Gender stereotypes—stylized expectations of individuals’ traits and capabilities based on their gender—may affect the behavior of diplomats and the processes of international negotiations. In a survey experiment in the Council of the European Union, we find that female representatives behaving stereotypically weak and vulnerable may trigger a chivalry reaction among male representatives, increasing the likelihood that the men will agree to support a bargaining proposal from the women.
The effect is conditional on the negotiators’ cultural background—the chivalry reaction is displayed mainly by diplomats from countries with relatively low levels of gender equality. Our study contributes to the research on nonstandard behavior in international relations, and in particular the expression and reception of emotions in diplomacy.
We argue that gender stereotypes may have a moderating impact on decision making based on such intuitive cognitive processes. We also add to the broader negotiation literature, both by showing the pervasiveness of gender stereotyping, and by testing at the elite level the generalizability of claims regarding gender effects derived from laboratory experiments. Overall, our findings demonstrate the importance of bringing gender into the study of international negotiations, where it has been largely and surprisingly ignored.
The following is from the introduction to my new co-authored book (with Paul Elam) of collected writings on chivalry. The book includes updated versions of previously published essays, and two excellent contributions by Paul Elam including a newly transcribed article Death By Chivalry: Portland Edition. You can purchase the eBook here, and the paperback here, or simply click on the cover picture below. – PW.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
The importance of chivalry is taught to little girls and boys from the start, outlining for them the various rules of male obligation that will guide sexual relations throughout their lifetimes; i.e., males are here to protect and provide.
The victories of legendary cinematic heroes whose brave deeds are rounded with applause and happily-ever-afters appears to seal the fate of chivalry as the future path of every man.
Those few who do pause to question chivalry’s values however – its rote expectation of male sacrifice, possibility of danger or injury, impacts on mental health, potential for exploitation and abuse, or the question of valid compensations for ongoing sacrifices – may conclude that it serves as a poor life map, or worse that it amounts to a malignant and toxic form of masculinity.
This book examines the realities of chivalry beyond the usual platitudes and cliches to see what’s really at stake for men in the present zeitgeist. The essays, written by men’s advocates Peter Wright and Paul Elam, survey the roots of the chivalric tradition and examine real life examples of chivalry in action.
1. The Birth Of Chivalric Love
2. A Bastardized Chivalry
3. What Ever Happened To Chivalry?
4. Sporting Tournaments: ‘It Will Make A Man Out Of You’
5. Intervening for women
6. Chivalry: A Learned Deathwish
7. Death By Chivalry: Portland Edition
8. Aggrieved Entitlement: Women’s Reaction to Temporary Loss Of Chivalry
9. Can A Woman Be Chivalrous?
“Chivalry, as understood by Modern Sentimental Feminism, means unlimited licence for women in their relations with men, and unlimited coercion for men in their relations with women. To men all duties and no rights, to women all rights and no duties, is the basic principle underlying Modern Feminism, Suffragism, and the bastard chivalry it is so fond of invoking.” – (Bax, 1913, p. 141)
In 1913 English barrister Ernest B. Bax observed that chivalry had undergone an alteration or, as he understood it, a corruption from its earlier intent of deference to weakness. (Bax, 1913). He contended that the original definition was no longer current since in its modern application the question of a person’s sex took precedence over that of weakness proper. Instead of chivalry being directed to the care and protection of children, frail elders, the disabled, or the wounded in battle as in earlier times, Bax understood the new chivalry as being confined strictly to “sex privilege and sex favouritism pure and simple.” (Bax, 1913, p. 100).
The claim of chivalry being redirected along predominantly sexual lines is confirmed by most modern dictionaries, for example in the Cambridge Dictionary which defines it as ‘Very polite, honest, and kind behaviour, especially toward women.’ (Dictionary C, 2015). Following in the footsteps of Bax the following essay will explore the gendered facets of “bastard chivalry,” focusing on its promotion of sex-favouritism and associated impacts on male health.
The emergence and divergence of ‘two chivalries’
The earliest meaning of chivalry referred to a code of behaviour followed by medieval knights of Europe, the word itself being derived from Old French chevalerie, from medieval Latin caballerius meaning ‘horseman’ (Dictionary O.E., 2008). As Bax observes;
“The term meant originally the virtues associated with knighthood considered as a whole, bravery even to the extent of reckless daring, loyalty to the chief or feudal superior, generosity to a fallen foe, general open-handedness, and open-heartedness, including, of course, the succour of the weak and the oppressed generally, inter alia, the female sex when in difficulties… [O]nly a fragment of the original connotation of the word chivalry is covered by the term as used in our time, and that even that fragment is torn from its original connection and is made to serve as a scarecrow in the field of public opinion to intimidate all who refuse to act upon, or who protest against, the privileges and immunities of the female sex.” (Bax, 1913, pp. 100-101)
The variation referred to by Bax can be traced back to an emerging culture of courtly love and its harnessing of chivalry to new ends, which in the West is a development of the twelfth century. According to historian Jennifer G. Wollock of Texas University, “the idea that love is ennobling and necessary for the education of a knight comes out of the lyrics of this period, but also in the romances of knighthood. Here the truest lovers are now the best knights.” (Wollock, 2011, p. 42)
In that historical context chivalry was subjected to a new contextual application, taken up by an emerging culture of courtly love in which men were taught to direct their chivalric cares, concern, protection, obedience, and service exclusively to women (Alfonsi, 1986). Over the course of two centuries there emerged two distinctly differentiated versions of chivalry: a continuing military chivalry with its code of conduct and proper contexts, and a romantic chivalry complete with its code of conduct and proper contexts.
It is difficult to pinpoint when the culture of romantic chivalry constellated and found relative independence from its military forerunner, but the evidence of troubadour poetry, romance fiction (Yalom, 2012), and etiquette manuals (Cappelanus, 1990) detailing the elaborate conventions of romantic chivalry attest to its emergence by the end of the twelfth century. Central to that revolution was the imperial patronage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie de Champagne who together elaborated the military notion of chivalry into one of servicing ladies.
Prior to the twelfth century romantic chivalry did not exist as a gendered construct; it was in the Middle Ages that it developed cultural complexity and became the enduring cultural norm we inherit today. The following timeline details the birth of romantic chivalry along with significant historical events that promoted its survival:
1102 AD: Romantic chivalry first introduced
William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, the most powerful feudal lord in France, wrote the first troubadour poems and is widely considered the first troubadour. Parting with the tradition of fighting wars strictly on behalf of man, king, God and country, William is said to have had the image of his mistress painted on his shield, whom he called midons (my Lord) saying that it was his will to bear her in battle, as she had borne him in bed.
1152 AD: Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine invites poet Bernard de Ventadorn to compose songs of love for her and her husband, Henry II. The songs lay down a code of chivalric behaviour for how a good man should treat his “lady,” which Eleanor employs in an apparent attempt to civilize her husband and his male associates. Eleanor and other noblewomen began to encourage poetic narratives that set expectations on how men should act around them (School of Life, 2011).
1168 – 1198 AD: The romantic chivalry trope is elaborated and given imperial patronage by Eleanor and her daughter Marie. At Eleanor’s court in Poitiers Eleanor and Marie embroidered the Christian military code of chivalry with a code for romantic lovers, thus putting women at the center of courtly life – and in doing so they had permanently changed the face of chivalry (McKnight, 1994).
1170 AD: Eleanor and Marie established the formal Courts of Love presided over by themselves and a jury of 60 noble ladies who would investigate and hand down judgements on love-disputes according to the newly introduced code governing gender relations. The courts were modelled precisely along the lines of the traditional feudal courts where disputes between retainers had been settled by the powerful lord. In this case however the disputes were between lovers (McKnight, 1994).
1180 AD: Marie directs Chrétien de Troyes to write Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, a love story about Lancelot and Guinevere elaborating the nature of romantic chivalry. Chrétien de Troyes objected to the implicit approval of the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guinevere that Marie had directed him to write about and failed to finish it, but later poets completed the story on Chrétien’s behalf. Chrétien also wrote other famous romances including Erec and Enide(McKnight, 1994).
1188 AD: Marie directs her chaplain Andreas Capellanus to write The Art of Courtly Love. This guide to the chivalric codes of romantic love is a document that could pass as contemporary in almost every respect, excepting for the outdated class structures and assumptions. Many of the admonitions in Andreas textbook are believed to have come from the women who directed the writing (McKnight, 1994).
1180 – 1380 AD: In two hundred years the culture or romantic chivalry spread from France to become instituted in all the principle courts of Europe, and went on to capture the imagination of men, women and children of all social classes. According to Jennifer Wollock (2011), the continuing popularity of chivalric love stories is confirmed by the contents of women’s libraries of the late Middle Ages, literature which had a substantial female readership including mothers reading to their daughters. Aside from the growing access to literature, chivalric culture values spread via everyday interactions among people in which they shared the ideas.
The aristocratic classes who first developed the romantic chivalry trope did not exist in a vacuum. The courtly themes they enacted would most certainly have captured the imaginations of the lower classes though public displays of pomp and pageantry, troubadours and tournaments, minstrels and playwrights, the telling of romantic stories, and of course the gossip flowing everywhere which would have exerted a powerful effect on the peasant imagination (Wright 2014).
