Living in a co-ed dorm, I’ve witnessed the blossoming of many close male-female friendships. I’ve also heard a lot of boys asking their female friends for advice, or simply for an explanation of why girls do the things they do. Men often seem perplexed by the women in their lives, probably because in many ways, the two sexes communicate differently. To men, women think and express themselves in a hopelessly vague and roundabout way—some might even call it a different language. This often leaves men pondering mixed signals and agonizing over how to behave around women. One of their most common concerns is chivalry. After all, this is the 21st century; women are demanding to be treated as equals. Right? But why is it that so many girls insist chivalry survives?
I think most college-aged women would agree: it’s…complicated. Here’s how I see it: chivalry is not dead, but it has undergone some major changes in the last few centuries. So, gentlemen, I give you a woman’s perspective on the issue, as clearly and concisely as I can manage:
We like it when you hold the door for us. It’s a nice gesture. Most of us, most of the time, will try to verbally express our appreciation for this gesture. If a girl does not acknowledge this gesture, ever, she is probably not worth your time.
On the other hand, please do not go to any extremes—i.e., by throwing your coat over a puddle for us to step on. This is simply not practical, and it makes us feel bad for ruining your coat.
Also, trying too hard to be chivalrous can make you seem insincere—like you’re only being polite to win our affection. While this is flattering, it tends to make us nervous. We have to wonder what your motives are and what you’re hiding under that mask. Keep in mind that we want you to be nice, but we also want you to be yourself. If you can’t be both of these things, then we don’t want you at all.
And again, it is the 21st century. We need to know that you respect us. Most of us, at Case in particular, are smart, capable women with ambitions beyond becoming a modern-day June Cleaver. We want a guy who recognizes and appreciates this, and who encourages us to be successful. We certainly do not want someone so insecure that he feels threatened by our success.
But this should not keep you from holding the door for us. Like I said, it’s a nice gesture.
By no means do I speak for all women everywhere, or even on Case’s campus—we are all different and you cannot hope to please us all. But in general, it never hurts to be polite, as long as you don’t go overboard. And although chivalry is no longer expected, being a gentleman will likely earn you a few brownie points with most women.