Wednesday Word Tangle: How to be a knight in shining armour

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‘Chivalry’s not dead.’

When I think of this phrase, I imagine flirty older ladies called Mavis or Irene twittering as they bat their spidery lashes at the man pulling out their chair or holding a door open for them.

CHIVALRY.

When you hear it, do you think of these ladies, scent heavy enough to down a stampeding rhino, bust broad enough for every member of the Treorchy Welsh Male Voice Choir to rest his weary head on after a tiring eisteddfod?

Or do you imagine Arthurian knights, chastity belts and magical swords hefted by watery bints?

Well, as I’ve chosen CHIVALRY for this week’s Wednesday Word Tangle, you better have a good think about it. Come, take my hand, let’s have a wander.

Medieval codes of chivalry vary depending on the source, but one set was described in the 12th century Song of Roland, a French chanson de geste, or ‘song of great deeds’ (i.e a ditty written in celebration of killing), recounting the story of Charlemagne’s nephew. According to the song, amongst other things knights must remember,

to protect the weak and defenceless

to give succour to widows and orphans

to live by honour and for glory

to fight for the welfare of all

to obey those placed in authority

to eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit

to respect the honour of women.

Now, I don’t think I’m being too much of a cynic when I say these laws weren’t always adhered to, especially if your widows were Muslim or your orphans were Jewish. Sometimes they didn’t even apply if they were Christian, or at least the wrong kind of Christian. In 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, when the knights were short of cash to fund the trip to Jerusalem, they plundered the Eastern Christian city of Constantinople, killing and torturing a fair number of its citizens – men, women and children – in the process. Clearly, obeying authority didn’t always coincide with protecting the weak and defenceless.

I guess the closest thing we have to chivalry today is what you’d call ‘gentlemanly’ behaviour. When I was a teenager, the boys at the local nightclubs seemed to think being a gentleman consisted of buying a girl you fancied a vodka and orange and holding her hair out of the firing line as she’s regurgitated a dozen of them behind the wheelie bins in the carpark. Personally, I always insisted on buying my own drinks, always suspecting any staggering, sweaty beau bearing luminous drinks at the end of the night only did it so he didn’t have to bear the shame of leaving the club alone.

I don’t expect a man to hold a door open for me just because I’m female. I don’t see why the arrangement of my genitalia should have a particular impact on doors. Is there something magical about tucked away bits that compels some men to grab the nearest handle?

And what about those (increasingly rare) times when men – ones old enough to be your dad, maybe your uncle – look shamefaced or apologise for swearing in front of you. It’s rather quaint and vaguely endearing, but I’m no delicate flower. My knicker arrangement does not mean I will spontaneously combust at the first hearing of an ‘f’ an ‘s’ or even – da-da-daaa – that most powerful of swears, a ‘c’ word.

I would, though, prefer it if folk – male or female – didn’t feel the need to cuss like a navvy, a docker or any other kind of now-defunct manual worker in my local supermarket/ on my bus home at full volume in an eye-blisteringly aggressive manner.

Being a gentleman is as good as dead. So is chivalry, thank goodness.

Let’s forget outmoded codes of behaviour based on gender and just be a bit nicer to everyone.

Forget CHIVALRY. A bit of empathy is what we all need.


Ta to Kittykat, the founder of W4W

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10 thoughts on “Wednesday Word Tangle: How to be a knight in shining armour

  1. Well, I think I disagree! I love chivalry and welcome it.
    I am a card carrying feminist and am obviously well capable of holding my own door open, but I think it is charming when someone, male or female, does it for me.
    I think it is basically about showing respect and kindness. Maybe you are right that the term chivalry is outdated. Maybe its just basic manners?
    Either way, I open doors for others, offer my seat and like to think I am considerate, so I do love when the favours are returned.
    I love how much you research for your posts too btw!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ta, love. Oh, I totally agree. I could rant all day about manners, I just don’t think it has to be reserved to man on woman – if you know what I mean 🙂 I loathe rudeness and ignorance, the way people won’t do something small and courteous for someone just because you don’t know them. What’s wrong with just giving people a nod if they hold open the door or step aside so you can come through? And don’t get me started on littering…. Grrr. People should just be kinder generally.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, my lord, yes! Dirty swines. Making the neighbourhood worse for everyone just because they can’t be arsed. Might have to stop now. Starting to sound like a mad, ranty old bird 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha! Go for it!
        I once walked home with my Cavachon’s poop resting on a tissue in my palm because I had run out of baggies and wasn’t going to just leave it there. NOT pleasant, but it was the right thing to do. God, did I wash my hands about 20,000 times once I got home!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chivalry was only ever applicable to other noble folk – I doubt female servants had any hope of having their honour respected…
    But wouldn’t it be nice if people could just be kind to each other? Ah well, we can dream.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re quite right – as was common for centuries, it seemed only the voices of nobles that were listened to. Serfs were disposable, a lower form of being.
      Yes, there needs to be more empathy in the world, doesn’t there? If we could all just imagine what it’s like to feel as someone else does, maybe …

      Liked by 1 person

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