“Chivalry” Then and Now

In the Middle Ages, Richard Abels explains in his NY Times article, chivalry was a code of conduct followed by the military nobility which called for them to have “skill in combat, courage and loyalty to one’s lord… [as well as] courtliness and medieval Christian values.” In modern times, “chivalry” has come to mean “‘gentlemanly’ behavior, manifested through courtesy toward the ‘fair sex’, honor, courage, loyalty, athletic prowess and fighting ‘fair'”; a definition Abels says stems from 18th century Romantics’ ideas of the Middle Ages. There is debate today over the concept’s appropriateness in a society that is striving to eliminate the idea of the “fairer sex” in order for women to achieve social, economic, and political equality. Some argue that chivalry only perpetuates the attitude that women are weak and inferior; while others say chivalry is synonymous with common courtesy, and that we need more of it in our increasingly self-centered world. The NY Times’ “Room For Debate” section online includes an introduction to this debate and a short post from each of the 6 debaters, including Abels. The main page can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/07/30/can-chivalry-be-brought-back-to-life

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