herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Don't get me started: 04/03/10

Celebrity gaffs highlight the absence of chivalry throughout society today. Maia Dunphy considers the causes of its demise and the consequences

Shh... can you hear that? It's the sound of a door not being opened by a man for a woman somewhere. Well ladies, what did you expect? You wanted equality on every level, but still wanted men to pull out chairs, pick up the bill, walk on the kerbside and treat you like a princess. But it seems to have backfired.

A host of remarkably unchivalrous men have reared their ungallant heads in the public eye of late. I'm already too bored to bring up Tiger Woods or John Terry again, but did anyone read the comments 'legendary lothario' (possibly a self-given moniker) John Mayer came out with about his ex, Jessica Simpson?

For those who are unaware, Mayer is an American singer-songwriter probably best known on this side of the globe for being Jennifer Aniston's recent arm candy. During a recent interview, quizzed on his relationship with Simpson, Mayer said she was like crack cocaine to him. When asked to elaborate, he said she was like "sexual napalm" in the bedroom. Just to be clear, the question was about dating, not sex.

Women the world over were aghast at this remarkable show of disrespect, and poor, dim-witted Jessica was left humiliated and ashamed (so much so she had to talk to Oprah. If only she had Joe Duffy's number). Personally, I would have been most upset about being compared to napalm. I think I know what he meant, but he possibly could have thought of a more appropriate incendiary device. If there is one.

I digress; the point is, it is most un-gentlemanly to divulge intimate information about a woman. This used to be a given, a sort of unwritten rule, and only a true cad would break it. On the whole, men don't tend to be responsible for kiss and tells; well, not publicly anyway. In front of the lads is probably a different matter.

But this argument is not really about chivalry in relation to romance (or sordid celebrity gossip). It's about the death of manners across the board, which after all, is precisely what chivalry is -- whether you are romantically interested in someone or not.

Be it pulling out a chair for a lady you are attracted to, or carrying a shopping bag for a lady you are not; the inherent satisfaction gallantry brings should be its motivation. Not, as a lad I once knew said: "You never know when a strange old lady might leave you a house in her will". That is definitely not a reason for offering to carry bags.

So who's to blame for the feeble state of chivalry? Feminism? To a small extent, yes. Accepting gentlemanly courtesy is not a sign of inequality. Technology? Also guilty. How many people who used to send cards or letters now send texts or emails? But above all, it's a general sign of lost values on both sides of the gender divide, and we need to try and claw them back.

I'm just glad I was never a feminist in the first place. I'm more than happy to enjoy good manners, and show plenty in return. Now who's going to get that door for me? Because even if chivalry is on life support at the moment, I'm hoping it will pull through.

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