It is possible that those of even lower classes adopted some assumptions portrayed in the public displays, such as the importance of chivalrous behavior toward women and perhaps a belief in women’s purity and moral superiority. Certainly by the 1600s and beyond, the adaptation of romantic chivalry by lower classes was in full career, as evidenced by Lucrezia Marinella who provides an example of Venetian society from the year 1600:
It is a marvelous sight in our city to see the wife of a shoemaker or butcher or even a porter all dressed up with gold chains round her neck, with pearls and valuable rings on her fingers, accompanied by a pair of women on either side to assist her and give her a hand, and then, by contrast, to see her husband cutting up meat all soiled with ox’s blood and down at heel, or loaded up like a beast of burden dressed in rough cloth, as porters are.
At first it may seem an astonishing anomaly to see the wife dressed like a lady and the husband so basely that he often appears to be her servant or butler, but if we consider the matter properly, we find it reasonable because it is necessary for a woman, even if she is humble and low, to be ornamented in this way because of her natural dignity and excellence, and for the man to be less so, like a servant or beast born to serve her.
Women have been honored by men with great and eminent titles that are used by them continually, being commonly referred to as donne, for the name donna means lady and mistress. When men refer to women thus, they honor them, though they may not intend to, by calling them ladies, even if they are humble and of a lowly disposition. In truth, to express the nobility of this sex men could not find a more appropriate and fitting name than donna, which immediately shows women’s superiority and precedence over men, because by calling women mistress they [men] show themselves of necessity to be subjects and servants (Marinella, 1999).
While popular recognition of the ‘two chivalries’ ran concurrently over several hundred years, the notion of military chivalry would eventually be relegated to obscurity in popular discourse as described in the observations above by Bax and evidenced by definitions in modern dictionaries.
Ideological structure of romantic chivalry
Romantic chivalry is alluded to by alternative terms such as benevolent sexism, romantic love, gentlemanliness, courtesy, gallantry, heroism, or simply chivalry. The practice has roots in what some scholars have referred to as chivalric ‘love service,’ (Bennett, 2013) a ritualized form of devotion by men toward women popularized by troubadours in the Middle Ages. The earliest conceptualization of love service borrowed from the vocabulary of medieval feudalism, mimicking ties between a liegeman and his overlord; i.e., the male lover is referred to as homo ligius (the woman’s liegeman, or ‘my man’) who pledged honor, and servitium (service) to the lady via a posture of feudal homage. The lady was addressed as midons (literally ‘my lord’), and also by dominus (denoting the feudal Lady) (Alfonsi, 1986). These practices form the ideological taproot of modern romantic chivalry.
The conventions and indeed the lived practices of romantic chivalry celebrated first among the upper classes made their way by degrees eventually to the middle classes and finally to the lower classes – or rather they broke class structure altogether in the sense that all Western peoples became inheritors of the customs regardless of their social station. Today chivalry is a norm observed across the majority of global cultures, an explicitly gynocentric norm aimed to increase the comfort, safety and power of women, while affording men a sense of purpose and occasional heroism in addressing that same task (Wright, 2014).
C.S. Lewis referred to the growth of romantic chivalry as “the feudalisation of love,” (Lewis, 2013, p. 2) making the observation that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. He observed that European society has moved essentially from a social feudalism, involving a contractual arrangement between a feudal lord and his vassal, to a sexual feudalism involving a comparable contract between men and women as symbolized in the act of a man going down on one knee to propose marriage (Wright, 2014).
Education in chivalry through the use of shame
The education and transmission of chivalry from generation to generation is overseen by parents, teachers and peers, and is reinforced by a plethora of culture-mediums including social media, mainstream media, political narratives, romance novels, music, cinema and the arts. Through these mediums romantic chivalry is internalized by young girls and boys as models of expected gendered behaviour.
An early example appears in the 1825 volume The History of Chivalry or Knighthood and Its Times, describing the education of a boy in the expectations of romantic chivalry. The author tells that in Medieval Europe the intellectual and moral education of boys in the chivalric code was given by the time they turned seven years by the ladies of the court:
“From the lips of the ladies the gentle page learned both his catechism and the art of love, and as the religion of the day was full of symbols, and addressed to the senses, so the other feature of his devotion was not to be nourished by abstract contemplation alone. He was directed to regard some one lady of the court as the type of his heart’s future mistress; she was the centre of all his hopes and wishes; to her he was obedient, faithful, and courteous.” (Mills, 1825, pp. 32-33)
To illustrate such education we are provided an anecdote of a young boy named Jean de Saintre, page of honour at the court of the French king. A Dame des Belles Cousines enquired of the boy ‘the name of the mistress of his heart’s affections’:
The simple youth replied, that he loved his lady mother, and next to her, his sister Jacqueline was dear to him. “Young man,” rejoined the lady, “I am not speaking of the affection due to your mother and sister; but I wish to know the name of the lady to whom you are attached par amours.” The poor boy was still more confused, and he could only reply that he loved no one par amours.
The Dame des Belles Cousines charged him with being a traitor to the laws of chivalry, and declared that his craven spirit was evinced by such an avowal. “Whence,” she enquired, “sprang the valiancy and knightly feats of Launcelot, Gawain, Tristram, Giron the courteous, and other ornaments of the round table of Ponthus, and of those knights and squires of this country whom I could enumerate: whence the grandeur of many whom I have known to arise to renown, except from the noble desire of maintaining themselves in the grace and esteem of the ladies; without which spirit-stirring sentiment they must have ever remained in the shades of obscurity? And do you, coward valet, presume to declare that you possess no sovereign lady, and desire to have none?”
Jean underwent a long scene of persecution on account of his confession of the want of proper chivalric sentiment, but he was at length restored to favour by the intercession of the ladies of the court. He then named as his mistress Matheline de Coucy, a child only ten years old. (Mills, 1825, pp. 32-33)
The pressure applied to the boy of this account, including shaming responses for his non-conformity, provide testament to the pressures that accompanied, and continue to accompany, deviance from the dictates of romantic chivalry. Education of this kind is common on social media today where read commentaries about “unchivalrous” males who by their failures become the subject of mockery and shame (a Google search for unchivalrous co-occurs with the word ‘shame’ 54,900 times; ‘ashamed’ 23,400; ‘pathetic’ 31,000; ‘loser’ 14,500; and ‘unmanly’ 9,960 times respectively). (Google, 2018)
A recent example of a shaming narrative serving as an educative prompt appeared in the online Conservative Woman (Perrins, 2018). The article recounted an incident from the year 1989 when 25-year-old gunman Marc Lépine entered the École Polytechnique armed with a semi-automatic rifle and ordered the males and females to form into separate groups. He then began killing several women and injuring some of the men. The author lamented that these men “abandoned” the women in an “act of abdication” that would have been unthinkable in previous, more chivalric periods of history. The author admits she was “pretty shocked that the men left,” and finally blames “the collapse of protective masculinity” as a preventable factor in the deaths of those women.
Regarding younger children, a search for chivalry and related terms such as “knight” “damsel in distress” and “princess” in the children’s section of Amazon Books website (for ages 2–12) generated over 10,000 results, revealing that a fascination with medieval gender roles remains popular with children and their parents today, a result that can be multiplied with the addition of teenage and adult books in the same genre (Amazon, 2018). One example titled Noisy Knights (for boys aged 2-5) shows pictures of a distressed damsel menaced by a fire-breathing dragon (the book includes a battery operated button to make her scream in audio) (Taplin, 2010). The text asks the reader if he knows of any knight who might be brave enough to save her, a question clearly designed to lead young male reader to volunteer service, imagining himself stepping into a position of danger to protect the damsel and reduce her distress.
Romantic chivalry is further popularized in video games and Disney movies, for example, which are bestsellers among children in the digital age. Many themes of romantic chivalry appear charming in isolation from their real-world implications, a delight to the imagination, however as the field of narrative psychology likes to remind; our identities consist of such stuff as dreams are made. The stories that children and adults absorb are the stories they enact, and in this case there is potential for men and boys to enact them to the neglect of their health, safety, dignity and larger human potential (Wright & Elam, 2017, p. 29-31).
In the field of sociology chivalry remains a much-researched topic, though renamed and problematized under the heading ‘benevolent sexism.’ According to P. Glick et.al (2000), the attitudes tapped in the Benevolent Sexism Scale are closer to medieval ideologies of chivalry than they are to other modern social or political movements. Benevolent Sexism (often shortened humorously to ‘BS’) is rooted in the traditional culture-structures guiding personal relationships between men and women and is not an outcome of contemporary politics, even when reinforced by political discourse and encoded in legislation (Glick, et.al., 2000).
Benevolent sexism is described as the expression of reverence and care toward women while promising they will be protected and provided for by men, and is thus experienced subjectively by women as an agreeable form of sexism (Hammond, et.al., 2014). Moreover, research has shown that these attitudes objectively do benefit women because men who express agreement with benevolent sexism are generally more caring, satisfying, and positive relationship partners (Hammond, et.al., 2014).
