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I frequently receive comments that Chivalry-Now is necessarily sexist-this despite the 6th Trust which clearly states that we

"will honor and respect women and avoid sexism in all its guises."

The charge 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.
The 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.
Retention of the 6th Trust is also a matter of pedigree. From the very beginning, chivalry has included special respect for womanhood.
A 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.
Feminism 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.
I hope this clear things up a little, or at least adds to the discussion.


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