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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Last updated: 8:24pm

Basic morals of chivalry still relevant today



It was our first date. We spent the evening getting to know each other over a plate of sushi, and by the time we finished the last roll, I felt butterflies in my stomach. However, our perfect evening of food and flirting came screeching to a stop with the arrival of the check.

The second that the waiter plopped the small leather case between us, the mood shifted dramatically. I glanced at it cautiously while my date sipped his water for an everlasting moment.

Finally, he bluntly asked, “So … who pays?” I won’t lie, I was taken aback and nervously shuffled to find my wallet.

He ended up paying for the meal and I covered the tip, but there was no second date. When my friends asked about how it went, I told them about the great conversation we had, but none of that mattered when I brought up what happened at the end. They immediately rolled their eyes and told me I deserved better, but something felt off.

Young men and women are frequently left scratching their heads due to the confusing and vague interpretations of chivalry that exist in modern day society. We are losing sight of the basis of honor and respect that medieval chivalry was founded on and failing miserably at translating these morals into contemporary culture.

Elite Daily even claimed that “in the hookup culture we now live in, it’s pretty obvious that chivalry is completely dead.” I wouldn’t say that it’s dead, but we are definitely digging its grave through our society’s fleeting interest in helping others.

Albrecht Classen, a university distinguished professor and undergraduate advisor for the department of German studies, teaches a class called Medieval Answers to Modern Problems. The course explores the essence of the humanities, who we are today and what the past could tell us about our future, he said.

“[Chivalry] represents highly developed culture and I think [one] of the problems in modern day society is that we just aren’t courtly enough. Too many people mistreat other people. We have too many conflicts because no one really aspires to those values anymore,” Classen said. “My research and my teaching turn toward that question: how do we make those values that were hard won ideals applicable to what we do today? Everything would change.”

Change is exactly what society needs. Notice, Classen didn’t state that exclusively men need to respect women or vice versa, but that all people should respect others, regardless of their gender.

Society seems willing to give up on chivalry altogether, but the underlying morals of chivalry — that people should treat one another with respect — are something modern society still needs.

Mari Yamaguchi, an undeclared sophomore, spoke about the rarity of chivalrous behavior in college, and her overall loss of respect for men as a result.

“I honestly think that the UA is probably the most unromantic place in the universe,” Yamaguchi said. “There couldn’t be a place that people would probably be more repulsed. It’s sad that we freak out when we meet a guy who has morals and feelings, and doesn’t dehumanize girls.”

Yamaguchi represents a population of women who are fed up with some men’s lack of class when it comes to their treatment of women. While she has every right to expect a heightened level of respect from men, there are two sides to every story. Davis Hollingsworth, a criminal justice junior, thinks that chivalry is something that should be a reality for both men and women, but he has found that kind actions are often misinterpreted by women.

“If you [act chivalrously towards] a girl, they take it as ‘Oh, he wants to date me or something,’” Hollingsworth said. “They take it more serious than it actually is. Sometimes I’m just buying you food, it’s not a big deal.

This miscommunication results in men who refrain from performing chivalrous acts altogether. So, who is to say that Yamaguchi didn’t encounter men with sound morals like Hollingsworth who simply didn’t want to give her the wrong impression about his intentions? Kindness isn’t a strictly give and take relationship; it’s a crucial cultural value that should be practiced at all times by all people.

Since these morals are no longer abundant, neither men nor women can tell if they are meeting someone lacking respect for others or someone who is confused about how they should behave due to conflicting perspectives of chivalry. It’s unfortunate that we are evolving into a society where random acts of kindness are reason for apprehension.

“We are human beings. We all have, hopefully, erotic desires.” Classen said. “So if an individual [performs chivalrous acts] because he or she is interested in the other…why not? If a person finds the other person attractive then great, wonderful! As long as this not translate into abuse then, why not, as long as it is respectful?”

The abundance of varying opinions regarding chivalry is evident and overwhelming. At the end of the day, respect for others, regardless of gender or personal desire, should be an ideal rooted into all members of society. Unless everyone is willing to give a little without expecting anything in return, chivalry will become a system of the past. If that happens, both men and women will pay the price — and it will cost way more than a check at the end of dinner.

Shelby Thomas is a journalism sophomore. Follow her @alyneshelby.


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