When was the last time someone opened the door for you? Or gave you their seat on the train? Or asked if you needed help carrying your grocery bags? If you assumed I am writing this for women only, then you are wrong. I’m talking about chivalry and, it’s no longer gender specific.
Chivalry began in medieval times as a moral and social code for knights. It implied that women were damsels in distress who needed saving by men. In the 1970’s and 80’s the idea of chivalry was dragged through the mud as women fought for their rights in the work place, attempting to shatter the glass ceiling and be hired as Executive and CEOs. Revolutionizing gender norms, it would have been impossible for a woman to succeed if she had positioned herself as the weaker sex who needed help. Instead, many women resented acts of chivalry and found the only way to success was to act like a man.
But today as gender roles are being reevaluated throughout our society, it is not unheard of to see stay-at-home dads or have women be the sole provider of their families, chivalry is getting a facelift.
John Rasiej founder of Speak Louder than Words is on a mission to bring chivalry back. Rasiej became more chivalrous after a 30 day challenge given to him by a close friend and mentor. Oh, and his mentor was a man.
“Because I needed a nudge from another guy (I don’t know that I could have responded the same way if had been my wife or another woman asking me to be that way), I think lots of men could use the same advice from another man. This way it doesn’t come across as an entreaty by women but rather from someone who can see the value to the man and the overall relationship.” Rasiej explains.
As John became more chivalrous his wife Luisa too learned an important lesson, to be patient in receiving acts of kindness and not solicit them. Pretty soon, they not only saw changes in their marriage but in other aspects of their lives as well. Now, five years later John is out to spread the word and update the definition of “chivalry”.
“It [chivalry] isn’t sexist. It recognizes the fact that there is equality on the job front and on the opportunity front but that doesn’t mean it’s the same on a social front. Today we are starting to see that men and women respond differently. There are different tactics for when you try to sell something to women or when you try to sell something to men. We are wired a little different. And, that notion isn’t sexist.”
The outdated idea of chivalry (a man opening a car door for a woman) has now been replaced with what John calls “a caring muscle”. And, just like any other muscle, the more you practice the stronger it gets.
John first started out small by opening car doors and helping Luisa with her jacket. But, he soon realized that true 21st Century chivalry was much more about thoughtfulness then it was about being the stronger sex. “Luisa and I share a car” Rasiej tells me “When I drive the car I like to listen to loud rock music. My wife Luisa, on the other hand is more of an NPR person. One day she mentioned to me off handedly that she was surprised by how loud the music was in the car when she started it. So when I got home the next day, I remembered what she said, and I simply turned down the music and switched the channel to NPR so that when she drove the next morning the radio was already set.” Chivalry then, is about putting someone’s needs before your own, and in that light, it’s a social necessity.
Chivalry is a unique societal custom as it focuses mainly on acts or gestures of kindness that a man extends to a woman. Courtesy extended to someone of either gender by either gender does not fall into the same category. What John has discovered is he was more inclined to learn how to be chivalrous when another man introduced the subject to him then when his wife Luisa would ask him to be more caring or sensitive. And now, seeing the effects it’s had not only on his marriage but his lifestyle, business and overall brand, he’s looking to recruit a new group of gentlemen and help coach them on how to become 21st Century Knights.
“We seem to be in a society that’s ready to throw out the old automatically because it’s thought of as outdated.” Rasiej observes, “But some concepts, like chivalry, are timeless and more relevant than most current ideas.”
Rasiej began Bring Chivalry Back by launching #Chivalry365 a movement meant to inspire men (and women) everywhere to do one act of chivalry every day for one year. For more information on programs and mentorship follow Rasiej on Facebook at Chivalry Matters or on www.BringChivalryBack.com