One thing my Spanish classes have taught me over the years was that Don Quijote saw things differently. He tilted with windmills, thinking they were giants. He thought of himself as a wandering knight performing valiant deeds. He believed Dulcinea to be a true lady who deserved his respect and devotion.
Complementarians tell me that if it’s one thing they hate, it’s how chivalry has all but disappeared. They would gladly treat all women like ladies – if only they deserved it! Methinks they doth not understand the nature of chivalry. Ancient knights understood the code of chivalry to mean that all ladies, without exception, should fall under their protection and be treated respectfully no matter their status. No knight worth his salt would brave all to rescue the daughter of his liege but sit out of the quest to save her hand-maiden should the need arise.
I remember watching Blast from the Past, where Brendan Frasier plays a young man who was raised with traditional beliefs and who ventures for the first time into the modern world. There was a conversation on manners, which is along the same lines as chivalry:
Eve: Or have perfect table manners!
Troy: You know, I asked him about that. He said, good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them. See, I didn’t know that, I thought it was just a way of acting all superior. Oh and you know what else he told me?
Troy: He thinks I’m a gentleman and you’re a lady.
Eve: [disgusted] Well, consider the source! I don’t even know what a lady is.
Troy: I know, I mean I thought a “gentleman” was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.
You see, if you respect people, then you treat them well. If you say something like: “I’d like to treat Jack and Jill better, but they don’t deserve it!” That just shows that the problem lies in your own bias. Jack and Jill have to meet your criteria in order to be treated well by you. I’m pretty sure the word for that isn’t chivalry or manners or respect or being polite.
You can’t be a gentleman or a lady if you don’t respect people enough to make them be comfortable. Believe me, people can tell when you treat them partially – when you give special treatment to some and the cold shoulder to others.
But this is a different world. One in which women sometimes hold the door open – would it kill you to say “thanks”? Being respectful of people isn’t tied to a particular era – we can’t all be errant knights hoping to complete heroic quests, we’re not all walking around as if the 1950’s or 1960’s are still current with the times. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop being respectful of others and stop being ladies and gentlemen – if not in the traditional sense, then in the modern one. No one should have to “deserve” being treated decently.