In their study aptly titled The Allure of Sexism, Matthew D. Hammond et.al. (2014) researched whether a sense of entitlement to special treatments—a central facet of narcissism based on feelings of superiority and deservingness—was linked with endorsement of benevolent sexism by women across time:
‘If women endorse benevolent sexism because of the individual-level benefits it offers, then women’s endorsement of benevolent sexism should vary depending on dispositional differences in psychological entitlement. Psychological entitlement is a core facet of narcissism, which encompasses feelings that the self deserves nice things, social status and praise, and beliefs of the self as superior, highly intelligent, and attractive (Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline & Bushman, 2004; Campbell, Brunell, & Finkel, 2006; Emmons, 1987; Miller & Campbell, 2010). The model of narcissistic self-regulation characterizes psychological entitlement as manifesting in efforts to gain esteem, status, and resources (Campbell & Foster, 2007; Campbell et al., 2006; Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). Such efforts include adopting a superficially charming, confident, and energetic approach to social interactions (Foster, Shrira, & Campbell, 2006; Paulhus, 1998), taking personal responsibility for successes and attributing failures to external sources (Chowning & Campbell, 2009; Rhodewalt & Morf, 1998), and acting selfishly to secure material gains even when it means exploiting others (Campbell et al., 2004; Campbell, Bush, Brunell, & Shelton, 2005).’ (Hammond, et.al., 2014, p. 2).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that a psychological sense of entitlement in women does mediate endorsement of benevolent sexism. Moreover, the researchers theorized that characteristics of narcissistic entitlement – those which drive resource-attainment and self-enhancement strategies – are the same qualities that promote women’s adoption of benevolent sexism:
‘First, benevolent sexism facilitates the capacity to gain material resources and complements feelings of deservingness by promoting a structure of intimate relationships in which men use their access to social power and status to provide for women (Chen et al., 2009). Second, benevolent sexism reinforces beliefs of superiority by expressing praise and reverence of women, emphasizing qualities of purity, morality, and culture which make women the ‘‘fairer sex.’’ Indeed, identifying with these kinds of gender-related beliefs (e.g., women are warm) fosters a more positive self-concept (Rudman, Greenwald, & McGhee, 2001).
Moreover, for women higher in psychological entitlement, benevolent sexism legitimizes a self-centric approach to relationships by emphasizing women’s special status within the intimate domain and men’s responsibilities of providing and caring for women. Such care involves everyday chivalrous behaviors, such as paying on a first date and opening doors for women (Sarlet et al., 2012; Viki et al., 2003), to more overarching prescriptions for men’s behavior toward women, such as being ‘‘willing to sacrifice their own well-being’’ to provide for women and to ensure women’s happiness by placing her ‘‘on a pedestal’’ (Ambivalent Sexism Inventory; Glick & Fiske, 1996). Thus, women higher in psychological entitlement should be particularly enticed by benevolent sexism because it justifies provision and praise from men as expected behavior and does not require women to reciprocate the reverence or material gains, which men provide.’ (Hammond, et.al., 2014, pp. 3-4).
While the Hammond study describes the sense of entitlement by women in terms of narcissistic motivation, it is more accurately termed gynocentric based on the exclusively gendered context, i.e. woman as center of the relational contract who feels deserving of benevolent gestures from men and boys. While deservingness is an integral feature of narcissism, the concept of gynocentrism provides more specificity than does narcissism because women may not feel entitled, for example, to special treatment by non-intimate males nor by other women (as compared to an individual scoring high on standard narcissism scales), reserving instead the sense of entitlement for intimate gendered relationships. The gendered context of women’s sense of entitlement is confirmed by studies showing that women tend to score lower than men on global narcissism scales (Grijalva, et.al., 2013), however such measures fail to take into account the exclusively gendered domain in which benevolent sexism operates and in which the level of female narcissism may be much higher.
A 2018 survey of 782 female subjects found women believe male partners displaying benevolent sexist attitudes are more willing to protect, provide for, and commit to them, which in turn rendered those men more attractive. Interestingly, feminist women were just as likely as non-feminist women to prefer benevolently sexist men over more egalitarian men regardless of whether they rated themselves as high or low feminists. High feminists rated the benevolent sexist men as more patronizing and undermining than did low feminists, but felt the positive sides of benevolent sexism outweighed the negatives (Gul & Kupfer, 2018).
Beyond the relational sphere, chivalric customs are utilized to facilitate more empowerment of women via the initiatives of national and international governing bodies. This can be witnessed for example in anti-violence campaigns such as the White Ribbon initiative in Australia which asks men to “Stand up, speak out, and act” to ensure the dignity, safety and comfort of any women, even strangers, who might find themselves in real or imagined danger (Seymour, 2018).
We witness it again internationally in the HeForShe campaign initiated by UN Women Ambassador Emma Watson, who in her introductory speech appealed to feminist oversight of gendered matters six times, and then to the importance of men offering their chivalric support to women’s empowerment: “I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice… I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, to be the ‘he’ for ‘she.’ And to ask yourself if not me, who? If not now, when?” (Watson, 2014).
Chivalry operates outside the interpersonal sphere in which men have traditionally given up their seats in buses, whereby governments are now providing seats for women in legislative assemblies and in boardrooms via quotas. Similarly the act of a man opening a door for a woman is now enacted by governments who open doors for women into universities and workforces via the practice of affirmative action (Wright, 2017). Indeed chivalry has arguably been exploited to meet objectives of women’s empowerment since at least the time of Bax, who in the year 1887 contended that “It is all very well to say they [feminists] repudiate chivalry. They are ready enough to invoke it politically when they want to get a law passed in their favour – while socially, to my certain knowledge, many of them claim it as a right every whit as much as ordinary women.” (Bax, 1887, p. 114-121).
Negative health outcomes for men and boys
Men and boys who enact chivalric masculinity may pay a considerable price in the process, psychologically, socially or physically. Romantic chivalry emphasizes protection of women (Dictionary Y, 2018), thus men are placed in danger of being injured, maimed or killed when “intervening” in difficult situations such as those evoked by the White Ribbon initiatives, or while working in the male dominated professions of military, police, and firefighters for whom acts of benevolent sexism are celebrated.
The masculine norm of stoicism (Murray, et.al., 2008) involving the repression of emotion and the cultivation of indifference to pleasure or pain serves maintain men’s chivalric focus on women’s assumed need for support, protection and male deference. Conversely, if a man or boy becomes focused on his own emotions, pain, pleasure or needs, he risks being viewed as a poor protector and provider (i.e. less chivalrous), which will be likely met with social shaming if not outright violence as modes of punishing transgressions and encouraging compliance.
The gendered morality of chivalry dictates that men and boys receive less compassion and assistance than their female counterparts (Eagly & Crowley, 1986), are more likely to be viewed as suitable targets for infliction of violence, pain and other harm (Feldman-Hall, et.al., 2016), are more likely to receive harsher legal penalties than women for offenses (Curry, et.al., 2004), and conversely perpetrators of crime against males are more likely to receive lenient sentences as compared to those who perpetrate crimes against women who receive the longest sentences (Curry, et.al., 2004).Males who suffer disability or mental illness are more often stigmatized and treated with less ‘chivalric’ compassion or positivity than their female counterparts (Whitley, et.al., 2015). The differential gender outcomes in these examples demonstrate that romantic chivalry fosters a ‘sympathy-deficit’ toward males and their issues, and a conversely heightened concern for women’s issues. This gender-preferential bias has been referred to as gynosympathy (Wright, 2016), a practice that negatively impacts men’s willingness to seek help and assistance when needed (Eagly & Crowley, 1986).
The employment of traditional sex-role strategies (inclusive of stoicism and chivalry) increase the likelihood of male depression (Addis, 2008; Batty, 2006, Liljegren, 2010, Oliffe, & Phillips, 2008), anxiety, stress, and poorer health behaviors (Eisler, et.al., 1998), suicide (Houle, et.al., 2008), and accidental death (Stillion & McDowell, 2002), however the precise degree to which chivalry contributes to these outcomes requires further research.
Summary and conclusion
The chivalry surveyed in this essay is both sexist and gynocentric in nature, one that demands men provide numerous psychological gratifications and material benefits to recipient women. Enactment of chivalric behaviours may also provide secondary benefits for men and boys, such as increased social/peer approval and greater access to female romantic partners (Hammond, et.al., 2014). The chivalric role offers heterosexual men a life-map to guide their social behaviour while providing a sense of self based on service to women. This in contrast to socially disapproved identities such as ‘unchivalrous’ males, voluntarily confirmed bachelors (Holland, 1959), or alternatively to gay or transgender men whose identities are not built on service to women (Polimeni, et.al., 2000; Nagoshi, et.al., 2008).
Men adhering to chivalric behaviour are rewarded with social valorization, and in the more extreme examples are praised as selfless “heroes” for which medals are awarded by mainstream social institutions. On the negative side of the equation there may be a lack of recognition for ongoing sacrifices – chivalry as rote expectation, an assigned role, codified and reinforced with shame. In both adhering, and in failing to adhere to the dictates of romantic chivalry, the cumulative psychosocial burden on men may be considerable – including negative mental and physical health impacts as outlined above.
