Friday, July 3, 2009

Whatever Happened To Gallantry?

Krista describes herself as a petite female college student. Confused by contemporary dating practices she wrote to Philip Galanes, proprietor of the New York Times column, Social Q's. Link here.

Krista is puzzled because when she goes out on "bona fide" dates, her male companions, all of whom live close to her, do not walk her home. They do not even offer to walk her home. Once she even walked her date home. At times these dates last until 3:00 a.m.

She asks this question: "Is it old fashioned to expect my dates to go slightly out of their way when we live in a relatively safe neighborhood? Is the problem my expectations or their manners?"

Galanes begins by exclaiming the feelings that I had when I read this: whatever happened to gallantry? Whatever happened to common courtesy? When did we all forget that a young woman out by herself at 3:00 a.m. might be vulnerable in ways that a man would not be?

Apparently, gallantry and courtesy and respect for women went the way of gender equality.

Many men have been trained to believe that walking a woman home after a date-- even suggesting such a thing-- is an insult to her strength, her Independence, her autonomy, and her ability to fend for herself. Thus, they do not even offer.

The old notion that men might protect women went the way of the patriarchy.

But since women still seem to be more vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks, would it be too much to question the dubious assumption on which this dismissal stands?

Ask yourself this: what should an enlightened young college man do if his date is attacked or if he comes upon a woman being attacked by a man? Should he respect her independence and autonomy and let her fend for herself?

In fact, this has nothing to do with a woman's autonomy and respect. It involves her adherence to a cause and her willingness to advertise her adherence by making her life a testimony to it. Personal safety be damned!

As always, Galanes offers a reasonable and judicious solution. Correctly, he tries to split the difference. Emphasizing the fact that Krista's neighborhood is "relatively safe" he says that the real issue is how to get her home safely.

He recommends that she flat out ask her next date if he would not mind terribly walking her home. An excellent suggestion.

Most young men have been acculturated into treating young women rudely, but often a gentle nudge will allow them to tap into their reservoirs of repressed courtesy.

Let's place some emphasis on the fact that dropping a woman off on a street corner at 3:00 a.m. is rude and disrespectful. Once you have trained men to treat women rudely, is it any wonder that they feel that they have the right and duty to toss them aside after hook-ups?

College men should be strong enough to resist feminist demands that they let young women fend for themselves in the middle of the night. They should have enough backbone to stand up for what is right and polite, even at the risk of being denounced as a relic.

To young men I would offer one last piece of advice. The young woman who chastises you for not allowing her to fend for herself at 3:00 a.m. is not relationship material.

If she is that enamored of her ideology, she is not going to feel very connected to you. Unless you wish to make your relationship into fodder for the culture wars, stick with the women who will allow you a last measure of gallantry.

No comments: