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Chivalry is Not Dead... Even for the Modern, Independent Woman

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

By Rakhi Voria, Guest Contributor

We’ve all heard the saying “chivalry is dead,” and we’ve even heard the counterphrase “chivalry is not dead.” But which one is it? Or does it just depend on your expectations of a partner?

I want to begin by openly stating that I am by no means an expert in this subject. Unlike some of my fellow authors on this blog who are international matchmakers and expert daters, I am in my mid-twenties, work at a fortune 500 company, and have only dated one person over the past year. But this post was inspired by recent events in my life that have made me realize that many men have a profound misconception of modern women in society: that we don’t want “chivalrous,” or gentlemenly, men. I’m here to explain why chivalry is not dead, even for modern, independent women like myself.

Make no mistake that when I mention chivalry, I am referring to basic chivalry like holding the door open for a woman, walking her to her car or home at night, paying for the bill (or at least offering to pay for the bill), letting her walk in front of you, picking up something small for her out of the blue like a flower, etc. I am not equating chivalry to over the top gestures that we often see in movies like impromptu romantic vacations or singing to a girl outside of her window. While those things are certainly welcomed, I personally wouldn’t expect them unless there was a special occasion (and even then I wouldn’t really want a guy singing to me outside of my window…don’t hurt yourself, boys.)

In order to put more context around my thoughts on this topic, I thought I would share a little bit about myself. My family is from India but I was born and raised in a suburban city in the United States. Education was at the forefront of my upbringing, so much that I was able to earn scholarships and attend reputable undergraduate and graduate institutions. I am now working at a Fortune 500 company that makes me feel fulfilled each day. Needless to say, success was never an option for me – it was an expectation. (It wasn’t nearly as bad as the infamous Amy Chua’s Asian "tiger mother" household, but some aspects ring true.) I was lucky enough to be raised by a single mother and two older sisters, all of whom instilled in me the values of hard work, integrity, and respectfulness.

But I realize that those attributes are not enough in life. Although I am known at work as a hard-charging, high-achieving young woman who brings my “A” game, at the forefront of my values are joy, fun, and happiness. My philosophy in life is balance. Even when I work a 12 hour day, I still make time for fun in the evenings like dinner with friends, taking a dance class, or watching TV. But yes, I take my career seriously and devote much of my time and energy toward it right now.

Just as I take my work seriously, I also take my relationships seriously. Even when I try to “just have fun and meet people” the way society suggests, I can’t take relationships lightly. Meg Jay’s bold and beautifully articulated Ted Talk “Why 30 is not the new 20” describes people in their twenties who view their this time as a “throwaway decade” where they can try whatever profession they want and date whomever they want because they’re young, and “it doesn’t count.” Me? I am about as far from that description as it can get. I have always been the type of person who knows what I want and have a plan on how to get there, whether it is related to my work or relationships. While I like trying new things and enjoying my life, I believe I can still do this while having a clear direction and a “north star.”

As I mentioned, recent events in my life inspired this post, but the final turning point came about as a result of having coffee with a friend who was in town. We were chatting about his upcoming wedding, and he asked me if I had met anyone special. I basically responded by saying that I’ve met a lot of “special” people, but that doesn’t translate to being ready to marry any of them. He then asked me what attributes I was looking for and what would make a man “marriage material” in my perspective. One of the many qualities I mentioned was the fact that I value, and frankly expect, a genuinely chivalrous man. I said that just because I am independent in my life does not mean I want to be independent in a relationship. I like to be “taken care of” in a sense. I want someone who wants to make sure I got home safely and who wants to offer to pay the bill because I think that shows a little bit about how they were raised and their propensity to care for me and a family. Chivalry to me is especially important at the onset of a relationship. If a fundamental attribute like caring isn’t there at first, it realistically won’t be there later. You can’t teach a person to be more thoughtful. Even if you can, should you really have to?

What followed in the conversation was odd. My friend said something to the effect of this: “Well, that is surprising. I would expect somebody like you to not want those things. In fact, I know independent, modern girls like you who actually get upset when men try to walk them home. They are the feminist type who think it shows that women are unequal and can’t care for themselves.”

(As an aside, for any of you who may agree with the statement above and think that this post is anti-feminist by stating that men should be chivalrous I am inferring that women can’t take care of themselves, please note that is not at all my intention. I have always been passionate about women’s equality. In fact, I don’t even think women should try to be equal but rather just are equal. I believe in Timothy Leary’s quote, “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”)

What I am actually trying to say is that just because a woman is what society deems to be “modern” and “independent,” don’t assume that we aren’t interested in dating a gentleman. My friend’s comment makes me worried for women like me. In Rosa Brooks’ recent counter article to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Brooks describes herself a lot like how I would describe myself: “My confident, assertive yet non-threatening feminine charm helped me rapidly expand both my business and social networks.” But could this exact charm be portraying the wrong persona to my potential suitors?

My dating history is not long, but I had the opportunity to meet men from all over the world (Australia, US, England, Ireland, Canada, India) while I was in graduate school at Oxford, men who are gentlemen in the truest sense. With each of these men, it was never a question of how I would get home after we had dinner. I could always count on being walked home or put in a taxi at the very least. Perhaps I am just attracted by men who are sincerely thoughtful, like to feel needed, or like “taking care of” the person they are dating. For anyone who argues that “chivalry is dead” and that men like this no longer exist, I can personally tell you that is not the case. These men do exist and in fact, a study last month surveyed 17,000 people and revealed that chivalry is not dead. If chivalry is important to you, wait for a man who enjoys taking care of you.

What it comes down to is expectations. As my friend alluded to, some women don’t expect to be walked home or even want that. I am just not one of them. Although I am an ambitious, independent young woman, I cherish traditionalism in my relationships.

My message to readers is this:

· Gentlemen – Again, just because a woman comes off as modern, independent, or a “power woman,” don’t assume that she isn’t interested in dating a gentleman. Get rid of your preconceived notions, be yourself, and offer up that side of you regardless of what you think your girl may desire.

· Ladies – It is okay to desire a man who is chivalrous. You may be called “high maintenance” or a “princess” by some men for this, but those are the men that you should not be with. Similarly, you are realistically not the type of woman that they are looking for.

· Bottom line for both men and women: stay true to your ideals otherwise you will end up with somebody that you’re constantly wishing will change.

I admit that relationships are a two-way street and that women cannot and should not expect the man to be the only thoughtful one. Ladies, take the time to demonstrate sweet gestures as well. Make him breakfast or bake him cupcakes for no reason. Show up at his place with soup when he’s sick or Gatorade in the morning when he had a late night with his friends. Offer to pay the bill from time to time. I think the Beatles said it best, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Matching Up Note: After Ms. Voria shared this article with one of her male co-workers, he proposed to his girlfriend. He confided that Ms. Voria’s article inspired him to “go all in” and show the person who he loves how much he values her in his life.

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