In an age of equality one might ask what continuing relevance has romantic chivalry? If we follow the definition of chivalry in the Cambridge Dictionary as a “very polite, honest, and kind behaviour,” is it still necessary to add the usual adjunct “…especially by men toward women”? Omission of the gendered framing shifts the emphasis toward extending a universal politeness, honesty, and kindness toward all peoples, reviving the older sense of chivalry from which romantic chivalry originally diverged to become the dominant or “bastardized” meaning.
Such an amendment would free men and boys to discover a variety of non-gynocentric masculinities, and revive the notion of ‘common courtesy’ as a basis for reciprocal service and devotion between men and women. Mainstream commenters occasionally pay lip service to the idea of de-genderizing chivalry (Waldman, 2013), but until such time as that sentiment is actualized in popular culture we might conclude with a rephrasing of Emma Watson’s HeForShe proposition and ask; “I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, to be the “we” for “all.” And to ask yourself if not me, who? If not now, when?”
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Dictionary, Y. nd 15 April 2015. [Definition: Chivalry is defined as a quality held by knights and gentlemen offering courage, honor and protection to women. *A man who stands in front of his wife and child during a robbery is an example of chivalry.*]
Eagly, A. H., & Crowley, M. (1986). Gender and helping-behavior— A meta-analytic review of the social psychological literature. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 283–308.
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Glick, P., Fiske, S. T., Mladinic, A., Saiz, J. L., Abrams, D., Masser, B., … & Annetje, B. (2000). Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: hostile and benevolent sexism across cultures. Journal of personality and social psychology, 79(5), 763.
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Gul, P., & Kupfer, T. R. (2018). Benevolent Sexism and Mate Preferences: Why Do Women Prefer Benevolent Men Despite Recognizing That They Can Be Undermining?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167218781000.
Hammond, M. D., Sibley, C. G., & Overall, N. C. (2014). The allure of sexism: Psychological entitlement fosters women’s endorsement of benevolent sexism over time. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(4), 422-429.
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Houle, J., Mishara, B. L., & Chagnon, F. (2008). An empirical test of a mediation model of the impact of the traditional male gender role on suicidal behavior in men. Journal of affective disorders, 107(1-3), 37-43.
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This article first published in New Male Studies Journal, 2019.
It’s no secret that women feel entitled to special treatments from men based on the European culture tradition of chivalry: i.e., allowing women to go through the door first; showering the “fairer sex” with compliments about being beautiful, caring or pure; paying for dinner and other life luxuries; and offering them costly care and protection around the clock. In the modern context chivalry boils down to the male posture of deference to women’s needs and wants, which understandably fosters a positive self-concept in women and a sense that they must be “worth it” as we are reminded by the ubiquitous advertising jingle.
The expectation of male chivalry, or benevolent sexism as some prefer to call it, is nothing new and there are countless studies confirming that women generally expect such treatment from men.1 So we will take that expectation as a given. What hasn’t been studied sufficiently in women is the reaction men’s failure to provide expected level of chivalric supplies, and this is where we run into the useful concept of ‘aggrieved entitlement.’
The phrase aggrieved entitlement was popularized by feminist Michael Kimmel who refers to it as a gendered emotion displayed by disenfranchised males, entailing “a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back.”2 By ‘manhood’ Kimmel is referring to rights that males have supposedly enjoyed over women and culture that are subsequently denied them by a changing world. He further clarifies that men “tend to feel their sense of aggrieved entitlement because of the past; they want to restore what they once had. Their entitlement is not aspirational; its nostalgic.”3
In a recent paper Dennis Gouws suggests that the aggrieved entitlement descriptor can be equally applied to the behavior of women. Reviewing Kimmel’s concept he concludes:
Because Kimmel’s sympathies lie with gender feminism, he is uninterested in how this concept might apply to women’s behavior. Women might express aggrieved entitlement when they experience what they perceive to be a humiliating loss of the gynocentric privilege to which gynocentric chivalry, gender feminism, and hegemonic gynarchy have entitled them. Self-righteous, angry expressions of personal offense and even violent acts might result from their perceived moral obligation to regain their sense of gynocentric privilege. A cursory internet search of gender-feminist responses to men’s-issues speakers on campus and to the establishing men’s groups or other male-positive spaces on campus will provide examples of this aggrieved entitlement.4
Gouws provides a useful example of aggrieved entitlement by women who dominate university campus culture. Men attempting to establish male support groups on female-dominated campuses, or who attempt to invite speakers sympathetic to men’s health issues, have frequently been met with fury for apparently removing the chivalric focus from women and their issues. The resultant female rage has triggered violent protests, intimidation, vindictive and false accusations, or boycotting of male initiatives through financial and other means.
Looking at the sexual-relations contract that has been operating for eons we can see that a certain degree of narcissistic pride was encouraged in order to sweeten gender roles for men and women – “He’s an awesome strong man, a man’s man and a great provider” or “She’s a magnificent mother, those children never go without love or food”. Those adhering to traditional gender roles received compliments for their service, along with some compensatory payoffs by the opposite sex.
When an individual fails to adhere to their traditional gender role the bubble of narcissistic pride bursts, giving rise to aggrieved entitlement in members of the opposite sex. In the language of psychology we would say the expectation of narcissistic supply has been cut off, and narcissistic injury and rage steps forward to address the grievance. Most readers would know that some of the worst examples of aggrieved entitlement by women are displayed by feminists, about whose behavior Ernest B. Bax was able to conclude, “Weakness, to whose claim chivalry may per se be granted, forfeits its claim when it presumes upon that claim and becomes aggressive. Aggressive weakness deserves no quarter.”5
Bax further elaborates on aggressive weakness (i.e., aggrieved entitlement) in the following passages:
I may point out in conclusion that the existing state of public opinion on the subject registers the fact that sex-conscious women have exploited the muscular weakness of their sex and have succeeded in forging a weapon of tyranny called “chivalry” which enables them to ride rough-shod over every principle of justice and fair play. Men are cowed by it, and fail to distinguish between simple weakness per se which should command every consideration, and that of aggressive weakness which trades upon “chivalry” and deserves no quarter.6
“Even taking the matter on the conventional ground of weakness and granting, for the sake of argument, the relative muscular weakness of the female as ground for her being allowed the immunity claimed by Modern Feminists of the sentimental school, the distinction is altogether lost sight of between weakness as such and aggressive weakness. Now I submit there is a very considerable difference between what is due to weakness that is harmless and unprovocative, and weakness that is aggressive, still more when this aggressive weakness presumes on itself as weakness, and on the consideration extended to it, in order to become tyrannical and oppressive. Weakness as such assuredly deserves all consideration, but aggressive weakness deserves none save to be crushed beneath the iron heel of strength. Woman at the present day has been encouraged by a Feminist public opinion to become meanly aggressive under the protection of her weakness. She has been encouraged to forge her gift of weakness into a weapon of tyranny against man, unwitting that in so doing she has deprived her weakness of all just claim to consideration or even to toleration.”7
Bax penned the above observations over a century ago, although the behavior he described had been around for much longer than that. The phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is usually attributed to the English playwright and poet William Congreve. He wrote these lines in his play The Mourning Bride, 1697:
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.
These lines describe a temporary loss of male chivalry by women and the aggrieved entitlement that ensues – a reaction that Michael Kimmel pretentiously emphasizes as a mostly male pathology. A more honest appraisal of the changing gender roles and the accompanying sense of aggrieved entitlement would admit that women’s roles and choices have expanded exponentially, which includes the throwing off of any expected responsibilities toward men and boys, while conversely the male role of providing benevolent sexism/chivalry for women has changed little. On the basis of such disparity men appear to be coping remarkably well in comparison to women who retain many of their traditional privileges and expectations, but who display extreme rage at micro-disenfranchisements and momentary lapses in chivalric supply.
Benevolent sexism toward women remains the norm, despite women’s traditional obligations toward men being wiped out
In summary the grief-reaction over loss of traditional roles is not a predominately male issue. Women have yet to experience the loss of gendered entitlements on anywhere near the same scale as men, however they are equally proficient at raging over micro-losses of chivalry and male deference. The theory of aggrieved entitlement thus applies to no gender in particular – so lets use it to describe the ever-present rage displayed by women in both private and public settings.
 Hammond, M. D., Sibley, C. G., & Overall, N. C. The allure of sexism: Psychological entitlement fosters women’s endorsement of benevolent sexism over time. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(4), 422-429. (2014)
 Kalish, R., & Kimmel, M. Suicide by mass murder: Masculinity, aggrieved entitlement, and rampage school shootings. Health Sociology Review, 9(4), 451–464. (2010)
 Kimmel, Michael. Angry white men: American masculinity at the end of an era. Hachette UK, (2017).
 Dennis Gouws, Not So Romantic For Men: Using Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe to Explore Evolving Notions of Chivalry, in Voicing the Silences of Social and Cognitive Justice, 167–178. (2018)
 Ernest B. Bax., Women’s Privileges and “Rights”, Social Democrat, Vol.13 no.9, September (1909).
