As gender and relationship roles change in the 21st century, so to are expectations of male chivalry, raising questions about its role in modern society.
Anthony Mazzaferro, senior cell and molecular biology major at the University of Rhode Island, said that chivalry is not dead, but it has changed along with the times. He says that being chivalrous was more or less expected of men some years ago, but today not being chivalrous could be regarded as “acting normal,” whereas being chivalrous “sets you above the majority.”
Kaan Kurt, senior Marine Affairs major, agrees that chivalry is not dead. He notes that women have become more independent and that some want to do certain things for themselves, such as pay for dinner. Kurt says that men can still be gentlemen in respect to this by holding doors open, being punctual for dates and the like.
Despite changing gender roles, Maryam Attarpour, student of political science and women’s studies, believes that “chivalry can have a place in the 21st century and in a gender equal society because chivalry really comes down to consideration and respect and that is something that each human being should have towards another, especially in a relationship.”
Hope Jutras, senior history and gender & women’s studies double major, believes that while some men still follow chivalric conduct, “As a general code of conduct for men, chivalry is dead as a societal notion of acceptable behavior.”
Jutras thinks that chivalry doesn’t even need to exist.
“I think it’s more about common courtesy,” she said, pointing out that chivalry is based on medieval notions. “I think it’s safe to say that our society is no longer medieval.”
Annie Russell, Director of the LGBTQ Center, said that expectations about gender roles can still happen in same-sex relationships.
“I think the way that I’ve seen it play out the most in the queer community is sort of an expectation that if a person is more masculine in appearance that means that they would more likely take on roles that would be associated with a man’s role,” and vice versa she said, based on her own personal experience.
“Other people’s experiences are probably different,” she adds, “but I’ve definitely seen even within the queer community some level of expectation about how things should play out as well in those relationships.”
Some people in the 20-something age group say that “real” dating is obsolete. Mazzaferro, however, does not think that’s an applicable statement to college students.
“A lot of us don’t have the time or money to go out on a real dinner date,” he said, “so we resort to staying in and watching a movie or something like that. I’d prefer the dinner, you can actually get to know someone that way.”
In terms of paying for the date, Russell says that in the queer community it is usually up to whoever asks for the date. Mazzaferro thinks that the guy should pay most of the time unless there is a specific situation, such as in a long-term relationship where the two parties decide to alternate.
“If both partners are on the same income level then an alternating pay system would be best so that one person isn’t burdened financially,” Attarpour said.
With modern technology and social networking sites, everything is immediate nowadays. We can friend request each other on Facebook, ‘poke’ each other, ‘like’ each other’s pictures or just text instead of initiating a conversation in person or on the phone. Is this a hindrance to being a “gentleman?” Mazzaferro says not necessarily.
“Every time something new makes a change to society everyone says it’s messing up the world,” Mazzaferro said. “They just aren’t willing to accept that the world changes. However, I do think it’s important to get to know someone in person rather than just reading their [online] profile. You might learn about them that way but you aren’t forming any connection with them.”
Jutras says it depends on your definition of “gentleman”.
“I define a gentleman as someone who is kind and smart and personable,” she said. “In which case, no, I don’t think technology is changing it all that much. Technology is changing how we keep in contact and how we can communicate, which is great!… Honestly, I think it’s just all about what you two, as a pair, are most comfortable with.”
Attarpour views new technology as a means of advancing getting to know someone. She prefers meeting a guy face-to-face because that allows her to detect what his true intentions are.
“I feel as though that way you have some idea of what the person really looks like and who they really are and then the little things can be discussed over Facebook or whatever other source,” she says.
Kurt and Mazzaferro both agree that, in most cases, guys are expected to make the first move. Mazzaferro says there is definitely a lot of pressure on men to initiate things.
“I think it would be better if girls did more of the initiating in that way,” says Kurt. He adds that girls know that guys want to initiate conversation thus they should, at times, make the first move instead of waiting for the guy to approach them.
“It’s just tough sometimes to initiate it because you never know what the girl’s going to think,” he says.
Jutras does not think it matters who makes the first move, it just depends on who is more outgoing.
“There shouldn’t be a person who is supposed to make the first move. It should just be whatever feels natural,” she says.
Jutras says that things like holding the door or a heavy bag are nice, “However, I’m perfectly capable of pulling out my own chair, walking in (or splashing through) puddles.Â I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.”
In Attarpour’s opinion, what is or is not acceptable when it comes to being a gentleman comes down to the individual and the relationship.
“Over the top would be anything that the person feels uncomfortable having the other person do for them,” she said. “I personally don’t mind having a guy hold my bag and if he needs me to do the same for him I am happy to do so.”
It looks like the moral of the story is: Everyone is different. Everyone has different opinions and preferences, it is just about finding with whom you are compatible. The thing we can all agree on is that being a “gentleman” comes down to respect and civility. So, guys (and gals), if you want to be a gentleman at URI you do not necessarily need to put on the works. Just be respectful and attentive and proceed with good intentions.