We all know these four little words ‘once upon a time’ they appear at the beginning of fairytale stories that we were read by our parents as children. In most of the stories Prince Charming comes to the rescue of the fair maiden. Whether the Prince awakens the heroine by true love’s kiss; gives her a glass slipper or rescues her from a glass tower, he is always polite, heroic and chivalrous. Fast forward to the world of 2009.

Politeness costs nothing In today’s society, modern men are more like Rumpelstiltskin than Prince Charming. How many of you can say that your male friends or boyfriend opens the car door for you or helps you with your shopping bags? Not once, but often? Comedian Dave Chappelle says: “Chivalry is dead and women killed it”. Is this largely because of the attitude of today’s independent ladies? Because they bought the house they live in and the car they drive – does this mean they can no longer accept help from a man? Or is it because this is no longer a concept or ideology that men and women trust or believe in? In the Collins dictionary chivalry means ‘courteous behaviour especially by men towards women’. So even in the dictionary it depicts an action of consideration performed by a man towards a woman. Back in the day, men would have practically swooned if they had seen a lady’s sleeve. They would have tried to do everything within their power to grab the attention of a woman. Even going to the extent of writing her dedicated songs designed to catch her attention. This is where the song Greensleeves comes from. It was born from its author’s passion and love for ‘his lady Greensleeves’ and her cruel act of casting him out discourteously.

No place in today’s world?
Chivalry is very much an old-fashion word with connotations connected to knighthood, the medieval period and women stuck in towers with no means of escape. It’s a concept that’s largely no longer relevant to today’s modern relationships.

So where did it all go wrong?
When we were younger and watching Aladdin and Princess Jasmine go on the magic carpet ride, we saw Aladdin sweep Princess Jasmine off her feet, and show her a ‘whole new world’. However in today’s modern age, this practise of showing a lady her worth seems far-fetched. It seems that men have lost their place in the relationship and are not really bothered about taking it back. Plus it seems that some women don’t want them to take it back either. In many Disney fairytales where Beauty was the woman and the Beast was the man it would appear that this ancient stereotype is fitting. Beauty is presented as a cherub, while the Beast is ‘the dark heart of man’, preying on her character. This, however, is not how the modern woman sees herself, her relationships or men for that matter. It would appear too many women have given up their position. Women are the real reason why men aren’t courteous or chivalrous towards them anymore so maybe Dave Chappelle is right! With many songs like Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women which boasts about a woman’s worth and advocates that she doesn’t need a man to be validated (including lyrics such as ‘depend on nobody else to get what you want’) it’s no surprise that chivalry is no longer practised. Women have fought to be on an equal playing field and now that has slowly turned against them.

It’s all about equality
Relationship expert Christine Norton explains that women don’t want to be put on a pedestal like they were in the more delicate age when Greensleeves was written. Women didn’t even get to vote in the UK until 1918. Relationships today are more about equality and sharing than one partner doing more than the other. Women’s positions have changed dramatically over the decades, and with that came a change in how they relate to each other and their counterparts too.

With relationships being more about ‘sharing the emotional and romantic load’ we should all be courteous to each other. Norton explains that good manners and courteous behaviour is something that should be standard within a relationship in order for it to be healthy. “If a couple has a healthy respect for each other, they’re much more likely to be happier which means that the relationship is more likely to be long-lasting,” she says.

Respect and appreciation
Respect and appreciation go hand in hand with chivalry. If each partner took it upon themselves to show these qualities within a relationship many more would end up lasting for a lot longer. Chivalry’s not dead, but rather it’s changed. It’s not about what a man can do for a woman, but more about being polite, courteous and respectful, and fully appreciative of each others’ kindness.

What our readers said…

Rachel “I’m a traditional girl. I wish we could return to how men treated women in the fifties and sixties and still have equal rights. What can I say? I want it all.”
Taiwo “Being polite is different to being chivalrous. Women don’t expect you to buy them flowers like they used too, but I still think that you should at least open doors for them.”
Tasha “Yes. It died with the feminist movement when women decided they could do everything themselves.”
Femi “Chivalry, I don’t believe is dead. However, I do believe it is, in a manner of speaking, on life support. It’s a reflection of the post-modern society that we live in. Men have come to accept and let women champion their ‘fight for equality’ to the extent that it now can be used as a deadly weapon against them.”
Abigail “I think that in many cases young men that are brought up seeing women treated like queens will continue to do so in their adult life. I think that there is the real potential for men to bring it back.”

Words by Denise Kodia, illustration by Carleen De Sozer