Is Chivalry Still Appropriate Today?

Boy with cardboard swordI’ve been asked to teach a kid’s etiquette class to both boys and girls. As I’ve been putting together the curriculum, I had to pause when it came to teaching appropriate behavior for boys for treating girls and women in this modern day. I wondered should men still be expected to open the door for a woman, to pull her chair out, help her with her bags, walk on the street side of the sidewalk to protect her from splashes, etc.?

I decided to put the question out to my Twitter and Facebook contacts. With the exception of one neutral answer, everyone responded that chivalry is still important. Both men and women agree. I also heard from a few women how much they appreciate those niceties. They like being treated like a lady. And you know, so do I. But I struggle with that because really, men and woman are equals and I have wondered if chivalrous acts mean women are weak or incapable. I came of age during the feminist movement, so I was taught that chivalry is insulting to women.

As I read more and pondered this further I came to the conclusion that chivalrous acts are not about seeing women as weak but rather as a way for men to be gentlemanly, courteous and respectful of women.  People as a whole have gotten ruder and disrespectful over the years, so returning to a time when men are gentlemen and women are ladies would be a great step towards restoring civility and courtesy.

After my informal research and much discussion with friends and family, I’ve decided that I’m going to teach the boys in my class that they should treat girls with respect and the girls should not only allow it but kindly expect it. Whether that’s holding the door open for her, helping her with her coat, pulling her chair out or helping her carry something heavy; all of those acts show respect to a woman and let her feel like a lady.

Long live chivalry and a more genteel time.

Please note: We have a new method of delivering blog posts to your inbox. If you have previously received these blog posts through Feedburner, please subscribe to receive these blog posts through the form below and unsubscribe to the posts you receive through Feedburner.

Feel free to share:


Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Clare on December 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm


  2. Alice Dubiel on December 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I meant to respond before. As a feminist, I think that the goals of equality mean being polite to everyone, holding doors open, etc. for everyone. As the parent of a (now 21 year old) man, I have attempted to model gender neutral manners. I think your note about the increasing rudeness of society is not the result of feminism; there is really no correlation other than time. As for the “past,” don’t forget that Sojourner Truth never had any doors opened for her. My son is very interested in the issue of etiquette especially in changing times because he feels assumptions are unfair; at the same time he is known for having good manners. Did you confer with Judith Martin’s writings?

  3. Arden Clise on December 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Hi Alice,

    Thank you for your comment. I didn’t mean to imply that feminism has eroded civility. We’ve become a more uncivil society for many reasons, feminism is not one of them. Good point about Soujourner Truth not having doors opened for her.

    I do support gender neutral manners. Women should be as helpful and courteous as men. Women can help others with their coat, their chair, etc. But, I do think I will teach the history of these customs as they have applied to men.

    There is much food for thought in this issue.

  4. Scott Farrell on December 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Alice – thanks for a thoughtful post on the subject of chivalry. Respect is the underlying basis of chivalry, and while polite demonstrations of respectfulness have changed through the ages, the sense of civility and chivalry are still very important in today’s world – perhaps even more so than in ages past, in fact. Today, when it’s so easy to feel “disconnected” from family, neighbors or coworkers, it’s important to learn how to be respectful without being condescending.
    It’s also important, in today’s society, to recognize that there are many situations we will encounter, and the expectations of chivalry will vary accordingly. How you treat your wife is different from the way you treat a lady on your first date; and those, in turn, are different from how a male employee would treat a female employer, how a male salesperson would treat a female client, or how a male teacher would treat a female student. Yet in each case, there are still ways in which chivalry can be – respectfully and appropriately – displayed.
    It’s sad, I think, that so many people today (of both genders) have been left with the impression that “gender equality” means “equal discourtesy to all.” I salute you for keeping the practice of chivalry alive!
    I invite you and your readers to my website to explore the topic a little deeper, if you like:

  5. ChrisD on June 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

    What? Let’s be honest here; the feminist movement rejected chivalry as “benevolent sexism.” Even now, go to the top feminist websites which cater to younger women (e.g. and and they continue to maintain that chivalry is sexist.

    So, feminist does in fact get a lot of the blame for the change in behavior of men toward women. And, for a fact, chivalry is counter to feminism’s gender equality message. There is no reason to offer women any more courtesy or kindness than men are afforded.

    So, it is in keeping with feminist theory to get rid of the whole concept of chivalry and stick with gender neutral common courtesy. Meaning, give women the same level of courtesy given to men, no more no less.

  6. Arden Clise on June 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for your comment Chris. I don’t think feminism is to blame for men’s behavior change towards women. I think it’s part of it, but over the years so many things have led to discourteous behavior towards women – less discipline in schools; women being objectified in the media; busy two working parents who don’t always have time to teach and reinforce polite behavior; celebrities, VIPs and politicians acting badly and not receiving consequences; an increase in communication online and through digital devices. All of those have led to a more discourteous society for both men and women.

    I agree with gender equal courtesy. Women should hold doors open for others, let their elders enter a room or elevator first, etc. I don’t see a problem with chivalry. I will always be a feminist and yet I appreciate it when my husband walks on the curbside, helps me with my coat, or holds doors open for me. It’s just nice and it doesn’t make me feel inferior or weak.

  7. Louie on November 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Chivalry is very important. I agree with you. There should be more chivalrous men out there and teaching boys and girls about chivalry is a great thing to do because not only will the boys give respect to the ladies but the ladies will appreciate it and let themselves be respected more often. I mean who doesn’t like it when a guy holds open a door for you? Its a very great aspect to have.

  8. ArdenClise on November 21, 2014 at 9:33 am

    @Louie  I agree Louie. It’s not about being condescending to women, it’s being respectful and kind. I love it when anyone holds the door open for me and I do the same. You really notice it though, when a man doesn’t hold the door open or let a woman on the elevator first. It just seems rude.
    Thanks for commenting.

Leave a Comment