 Ernest B. Bax., Feminism and Female Suffrage in New Age, (1910)
 Ernest B. Bax., Chapter 5: The “Chivalry” Fake, in The Fraud of Feminism (1913)
The following article provides an example of a ‘threat narrative’ – i.e., in this case the threat that chivalry is departed or dying, thus putting women in danger in a myriad ways.
The ‘Chivalry Is Dead’ trope has been wheeled out by every newspaper and media outlet for the last two centuries, on a weekly basis. If romantic chivalry is taking hundreds of years to die then it must be the slowest death on earth!
However the intent of such articles appears not to report accurately on chivalry’s demise (which doesn’t appear to be happening to any significant degree), but to reinforce protection of chivalry as an article of dogmatic faith; i.e., the more one feels chivalry is under threat, the more one protects and upholds the institution.
To be sure there have occurred alterations in the way gynocentric chivalry is acted out on the contemporary scene, but the basic convention is still very much alive.
The following article is the second of a two-part series. Part one looked at the roots of damseling, chivalry and courtly love in the gynocentric tradition. In part two we look at damseling, chivalry and courtly love as it appears in the feminist tradition. – PW
Before being given the name feminism, the obsession with women’s status was referred to as the Querelle des Femmes or quarrel about women. The querelle consisted of a perpetual social movement that used damseling to call for more chivalry and more courtly love, which ultimately afforded women more power.
The three elements of gynocentrism first born in medieval Europe – damseling, chivalry and courtly love – continue to act as the basis of modern feminism. Indeed feminism today is little more, and little less, than a perpetuation of this medieval triad, giving feminism its internal drive even as feminists disavow these essentials with rhetorical obfuscations.
With this charge in mind let’s revisit the holy trinity above with a focus on behaviors central to modern feminism.
Damseling as “victim feminism”
Most observers today, including feminist observers like Christina Hoff-Sommers, Camille Paglia, Rene Denfeld, Katie Roiphe and others agree that feminism comes close, if not all the way, to being a cult of victimhood.
The phenomenon has variously been referred to as grievance feminism, victim feminism, safe space feminism, and even fainting-couch feminism – with Christina Hoff-Sommers portraying its mythos as “a battle between fragile maidens and evil predators.” 1
Feminist icon Naomi Wolf tells that victim feminism evolved out of “old habits of ladylike behavior that were cloaked in the guise of radicalism,” 2 and laments that a substantial segment of modern feminism is devoted to its cause.
Denfeld writes that current feminists “promote a new status for women: that of the victim,” and adds:
“This is victim mythology. From rape redefinitions to feminist theory on the “patriarchy,” victimization has become the subtext of the movement, the moral to be found in every feminist story. Together these stories form a feminist mythology in which a singular female subject is created: woman as a helpless, violated, and oppressed victim. Victim mythology says that men will always be predators and women will always be their prey. It is a small place to live, a place that tells women that there is really no way out.
“Like other mythologies, victim mythology reduces the complexity of human interaction to grossly oversimplified mythical tales, a one-note song, where the message of the story becomes so important that fiction not only triumphs over fact but the realities of women’s experiences are dismissed and derided when they conflict with the accepted female image.3
While Denfeld does a good job of describing feminism’s victim mentality, she labors under a myth of her own by characterizing it as a “new” fetish among feminists. Anyone reading through the history of feminist literature can see it appealed to by literally every feminist writer. Even a century ago Ernest Belfort Bax was able to say that feminists “do their best to bluff their dupes by posing as the victims of a non-existent male oppression.”4
Feminists well know that the most grotesquely far-fetched cry about the injustice of man to woman will meet with a ready ear. They well know that they get here fond and foolish man on his soft side. Looking at the matter impartially, it is quite evident that man’s treatment of woman is the least vulnerable point in his moral record. Woman, as such, he has always treated with comparative generosity. But it is, of course, to the interests of the abettors of female domination to pretend the contrary. Accordingly everything has been done to excite prejudice in favour of woman as the innocent and guileless victim of man’s tyranny, and the maudlin Feminist sentiment of the “brute” man has been carefully exploited to this end.5
In all of these accounts the behavior being described is damseling, a practice feminists have been at the forefront of preserving from the medieval canon. Evoked in conjunction with claims of male brutality, rapiness, depravity and insensitivity, the ultimate purpose of damseling is to draw chivalric responses from men, a routine Wolf makes clear in her remark that “victim feminism casts women as sexually pure and mystically nurturing, and stresses the evil done to these ‘good’ women as a way to petition for their rights.” 6
A famous example of feminist damseling, both literal and figurative, is Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian is known for raising concerns that video-games are misogynistic – like most everything else found in the feminist worldview. Her primary concern was that female game characters are often portrayed as damsels-in-distress saved by male heroes, which promotes, she says, sexual objectification and a range of other problems. To address that issue in video games she moved to launch a study project to raise awareness.
Sarkeesian established a fundraiser for $6,000.00 for her project, but after receiving some initial trolling by trolls on social media she damseled herself to potential donors by saying she was under grave threat, swooning with such finesse that she was showered with 158K in donations from fellow feminists and white knights. Over a thousand people donated after hearing of her “plight.”
With that financial success, Sarkeesian subsequently replayed the scenario over and again particularly in the context of further fundraising efforts and public speaking; swooning about online attacks directed against her or over female gamers enduring abject sexism, female video-game characters being cast in degrading and/or humiliating roles, and about young impressionable girls being robbed of agency after being subjected to the damsel trope in games.
Sarkeesian’s case is particularly poignant because, from the many subjects she could have highlighted to damsel herself for attention, she chose to damsel herself over the very existence of damsels. This demonstrates that even when disavowing the medieval pageant of damsels in distress, feminists continue to enact it even while obfuscating their complicity in the tradition.
Feminism would have died out long ago if it were not for the power of this ancient ruse, and while damseling continues to draw rewards from a public primed to cater to it, the planet will increasingly come to resemble a tower full of imprisoned, vulnerable Disney Princesses.
Chivalry – from husband Sam to Uncle Sam
Equity feminist Christina Hoff-Sommers states that men need to be civilized with chivalric manners, a belief outlined in an interview with Emily Esfahani Smith, where she said, “Chivalry is grounded in a fundamental reality that defines the relationship between the sexes,” and adding a warning, “If women give up on chivalry, it will be gone.” 7
While feminists like Hoff-Sommers admit their reliance on a sexist version of chivalry, others are less candid about it, going even so far as pretending they don’t need chivalry despite their demonstrable appeal to it in most of their activism. Many observers however can see through the anti-chivalry posturing.
Feminism draws its power from chivalric support, but instead of soliciting it from men in the traditional, interpersonal manner it has learned how to get it solely from the government – holding the government to ransom ever since the suffragettes damsaled the vote for women. Since that time politicians have only been too willing to furnish demands by feminists in exchange for voting the candidate into power and allowing him to retain office – and conversely politicians who fail to uphold the chivalric contract are promptly voted out.
The results of this compact are obvious to anyone who looks at political decisions with impartiality.
Instead of men giving up seats in buses, government now provides seats in legislative assemblies and boardrooms via quotas. Instead of men opening car doors for women, government opens doors into universities and workforces via affirmative action. Instead of men being the sole protectors of women from violence, government now protects them with an army of police specially trained to service women’s accusations (over and above more serious crimes). Instead of men providing living expenses, governments now provide it as social welfare and compensation for the wage-gap. Government as substitute husband.
The appeal to chivalry is not confined to government institutions alone. The appeal also goes out to sporting clubs, business owners, CEOs and private institutions who respond to the damsel’s call with women-only busses, women-only safe spaces, pink car parking spaces with extra lighting and security with male escorts and chaperones, or with feminist adverts at sports venues, sportsmen wearing pink to raise money for all manner of feminist projects, and that on top of monies already heaped at their feet by politicians eager to please.
This is not a recent development; it can be witnessed in mirror image as far back as a century ago. Back then, Bax was able to tie feminism so definitively with the act of chivalry-seeking that he actually labeled the women’s liberation movement “chivalry feminism.” Moreover, Bax saw through the superficial disavowals;
“The justification for the whole movement of Modern Feminism in one of its main practical aspects – namely, the placing of the female sex in the position of privilege, advantage and immunity – is concentrated in the current conception of “chivalry.”
It is plain then that chivalry as understood in the present day really spells sex privilege and sex favouritism pure and simple, and that any attempts to define the term on a larger basis, or to give it a colourable rationality founded on fact, are simply subterfuges, conscious or unconscious, on the part of those who put them forward…
Such is “chivalry” as understood to-day – the deprivation, the robbery from men of the most elementary personal rights in order to endow women with privileges at the expense of men.8
Chivalry feminism today, same as it ever was, relying on men’s generosity to perpetuate its creed of power.
Courtly love as ‘Respectful Relationships’
The phrase ‘Respectful Relationships’ is shorthand for a range of conventions promoted by feminists to govern interactions between men and women, particularly in the context of romantic interactions. The conventions detail acceptable speech and actions in the contexts of socializing, friendship, flirting and sex, emphasizing a man’s duty to respect women’s emotional comfort, self-esteem, and dignity.
