when was the last time a guy threw his Volcom hoodie over a puddle for you?
Well I say this is bull poop. Permit me, for a moment, to step outside my role as impartial relayer of evolutionary logic and defend my gender from this unwarranted attack.
Chivalry is an evolving trait; it isn’t dead, it’s just changing. No, guys don’t buy flowers any more, but they also don’t bring berries any more like cavemen might have. They do other things. In 2011, men help women move. They lend them their trucks. They make them drinks. They let them ride on the handlebars of their beach cruisers. They kill spiders. They fix broken drawers. I’m pretty sure women are physically capable of doing things like moving and fixing stuff. In fact, they have no trouble doing these things themselves…if there’s no man around to trick into doing it with a smile and some cleavage.
Meanwhile, it’s men who should be complaining that rules are changing for the worse. What gives…it’s 2011, I thought we were suppose to be splitting the check by now? A woman’s idea of “going dutch” is the guy pays for the $80 dinner and the $100 concert tickets, and the girl gets the first round of drinks. If anything, women should be carrying more of the financial load, given that (contrary to popular belief) women in their 20’s are now employed in greater numbers and often out-earn their male counterparts. During this recession in particular, men are losing jobs at a disproportionately high rate. Yet an unemployed male is universally expected to pay for drinks, even if his date is a partner at a law firm.
And how come women never defend my honor when a drunk girl insults me at a bar? Meanwhile, if some guy says something stupid to my girlfriend, I’m expected to kick his ass. Maybe if women would toughen up a bit we could start sending them to the front lines in war, another area where chivalry certainly isn’t dead…while women are welcome to enlist in the armed forces, they aren’t permitted in infantry combat roles. This is to me the equivalent of chivalrous male soldiers saying to their female counterparts: “No no ladies, you stay here at base and do some paperwork. We’ll go get shot at.” What, women aren’t strong enough to pull a trigger? Please! When women start repelling Al Qaeda ambushes in Fallujah, we can talk about first date flowers.
Additionally, while men are still required to do all their manly duties, like defending you and paying for things and getting shot, women seem to be shirking many of their traditional gender roles. Cooking and cleaning? Doing laundry? Sewing my jeans? Ask your girlfriend to do any of these things if you are bored and want to get slapped. And don’t forget that women seem to hold the ultimate power in any relationship: withholding sex. I don’t get this–girls like sex as much as guys, right? Hmph. To illustrate the other end of the spectrum: when male bedbugs want to copulate, they don’t even ask. In fact, they don’t even use the female’s sex organs. They just use their dagger-like penis to impale the female bedbug and deposit his sperm. Go talk to them about chivalry.
Bottom line, this is a great time to be a woman. I’m not sure what all the complaining is about. When it comes to the fundamental romance structure, absolutely nothing has changed. By and large, it is men who must approach women. Men who must profess their love; men who must buy diamond rings. If the marriage falls apart, men are more likely to pay the woman money, and the mother is more likely to get custody of the kids. While men still own a whole lot more of the world, they hardly have much to show for it; they aren’t any happier than women, and they live an average of five years less. And at this terrible time for the male gender, when we’re making less and less money, and women are making more and more, and the male ego is on such a steady decline…you want to harp on us about chivalry?
Honey, I got cover letters to write. Open your own fucking door.