frequently receive comments
that Chivalry-Now is necessarily sexist-this despite the
6th Trust which clearly states that we
honor and respect women and avoid sexism in all its guises."
implies that one cannot demonstrably honor and respect for all
women without being sexist. There is certain logic to this. A declared
respect for all women because of gender denies discernment for individual
women. It separates them as a group from which we then define gender
relations to some extent. It possibly opens a door to denying equality
by treating women as different from men, a subset of the human race
that leads to discrimination. Such was never my intent.
Feminism arose in Western culture as a direct
result of our internal, cultural evolution. Our respect for freedom
and individuality could not be honored as a life principle if women
were not included. It would be hypocrisy. Many men resisted this
change. Women fought for their rights, and own all the credit for
achieving them. Although we now see how male resistance was wrong,
it would do well from learn from our mistakes. Would that we always
recognize hypocrisy when it first raises its ugly head, rather than
years later. (Which gives us something to consider. Are we upholding
prejudices today that we will someday be ashamed of?)
Considering historical offenses, I am not in
the least sidestepping a concern about sexism. In fact, I point
to it directly as part of the challenge that confronts us.
The question we face is this: can we honor and
respect all women and avoid sexism at the same time? I contend that
our ideals and traditions tell us we can.
For example, I have a concept of manhood that
I honor and respect. I know that not all men live up to this concept,
including myself. Nevertheless, I look to men for the nobility they
are capable of. Is this a form of sexism as well, aimed at men?
To my heart and mind this is nothing malicious
that anyone will suffer from. Instead, I see it as life-affirming.
My respect for freedom informs me that I cannot expect all men live
up to my personal vision. I hope no one expects as much from me,
either. Is it in any way wrong to have personal concepts and definitions
of who we are and how the world works? I've come to the conclusion
that we cannot escape conceptualizing and defining just about everything.
That's how our minds work,
After centuries of oppression and the attainment
of incredible gains, it is understandable that women remain concerned
about sexism, and actively look for it. That Chivalry-Now
takes a stand about gender relations at all opens it up to scrutiny.
As well it should. We are so cautious as a society due to past offenses,
that broaching the subject can be cause for concern. The wounds
are not yet healed. What I suggest, however, is that the wounds
will never heal properly until we can discuss things openly, honestly
and with good intent.
I do not have all the answers. Only an open,
well intentioned dialog can provide that. Perhaps Chivalry-Now
can provide a table around which that dialog can happen.
My own interpretation of the 6th Trust is this:
Being a man, I respect and honor manhood enough to extend it to
other men, as a kind of a preliminary expectation. I want to extend
something similar to women as well. Being a man, I hesitate to define
women. Indeed, I am not in a position to do that. I have enough
trouble defining men. Whether women are the same as men or not is
up to them to decide. Women are free to forge their own destiny.
If I concluded that they were the same as men in every detail, would
I not be imposing expectations that I have no right of making?
As co-habitants of the earth, as their natural
partners, as their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers
and friends, I want to extend not only respect, but appreciation
for all that women contribute to our species. Does this not affirm
that women are people of value, and not objects to be used?
Courtesies of genuine respect should therefore
not be demeaning in any way. Quite the opposite. Before anyone condemns
me for a courtesy, I beg that they consider my intent, rather than
judge without knowing.
The trouble is, of course, that true intent is
often hidden. This is true with everything we do. Yes, there are
men who act polite in hope of winning favor. When they do that,
it makes them untrustworthy. We are trying to change that. Some
might look at women as weaker than men, or less capable, less deserving
of a promotion or a certain privilege. They do this despite all
evidence to the contrary, and that is wrong. This is exactly what
the 6th Trust speaks against when it condemns sexism
in all its guises. We are trying to get beyond where we
were into something positive, where well-meaning courtesies between
the sexes are not considered threatening.
6th Trust is very important to men. Discovering what it means
to be a man does not occur in a vacuum. As men, we define ourselves
in relation to each other, and to women as well. That's how our
minds work. We cannot ignore that without skewing our ethics.
of the 6th Trust is also a matter of pedigree. From the very
beginning, chivalry has included special respect for womanhood.
final word that hopefully will not undo what I have said so far.
To say that all people are the same, and that men and women are
exactly alike is to deny every physical, hormonal, fashion, sexual
and familial instinct that we have. The obvious differences in men's
and women's magazines surely prove this. Recognizing gender differences
does not cancel the wide variety of differences included within
each gender. It does not enslave anyone, or force rigid standards,
or deny equal rights.
liberates women. That is a good thing, but make no mistake about
it, men need to be liberated as well. Not from the same oppressions
that women experience, but from their own less visible oppression.
This is important not just for men, but for women as well. What
men need to be liberated from is what causes them to be oppressive
to women, along with a host of other problems.
hope this clear things up a little, or at least adds to the discussion.