Portrayed overtly as a method of reducing men’s abusiveness, the program maintains that even men and boys who do not display abusive behaviors should be enculturated in its protocols as a prophylactic, and concomitantly to afford dignity and self-esteem to women. This is where the respectful relationships program moves past the overt goal of reducing violence and into the covert goal of maintaining and increasing the power of women.
As we begin to look at the detail of Respectful Relationship we could almost mistake it for Andreas Capellanus’ work The Art of Courtly Love where the medieval rules of romance were codified in meticulous prescriptions for male deference, homage, and courtesy toward women. Considering this parallel, the feminist movement appears to have provided a new language for a very old set of sexual customs, essentially reiterating that which has been with us all along.
As mentioned in Part one, central to the art of courtly love was the expectation that men practice love service toward women based on a model of vassals or serfs in relation to a feudal lord. That relationship model of serf-to-Lord was adopted wholesale to regulate love relationships whereby women were literally approached as the lord (midons) in each male-female encounter. As Medievalist Sandra Alfonsi explains;
Scholars soon saw striking parallels between feudalistic practices and certain tenets of Courtly Love. The comparisons lie in certain resemblances shared by vassalage and the courtly “love service.” Fundamental to both was the concept of obedience. As a vassal, the liegeman swore obedience to his lord. As a courtly lover, the poet chose a lady to whom he was required to swear obedience. Humility and obedience were two concepts familiar to medieval man, active components of his Weltanschauung…
The entire concept of love-service was patterned after the vassal’s oath to serve his lord with loyalty, tenacity, and courage. These same virtues were demanded of the poet. Like the liegeman vis-a-vis his sovereign, the poet approached his lady with fear and respect. Submitted to her, obedient to her will, he awaited a fief or honor as did the vassal. His compensation took many forms: the pleasure of his lady’s company in her chamber or in the garden; an avowal of her love; a secret meeting; a kiss or even le surplus, complete unity. Like the lord, the woman who was venerated and served was expected to reward her faithful and humble servant.9
The idea behind love service was that men should demonstrate the quality of their commitment to women; was it merely lust or obedient and sacrificial love? If the woman decided it was “love” then she might decide to engage more intimately with him, as Joseph Campbell explains:
“The woman is looking for authenticity in a relationship, so she delays merci until she is guaranteed that this man who is proposing himself to her is one of a gentle heart… And, the women were in control, that’s all there is to it. The man is the one who is advancing, the one performing the acts of guarding bridges, or whatever bit of foolishness she puts on him, but, she’s in control. And her problem is to live in a relationship that is authentic of love, and the only way she can do it is by testing the one who offers himself. She isn’t offering herself, he’s offering himself. But, she’s in control of what happens then with step two.10
“The technical term for a woman’s granting of herself was merci; the woman grants her merci. Now, that might consist in her permission for the man to kiss her on the back of the neck once every Whitsuntide, you know, something like that – or it may be a full giving in love. That would depend upon her estimation of the character of the candidate. The essential idea was to test this man to make sure that he would suffer things for love, and that this was not just lust.
The tests that were given then by women involved, for example, sending a chap out to guard a bridge. The traffic in the Middle Ages was somewhat encumbered by these youths guarding bridges. But also the tests included going into battle. A woman who was too ruthless in asking her lover to risk a real death before she would acquiesce in anything was considered sauvage or “savage”. Also, the woman who gave herself without the testing was “savage”. There was a very nice psychological estimation game going on here.11
Today that psychological estimation game (as Campbell puts it) might involve asking consent to sit with a woman, appealing politely for a date, waiting patiently for her to call or sweep right, keeping his knees together to avoid manspreading, or asking for permission to speak in order to prove he is not talking over her or mansplaining. Such demonstrations show the feminist woman that he has a gentle heart, and that he is willing to suffer things for love.
That psychological testing also encompasses public activities which demonstrate a man’s commitment to serving womankind as a whole. Examples would be a man walking a mile in her shoes, or joining White Ribbon Campaigns that require men, as was required of the medieval knights, to pledge oaths to “Never to condone, or remain silent about violence towards women and girls” and especially to intervene when learning of any male behaving offensively toward a woman.
Today’s White Ribbon “oath” bears a striking resemblance to the 14th century enterprise of the Green Shield with the White Lady (Emprise de l’Escu vert à la Dame Blanche) in which men committed themselves for the duration of five years to serving women. Inspired by the ideal of courtly love, the stated purpose of the order was to guard and defend the honor, estate, goods, reputation, fame and praise of all ladies. It was an undertaking that earned the praise of protofeminist Christine de Pizan. The continuity of chivalry and courtly love from the medieval knightly oath to the modern feminist-inspired oath is remarkable in its consistency.
In line with most women who expect men to follow medieval rules of love concerning male courtesy, the feminist movement is geared toward enforcing the same goal. Feminism however postures itself as disavowing that goal even while they are at the forefront of institutionalizing it in our families, our schools, our political structures and laws.
Each of the psychological tests mentioned above are evidence of a love service called for by feminist activists. Or worded differently, they are sanctified methods by which men are called to demonstrate obedience and a ‘gentle heart’ in contrast to the brutality, rapiness and exploitativeness of the savage heart; the default feminist conception of men.
I will close here with the words of an academic feminist, one not so coy about identifying courtly love with the project of feminism. Elizabeth Reid Boyd of the School of Psychology and Social Science at Edith Cowan University, and Director of the Centre for Research for Women in Western Australia with more than a decade as a feminist researcher and teacher of women’s studies tells:
In this article I muse upon arguments that romance is a form of feminism. Going back to its history in the Middle Ages and its invention by noblewomen who created the notion of courtly love, examining its contemporary popular explosion and the concurrent rise of popular romance studies in the academy that has emerged in the wake of women’s studies, and positing an empowering female future for the genre, I propose that reading and writing romantic fiction is not only personal escapism, but also political activism.
Romance has a feminist past that belies its ostensible frivolity. Romance, as most true romantics know, began in medieval times. The word originally referred to the language romanz, linked to the French, Italian and Spanish languages in which love stories, songs and ballads were written. Stories, poems and songs written in this language were called romances to separate them from more serious literature – a distinction we still have today. Romances were popular and fashionable. Love songs and stories, like those of Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, were soon on the lips of troubadours and minstrels all over Europe. Romance spread rapidly. It has been called the first form of feminism (Putnam 1970).12
Reid Boyd finishes her paper by waxing poetic about the many joys of romantic love, and of its increasing popularity in academe.
Same as it ever was, the project of modern feminism can be summarized as championing victimhood (damseling), soliciting favors from men and governments (chivalry), and promoting “respectful” relationships by men-toward-women (courtly love).
 Christina Hoff-Sommers, How fainting couch feminism threatens freedom, American Enterprise Institute 2015
 Naomi Wolf, Fire With Fire: New Female Power, 1993
 Rene Denfeld, The New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, 1995
 Ernest B. Bax, Feminism and Female Suffrage, 1910
 Ernest B. Bax, Mr. Belfort Bax Replies to his Feminist Critics, 1908
 Naomi Wolf, Fire With Fire: New Female Power, 1993
 Emily Esfahani Smith, Let’s Give Chivalry Another Chance, The Atlantic, Dec 10 2012
 Ernest B. Bax, Chapter-5 ‘The Chivalry Fake’ in The Fraud of Feminism, 1913
 Sandra Alfonsi, Masculine Submission in Troubadour Lyric, 1986
 Joseph Campbell, Parzival, the Graal, and Grail Legends, talk at the Ojai Foundation, 1987
 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, interview with Bill Moyers, 1988
 Elizabeth Reid Boyd, Romancing Feminism: From Women’s Studies to Women’s Fiction, 2014
In twelfth-century Europe, did men unquestioningly accept love servitude to women? Today, many men don’t protest men being deprived of all reproductive rights whatsoever. Men say little about acute anti-men gender discrimination in family courts and child custody decisions. Men maintain stoic indifference to being smeared as rapists and being targeted on college campuses for absurd sex regulations. Perhaps men enjoy love servitude to women, relish working as slaves, and cherish being imprisoned. Yet Chrétien de Troyes’s late-twelfth-century Arthurian romance Lancelot hints at a different answer. Men apparently resisted love servitude to women with the same tactics subordinate workers resist orders around the world today.
In Lancelot, a girl rescued the knight Lancelot from his imprisonment atop a tall tower. In popular romance, usually the white knight in shining armor rescues the damsel in distress from imprisonment atop a tall tower. The white knight Lancelot, however, was a manlet. That helps to explain some subsequent events. After the girl rescued Lancelot from the tower, she took him to her favorite retreat, a country house, safe, secluded, and well stocked with provisions. There servants removed Lancelot’s cloths, which were filthy from his languishing in prison. Then:
the girl put him to sleep In a tall, magnificent bed, And later gave him a bath And such wonderful care that I couldn’t Tell you half if I tried: She treated him as sweetly As if he’d been her father. She brought him back to life, Completely renewed and restored. 
