Chivalry

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The term chivalry, derived from the old French chevalier (horseman) refers to a code of conduct observed by the knightly class of feudal Europe which advocated gallantry, valor and honor in military contexts. Over time its meaning changed to emphasize less the martial aspects in favor of courtly love, generosity, honor, and courtesy toward women. As practiced today chivalry refers to the code of male etiquette displayed toward women in civilian rather than military contexts. To reflect the change from the original military concept modern authors have referred to the altered version as romantic chivalry or chivalric love, reflecting a synthesis of military discipline and courtly love principles that finds expression in the modern notion of the ‘gentleman’. [1][2][3]

Chivalry as special treatment of women

According to Jennifer Wollock the evolution of chivalry introduced the belief that love of women was ennobling and necessary for the education of a knight. In writings of the Middle Ages, especially in the romances of knighthood Wollock finds that, in contrast to former times, “The truest lovers are now the best knights.” [4] The framework for chivalric love was adopted from the feudal relationship of a vassal and his overlord, one which provided the knight with a model for his humble and servile conduct toward women. Literature of the Middle Ages shows men in this period increasingly referring to women as midons which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord,’ and women referred to their male paramours in the language of a Lord, calling him ‘My man’. C.S. Lewis refers to the adoption of the vassal-to-Lord model for sexual relations as ”a feudalisation of love” in which service of the knight is closely modeled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord, and where “Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim”. [5] Chivalric love is said to have placed women on a pedestal and to have encouraged all men to behave as gallant knights in the service of elevated women. Men routinely portrayed women as divinities toward whom they might aspire but never hope to equal.[6]

A common representation demonstrating an adaption from the feudal model involved the man kneeling on one knee before the woman. By kneeling down in this way he assumed the posture of a vassal. He pledged his faith promising, like a liege man, not to offer his services to anyone else, and often went further: in the manner of a serf he made her a gift of his entire person. Citing evidence of such male vassalage Amy Kelly writes, “As symbolized on shields and other illustrations that place the knight in the ritual attitude of commendation, kneeling before his lady with his hands folded between hers, homage signified male service, not domination or subordination of the lady, and it signified fidelity, constancy in that service.” [7][8][9]

Chivalry and feminism

Modern feminism has been likened to chivalry in its aim to place males in a position of service and benefit to women. In his lectures on Gynocentrism Theory, Adam Kostakis proposes that there is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism, and he states, “One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.” [10]

Chivalry in the criminal justice system

Chivalric attitudes in the criminal justice system have resulted in disparities of sentencing in which women are treated more leniently than men. [11][12][13][14][15]

In 1989 Roger Hood studied a sample of two thousand eight hundred and eighty-four male and four hundred and thirty-three female defendants in crown courts. He compared the sentencing of males and females, controlling for variables which he found affected the sentencing of men, and found that both black and white women are more likely to be cautioned than prosecuted, and were given custodial sentences 34 to 38 percent less often than men in similar cases. As an explanation for this disparity Hood points to the chivalry thesis of criminal sentencing which argues that most police, judges and magistrates are men and men are socialised to be chivalrous to women. [16]

See Also

References

  1. Jennifer G. Wollock, Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love, Praeger Press, 2011
  2. Wright, Peter. "Bastardized Chivalry: From Concern for Weakness to Sexual Exploitation." New Male Studies, ISSN 1839-7816 ~ Vol 7 Issue 2, pp. 43–59, (2018).
  3. Peter Wright & Paul Elam, Chivalry: A Gynocentric Tradition. Academic Century Press (2018)
  4. Jennifer G. Wollock, Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love, Praeger Press, 2011
  5. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: a study in the medieval tradition, Oxford 1936, p.2
  6. Irving Singer, ‘The Nature of Love: Courtly and Romantic, MIT Press, 2009
  7. Amy Kelly, ‘Did Women Have a Renaissance?’ in 'Women, History, and Theory', UCP Press, 1984
  8. Wright, Peter. "Bastardized Chivalry: From Concern for Weakness to Sexual Exploitation." New Male Studies, ISSN 1839-7816 ~ Vol 7 Issue 2, pp. 43–59, (2018).
  9. Peter Wright & Paul Elam, Chivalry: A Gynocentric Tradition. Academic Century Press (2018)
  10. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory Lectures, online retrieved June, 2011 at http://gynotheory.blogspot.com.au/
  11. Ernest Belfort Bax, The Legal Subjection of Men’, New age Press, 1908
  12. Ernest Belfort Bax, ‘The Fraud of Feminism’, Grant Richards Publisher, 1913
  13. Warren Farrell, ‘the Myth of Male Power’, Random House, 1994
  14. C.A. Visher,'Gender, Police Arrest Decisions, and Notions of Chivalry', in Journal of Criminology, Vol-21, Issue 1, 1983
  15. Roger Hood, 'Race and Sentencing: A Study in the Crown Court', Oxford University Press, 1993
  16. Roger Hood, 'Race and Sentencing: A Study in the Crown Court', Oxford University Press, 1993