Chivalry is today seen as a mostly male obligation toward female beneficiaries. In the past there were exceptions showing that “chivalry” could be applied equally to women who demonstrated it.
Stripped of the usual gender conventions, romantic chivalry is nothing more than displays of altruism and generosity toward another human being. The sooner women start extending such “chivalry” toward men and boys, and calling it “chivalry,” the sooner we might call relationships reciprocal. Until then we will continue to see male-only chivalry by workers on the gynocentric plantation.
A few examples of ‘female chivalry’ follow, with dates:
1792 “Mr. Burke remarked, that however the spirit of chivalry may be in the decline amongst men, the age of female chivalry was just commencing.”
1918 “Spenser, following Ariosto, laments the decay of female chivalry since the days of Penthesilia, Deborah, and Camilla.”
1938 “This tendency among women of making concessions to men for their inferior moral strength I would like to term “female chivalry.” It is chivalry in the strictest sense of the term because it makes concessions for the weakness of the opposite side. In a society which is so primitive that its women have not yet developed in their conduct with men this moral chivalry, no doubt the woman is an inferior and subordinate member, an object of masculine pity. But the moment she brings into play upon the field of our social behaviour her superior moral strength (manifested through the developments of her inherent powers of sacrifice, endurance and self-discipline) she not only qualifies herself for equality of treatment but records a moral victory of first magnitude over the opposite sex.”
1847 “It may be, too, that such pursuits belong to woman’s chivalry, in which she accomplishes tender victories, and with silken cords leads into bondage the stouter heart of man. Happy triumph: in which there is equal delight to the victor and the vanquished.”
1924 “There are poems of the human soul cut off from God by its loveleasness — the hell of separation of the finite self from the infinite; poems of the “white flame” of a greater love; woman’s chivalry towards woman ; woman’s chivalry towards man: and in the end, peace.”
1936 “Neuilly, but something — perhaps a woman’s chivalry to another woman — prevented her from doing it.”
1864 “The order of Sisters of Charity, therefore, as constituted by St. Vincent de Paul, and whose deeds are known to the whole world, may be considered an aristocratic or chivalric female army of volunteers of charity, bound to short terms of service, but generally renewing their vows, and performing prodigies of usefulness.”
1857 “It must be confessed that the spectacle of those three chivalrous women, so magnanimous in face of an evil cause… preparing to plunge into the medley of battle, instead of remaining at a distance to watch the fortune of the fray, instead too of shutting themselves up in some luxurious dwelling there to await the intelligence of the result – but armed and mounted – with martial plumes waving over their heads, fire in their eyes and decision on their lips… could have no other effect than the most inspiring one over those who beheld it.”
1896 “For a lady is among other things a woman with a sense of chivalry, and a chivalrous woman uses her finer gifts to supplement the blunt honesty of her husband (if she is the happy possessor of an honest husband).”
1904 “The self-sacrificing chivalrous woman, with whom duty is a first consideration.”
1906 “Those chivalrous Women seem to be chosen instruments for the world’s betterment—all in the general economy of nature — evidence of growth which sometimes takes us by surprise and makes us sit up and think.”
1912 “Yes — women can he chivalrous! — women can live and die for a conviction! My terrible confession is made easier by your belief!”
1918 “to the free and chivalrous women of America.”
1919 “they called upon the free and chivalrous women of America to make these wrongs their own and, in so far as possible, to try to redress them, and to safeguard the future of the race by standing for the independence of historic Armenia.”
1920 “This mighty work of hospital redemption, now so nearly accomplished in all civilized countries, so appealed to chivalrous women that there seemed no end to the stream of incoming probationers.”
1897 “We are glad to know that such a noble and chivalric woman has her being among the toilers of the overwrought East End, and trust that her good deeds have not gone unrewarded.”
We live in a time now of great convenience, and if relationships are to mean anything going forward they will need to be based on some kind of reciprocal chivalry. And the good news is that men and women can demonstrate their brands of chivalry differently if they wish…. a ‘co-chivalry’ that can be respectful of similarities or differences as agreed between individual men and women.
One thought on “Can a woman be chivalrous?”
You should check out the movie “What Women Want (2000)” by Nancy Meyers, with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt for misandric ideas of female chivalry. Also check out “The Intern (2016)” by the same director for an example of complaining that male chivalry is dead.