An earlier Latin romance, Apollonius King of Tyre, presented a much different account of a young man-doctor reviving a beautiful young woman. If the girl in Lancelot was receptive and not ugly, a manly knight might have expressed his gratitude to her in a more exciting way. Perhaps she noticed something lacking extension. That would explain why she gave him a bath and treated him as if he were her father.
Urging the girl to rescue him, the manlet Lancelot swore to be her obedient servant. He implicitly promised to be not like other men in servitude to women. Lancelot declared:
I swear I’ll be yours to command For all the rest of my life … there’ll never be a day When I won’t do what you ask. Whatever you ask, if it’s in My power, will be done — and done as quickly as I can do it. 
Most women who order their man-servant (husband, boyfriend, etc.) to do something resent the response “not today.” Lancelot swore that there would never be such a day. Another standard man-servant response is “later.” Lancelot swore that he would obey the woman’s orders “as quickly as I can.” Lancelot, of course, hedged and qualified with words about his potency. Those reservations about potency probably were relevant when the girl gave him a bath.
From the commanding heights of culture, influential institutions and voices teach men to be subordinate to women. But boys aren’t stupid, and men aren’t stupid, either. Overpowered in social communication, men resort to passive resistance. Such passive resistance, however, isn’t sufficient to advance men’s liberation.
* * * * *
 Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot ll. 6670-8, from Old French trans. Raffel (1997) p. 210.
The following is an expanded version of an earlier 2014 article. – PW
Many a good man of the Henpecked Club has to be on his good behaviour in order to keep on anything like peaceable footing with his better half – (1860)1
The Henpecked Club is a very real organization, global in scope, that has been in continuous operation for at least the last 200 years. It served the needs of married men who faced domestic abuse from wives, and served young bachelors who might later have to deal with the same issues when they married.
Essentially a project for creating ‘Good Men,’ the Henpecked Club consisted of an international network of meeting-places where men came for support, especially if enduring emotional and physical abuse from wives. In this aspect the club is similar to Al-Anon, the modern support-movement for spouses of alcoholics. The clubs actively encouraged husbands to tolerate wives’ abuse, with the strategy of placating them with any means necessary to moderate abusive behaviours.
The key word there is placate, which the men did in spades. Club members, for instance, were expected to take their wives breakfast in bed daily and to do most of the household chores even after a hard day’s work, with the hope that this would place wives in a more amiable frame of mind or, perhaps more accurately, in a less abusive mood. The following are instructions to all members of the club:
That every member of this society shall kindle the fire, set the kettle over, and have the water boiling before he awakes his wife in the morning.
That every member shall take his wife her clothes to bed, after having aired and made them warm and comfortable, or be fined twopence for each offence.
That he shall state to his wife the work he has done, and ask if there is anything more she wishes him to perform before he goes to his work in the morning.
That if any member or members should come home to his dinner, and find his wife gossiping and the dinner not ready, he shall not complain; but cook for himself and family, and something for his wife that will make her comfortable when she does come home, or forfeit threepence.
That if any member or members after their day’s labour come home and find that his wife has not washed the pots, or any other thing he thinks should have been done, he must do the same himself, and not find fault; he must likewise mend the fire, warm the water, sweep the house, mop and scrub the floor, and them make the bed or beds to her satisfaction, or forfeit fourpence.
That when any member shall have finished his week’s work, he shall return home with his wages and give the same to his wife.
That when any member has given the wages to his wife, he shall ask her what she wishes him to do the next, if she wishes him to go to the shop he must go, but if she wish to go herself he must stay at home to clean the house and furniture, and set things in order, that she may be satisfied when she returns, or forfeit sixpence.
That every Sunday morning, each member shall rise at six o’clock, kindle the fire, clean and dress the children (if any) and get them ready for school, before his beloved wife shall be disturbed; but if she call for a pipe of tobacco, a pinch of snuff, or a glass of some nourishing cordial, he shall serve her that instant, or forfeit sixpence.
That peradventure a member’s wife may wish to have some splendid clothing such as a silk velvet bonnet, a fine cap with artificials, a new gown, crinoline, boots, sandals, silk stockings, or any other article of fashionable dress, her husband shall provide for such things out of his over-time money, or forfeit one shilling and eightpence.
That when a member’s wife is sick or in labour, he shall run for the doctor as fast as he can, whether it be night or day, frost or snow, hail or rain, or forfeit two shillings.
That any member refusing to clean the child when it has shitten or bawed (as the term may be), he shall forfeit sixpence.
That every member shall wash the child’s shitten hippins [diapers], when his wife order him or forfeit fourpence.
That every Monday night, each member shall clean his wife and children’s shoes and clogs.
That every Tuesday night each member shall look up the clothes for washing.
That every Wednesday night each member shall look the buttery over, and see whether there be a sufficient quantity of tea, coffee, sugar, butter, bread, cheese, meal, flour, beef or mutton, and if found wanting, he shall provide the same without grumbling.
That every Thursday night, each member shall provide for his loving wife such things as may improve her private happiness, such as cordials or spirits, according to circumstances.
That every Friday night, each member shall look up the stockings, shirts, &c., and such as want mending he shall mend them.
That every member shall pay the strictest observance to the five last-named rules or forfeit threepence for every neglect on conviction before the committee.2
Such instructions, which were typical of most of the Henpecked Clubs, were sometimes couched in self-mocking humor by the members suffering abuse by wives, and this has led to the erroneous assumption that the clubs were merely comedy. But that assumption is incorrect (and perhaps a little driven by denial of women’s violence) for the issue of domestic abuse was a serious concern for the clubs, as were strategies for dealing with same.
Men were also advised to absorb any violence or abuse without complaint, stoically tolerating it so as not to provoke or further upset the perpetrator. This, explained club policy, was how one become a ‘good man.’ If the man’s wife continued her abuse after these conciliatory gestures, Club officials would ask the man what he may have unwittingly done to provoke her, followed by “How might you better serve her so she doesn’t become upset again?” The answer to that question was typically for the husband to do more housework, but there was also a novel intervention of ‘rocking a wife to sleep,’ of which I will say more shortly.
Henpecked clubs existed in their hundreds from the 1700s through to contemporary times, and in places as diverse as England, Austria, USA, Germany, France, Australia, Yugoslavia, China, and Japan.
Why haven’t we heard of these clubs, many containing several hundred members struggling to find ways to deal with difficult marriages, in an age when we are so hyper-focused on gender relations? Not even a peep from historians, despite the availability of material about Henpecked Clubs. Why?
Because it doesn’t chime with the image of a ‘dominant patriarchal husband’ proffered in modern interpretations of history.
“[Husbands] submit to the pleasing bondage of their wives, in as great numbers, and with as much good will, as in any enlightened period of ancient or modern times.
“Henpeckicism, which has been graced by ranking as its Members the greater part of the most celebrated men who have appeared since the creation to the present day, whether legislators, philosophers, conquerors, poets or divines, requires no other argument to vindicate and establish its right to the most extensive influence and operation, than the language of every lover, who readily acknowledges himself to be, and swears to continue, the slave of his mistress, before marriage; ergo, he who denies her supremacy, when she becomes his wife, is guilty of the most criminal and unnatural rebellion against womanly authority that God himself have set over him. If other arguments were wanted, however, many might be adduced to prove that the superiority of the female is an ordination of Nature. For example, the noblest or fiercest dog will tamely submit to the snarling and snapping of the most pitiful bitch of the species.”
“For in Henpeckicism there is no distinction: the peerless woman lords it over her vassal even as the peasant: All are equally comprised in the description so happily given by the poet:
“The crouching vassal of the tyrant wife,
“Who has no sixpence but in her possession,
“Who has no will but in her high permission,
“Who must to her his dear friends secrets tell,
“Who dreads a curtain lecture worse than hell”
“The rules observed by the Members of those Meetings were every way adapted to preserve the existence of the institution. Such Members as had the honour of receiving a black eye from their spouses, were entitled to an allowance of 10s. 6d. per week, for so long as the glorious colouring remained: The allowance for two black eyes was £1 1s 0d. In all cases, proof was required that the contusion was received according to the true spirit of genuine Henpeckicism, that is, without resistance or murmuring, according to the example of that inestimable deceased Member, Socrates, who, together with his Lady, is alluded to by the poet in the following lines:
“How oft she scolded in a day he knew,
“How many pisspots at the sage she threw,
“Who took it patiently, and wip’d his head-
“Rain follows thunder – that was all he said.”
Such married men as had not the honour to appertain to the Society, were earnestly requested to attend these Meetings, not as Members, but as visitors, in order that they might be induced to unite themselves with it, by witnessing the perfect happiness which it was calculated to confer. For what happiness can be greater than that of belonging to a spouse who takes upon herself the weighty care of regulating not only her own conduct, but that of her husband and the rest of her family; to a spouse who takes the trouble of receiving and paying all money; to a spouse who kindly undertakes the task of judging for her husband (in every occurence) of what is proper for him to do; of what time he should spend in public houses; of how much money he must expend; of what secrets ought to be retained in his or rather her possession, and of what ought to be divulged to the world? In short, she who takes upon herself all anxiety, all trouble, and leaves to her darling husband nothing to do but the delightful task of executing her commands; well remembering that:
“His proper body is not his, but mine,
“For so said Paul, and Paul’s a sound divine.”
