By Abbie Hebron
Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014
We live in a growing feminist world, which to many women is encouraging. Being a feminist, though, does not mean that you have to be “against” men. Believe me, I think it is extremely important to empower the women of the world and to inspire them to have confidence in themselves, especially since our society has grown accustomed to constantly degrading them. But there does seem to be this new type of characteristic associated with this feminist movement – the “I can do anything, and I do not need a man’s help.” motto that some have adopted.
Before I go on, I do want to stress the importance of believing in yourself and have the confidence to run after your dreams. I have dedicated a large portion of my time for the past five years working with and hopefully empowering young women. So, I hope that what I am about to say does not make anyone too mad, but actually encourages some thought and reflection.
One great thing about a confident woman is that she demands respect. I don’t mean in a physically threatening way, but her self-assurance and personal worth calls for kindness and a unique form of reverence, especially when men see her. As women, this is what we strive to be. Motivated. Poised. Independent. Men respect and seem to be driven towards this type of girl. But in reality, are we ever going to be that perfect version of ourself? As I mentioned in my last post, no because it is physically impossible.
In the media, there has been this recurring theme popping up everywhere. There is this theory that chivalry has been distorted, and some would even say it is inexistent or “dead”. I have been really intrigued by this notion, because as a girl I want to know why some men do not treat me with the courtesy that I deserve. (I hope I am starting to relate to most of the girls now. I think we all feel this way.) Most women immediately think that it is the men that have gone wrong and trashed the immaculate virtue of chivalry. And for a long time I believed that as well. I would walk into a building after a man, and get the door slammed in my face. I would sit on the floor in the lunchroom on a busy afternoon at high school. I’m sure you women can think of several times you were not treated with the utmost regard from a man. So, yes, men in general do not have a recent running record of chivalry, but can we really assume that it is all the guys’ fault? In my opinion, no.
First, I don’t think all men are raised to inherently see the dignity in a woman. I know that is no excuse, but we cannot hold a standard to all men. I think women are the same; we are not all perfectly kind to every man we meet, and some of those attitudes are products of the families we were raised in. In other words, some people just can’t help it. For the most part, though, I firmly believe that men do have a significant amount of respect for women, but are afraid to show they are vulnerable. The media puts a stereotype on men to be strong, unwavering, tough, and the list could go on and on. Not only does the media pressure most men, but I think some feel belittled by women. Now, I don’t mean that they feel inferior or anything, but the way that some women treat mens’ acts of chivalry is humiliating. This feminist idea that women do not need men for anything has influenced a trend in our society. When a man gives up a seat in a crowded room for a woman, most women would probably refuse it so they do not look weak. So when a man is put down one by one, he eventually becomes immune to the chivalry that was once burning inside him.
I heard one of my friends talking about this last week, and it really resonated with me, and I hope you can find some worth in it as well. He was saying that some (notice, I am not trying to group all women under this umbrella) women do not accept chivalrous gestures, so why should he feel inclined to offer them when he knows he will likely be humiliated? I think it is time for women to consider this. I want to challenge all of you women reading to simply accept kind acts from men. If you let them be courteous and chivalrous, I believe that it will slowly become the obvious thing to do. It is okay to be confident in yourself, and still acknowledge the kindness of a man. They can both coexist, I promise. And men, I want you to know that women really do appreciate your respect and courtesy. Give us another chance to accept your polite gestures.
So, to answer the question… No, I do not believe that chivalry is dead.
Abbie Hebron is a college freshman at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri majoring in Dietetics. Originally from O’Fallon, Missouri, Abbie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014. Learn more about Abbie here!