Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Socons love chivalry

Ryan Gosling, Manly Men, and the Witness of Chivalry by Emily Stimpson (alt)

Regardless, last week when Gosling bravely stepped in and prevented a woman from being hit by a car, he moved up a notch or two in my estimation. Not enough that I want his memes appearing on my Facebook wall, but enough to make me realize he’s more of a manly man than I thought. This particular act of heroism was actually rather endearing to me since I have an unfortunate habit of wandering into oncoming traffic and have been saved more than once by similarly solicitous men. I guess you could say I felt gratitude towards Gosling by proxy.
Chivalry? Or just "plain" benevolence or humaneness? Shouldn't a woman have done the same? So was Ryan Gosling obligated to save her because she is a woman? (Would he not have done so for another man?) Medieval chivalry existed within a specific social and cultural context; is it really the same as the code of the 19th century gentleman or Victorian chivalry? It cannot exist without reciprocal duties and obligations on the part of women.

And that’s why men open car doors for women— as a reminder, among other things, of their call to love, honor, and protect women.

After her explanation of why chivalrous actions are necessary for the moral development of men, she discusses women:

As women, we’re called to nourish and nurture life. Our ability to answer that call, however, depends on us being receptive. Thanks to nature, our bodies already have that down pat. It’s how we’re built. But thanks to the effects of the Fall, it usually takes a bit more nurture to bring our souls up to speed. Most of us need help letting go of our own fallen need to dominate, manipulate, and control so we can become vulnerable enough to welcome people into our lives and love them for the gifts that they are. Learning to receive a man’s arm helps us do that. At least a little.
What of respect and submission to the husband's authority (or the authority of men in civil society)? In a community where there are consequence for failing to live up to the moral idea, this or any other kind of chivalry might make sense. But in an Uhmerican megapolis? More and more men are seeing that such gestures are not acknowledged, much less appreciated. Women are not the only special class who can "claim" the help of a man's physical strength -- there are also children and the elderly, for exmaple. This is a duty of distributive justice, something owed for the good of the community as a whole, not something owed to women as individuals or as a specific group. Chivalry may have been understood by some as a vehicle for inculcating attitudes of honoring/respecting women, but it may be better understood as reinforcing social separation and protecting against over-familiarity with members of the opposite sex. Gestures of honor and respect may be laudable when displayed to one's wife, but they can also faciliate or strengthen an erroneous understanding of women (and ignorance of their weaknesses). It might be better to understand them as another mode of communication, one that signals respect and affection and so on, rather than as an act that is due to a woman because she is a woman.

Over at The Spearhead: Ryan Gosling Saves Feminist, Gratitude Not Forthcoming (See also What's Wrong With Wanting to be Loved?)

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