The design and ostensible object of the Institution having always been to preserve, and even, if possible, to extend the just and laudable dominion of the fair sex, the several meetings thought it proper, also, to request the attendance of bachelors, not merely with a view that they might be benefited by witnessing such perfect examples of submission, but that those bachelors who had not yet turned their thoughts toward matrimony, or who might have overlooked so great an inducement to enter into the married state as the existence of out Institution, might be induced, as early as possible, to place themselves on a level, in this respect, with most of the greatest men in the world.
“The most common methods by which females attempt the full exercise of that unlimited power which of right belongs to them, is, at a very early period after marriage, to become extremely noisy and abusive, and to make a point of dealing out blame very liberally to their husbands for every action which they commit, whether they are really of the opinion that their conduct has been reprehensible or not. This method is at some times attended by blows. Though a vigorous and persevering course of this treatment may frequently be successful, yet there is considerable danger of resistance from those brutal fellows injudiciously termed men of spirit, a resistance which may be attended with consequences extremely injurious to female countenance. I would strenuously recommend this method be pursued by women, however, with all those effeminate characters who are more afraid of sustaining a drubbing, than eager to vindicate their title to manhood, as would especially advise it to be practiced on the whole tribe of fops or puppies, creatures possessed of no better proofs that they are privileged to rank as men, than that they have two legs and wear breeches.
“Some women pursue a course quite the opposite of this, and with greater success. They at one time load their husbands with caresses, magnify their own affection, and seem to have no other avocation worth their attention but that of convincing them that the sole study of their lives will be to invent fresh blandishments, and to render them in all respects completely happy. At other times, however, they affect a sulkiness of behaviour: a sudden and sullen gloom succeeds their former cheerfulness; they sigh frequently, and burst into floods of tears; nay, they are even seized with swoonings and hysterics.
The wretched husband of such a wife, alarmed at these surprising symptoms, anxiously enquires the cause. She affects to evade the question–he becomes more importunate–she persists in declining to assign a reason–his importunities are redoubled–till he is at last informed, with gentle reproaches and a burst of grief, that he himself is breaking her heart; that the reward of all her love is his neglect, &c. &c. Astonished at a charge which he is wholly unconscious of having merited, he at first endeavours to ridicule what he terms her childish uneasiness. She affects, however, still to doubt–he makes solemn protestations of his innocence; and they are reconciled. In a few days, however, the same farce is played out again, and again, and again, till the unhappy man is at length almost convinced, contrary to the evidence of his own senses, that his conduct has been criminal. Nay, to pacify his afflicted partner, he is even brought to confess his imaginary faults, and to promise amendment in the future. For fear of unintentionally giving offence, he learns to keep a strict watch over his own actions, becomes afraid to take any notice of those of his wife, and is, for the same reason, cautious of contradicting her, lest his cruelty should cause her to swoon; and, in short, becomes a Member of the Henpecked Society.
“Though the great object of our Society is to extend the domination of the female sex, it is far from being its intention to obtain that end by such reprehensible or unhappy means. The only worthy Members of the Society are those who have become so, as much by conviction of its utility, as by entertaining a due sense of the superiority of their wives. All such Members, however, have been treated in a manner very different from the preceding. They have (and let every wife endeavour to follow the same plan) been first brought to acknowledge that their wives, by their care and economy, were better adapted than Themselves to manage their concerns; have been satisfied, by their attentive behaviour, that they were well qualified to govern their families; and have been convinced, by their mildness and moderation, that the authority with which they were invested would never be abused. In such a family, resistance will never be attempted. Commands from the one party will be met by prompt obedience from the other. Perpetual harmony will be established; and correction, when necessary, will be submitted to, according to the fundamental rule of the Society, without murmuring and without resistance.”3
The Good Man’s Wife Pacifier
Henpeck’d Club’s Peace Box – Patent Cure for a Cross Wife
The good men of the Henpecked Club were responsible for an interesting innovation: an adult-sized rocking cradle, which was used for soothing nagging wives instead of babies. If you look closely you can see curved feet that allowed the cradle to be gently rocked from side-to-side by the dutiful husband.
The ‘Peace Box’ was invented by a club member named Harry Tap in 1862, and several were manufactured for hire by Henpecked Club members suffering under tempestuous behaviour from wives. If a wife was abusing her husband too much, the husband would entreat his wife to recline in the box, which could be rocked like a child’s cot in order to send the wife to sleep. While she was sleeping the husband would perform all the household chores then awaken his wife who would hopefully have calmed down.
With those juicy historical morsels now in the open, we seem to have come full circle, back to the future. Here we remain, with hat in hand, beseeching Dear Woman for forgiveness for having displeased her, hoping that she will notice how hard we are trying to be good men.
You may at this point be feeling nauseous in the knowledge that men have been kowtowing to such abuse for hundreds if not thousands of years, and yet we’re still being asked to to Take It Like A Man™, Man Up™, and be Good Men™. If you are feeling that way you are not alone, and with the growing army of men and women in the MHRM you can help bring an end to such appalling gynocentric customs.
 Huddersfield Chronicle – Saturday 11 August 1860
 This list of duties was in use at the Rochdale chapter of the club and is a condensed version of an earlier official document circulated among clubs: New Rules and Orders Reformation Act (1840)
 Some Account of that Ancient and Honourable Society, Vulgarly Denominated The Henpecked Club (1810)
Authors note: The below article was taken as a base commentary and expanded by August Løvenskiolds HERE. While I do not agree with all the expanded points made by August, I have added his article to this website for the purpose of discussion. – PW
The following is a brief comment on Turd Flinging Monkey’s theory referred to as the ‘traditionalism cycle’ appearing in major civilizations. The cycle goes something like this:
The theory is interesting on paper, though more unrealistic in practice for being too mechanistic and tidy; i.e., he proposes that societies start out as patriarchally controlled, then move through traditional and progressive forms of gynocentrism before collapsing under their own weight. The theory says that gynocentrism escalates with the advent of abundance (if and when abundance exists in a given culture).
What I appreciate about TFM’s theory is that he did some actual historical research to back it up – something sorely lacking in the discussion of the roots of gynocentrism. Instead of actual research we frequently see a pull-it-out-of-your-ass histories, or alternatively dismissive appeals to biology – “it’s all in the genes.”
The pull-it-out-of-your-ass kind of history is based on half-guesses and assumptions with little to no evidence – except perhaps references to items like Lysistrata, a play; Helen of Troy, a myth, religious tales, fairy tales, and other fantasy sources – ie. it’s a huge error to assume myths and fables mirror real life. Have you ever seen a centaur… surely the classical depictions of centaurs must have mirrored real creatures and behaviors or they wouldn’t have mentioned it?! Any thinking person will recognize the problem; relying on ancient mythologies is akin to having future zoologists base the history of equine evolution on episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Same goes for reductive biological explanations. Aside from the laziness of such approaches, the error in over-emphasizing biology is that biology does not exist, or rather doesn’t exist as a thing-in-itself. Where you see biology you will always see a facilitating environment shaping it.
Fortunately, TFM breaks with the catalogue of errors and is trying to keep it fact based and real, even if he falls short by relying on an overly naïve, clockwork model that doesn’t speak to the complexities of cultural metamorphosis.
With that said there are some major, unspoken nuances that I’d like to add to the conversation. The first is that there are degrees of gynocentric culture in both its traditional and progressive forms. Gynocentric societies are not cookie-cutter one size for all. Like hurricane categories with wind strengths of one to five, gynocentric culture can be imagined in a similar way – as differing in reach and packing winds anywhere from destructive to catastrophic.
Like hurricanes, which become more intense depending on a confluence of atmospheric pressure, humidity, and wind direction, likewise the intensity of a given gynocentric culture rests on multiple factors. TFM has named one of them in the video below: abundance. This is a good start, one that, in isolation from other factors, can definitely lead to a (lets call it) ‘category one’ gynocentric culture. But as we add more contributing factors the gynocentrism gets more pervasive and more destructive – factors like male to female population ratio; aristocratic conventions influencing the masses; the presence of military campaigns; and the strength and structure of cultural narratives perpetuating the sentiment (etc.). As these and many other factors converge the strength of gynocentric culture grows potentially up to a ‘category five’ such as was born in the Middle Ages with the mother of all gynocentric cultures that has spanned over 800 yrs and been imported from Europe to the rest of the world.
I don’t intend to give an exhaustive reply here but will end with a general comment about our present culture. At this point I’m still assuming the gynocentric culture birthed in medieval Europe is unprecedented in the long path of history – it was only there, and then that the combination of romantic chivalry and courtly love were born, along with a bunch of other contributing factors that made this gynocentric revolution the mother of them all. But there’s no doubt there have occurred smaller, less intense manifestations of gynocentric culture throughout history along the lines TFM suggests.