To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{March 13, 2010}   Chivalry. Again.

It has just been a mind blowing few weeks, you know it? And this is kind of a long, rambly post as I work my mind around what I’m thinking. Starting with an update on Q, but then back to chivalry. ;-D

So I went back to Q’s last night for relaxed dinner, Harry Potter (which we’ve been trying to watch for three nights, now, and she keeps distracting me. …*griiiiiiins*), and making out. Yes, that was totally on the agenda. She got to read that protected post — I emailed it to her — and when I showed up she was on the phone with a distressed friend, so I headed to the back bedroom and made some business calls of my own. She came in a minute later, planted a hand on either side of my hips, and with a hilarious grin — I can’t even describe it — said, “You’re really messed up.” I nearly killed myself laughing. It’s hard to take offense at something like that when the person looks so pleased and amused. 😉

Anyway! Good things. I totally have a cohort in getting over this, and the fact that she keeps taking my sex issues in stride makes me relax that much more. She also seems to get some things I’m not sure I even got — like reaffirming, “Yes, talking is a good thing, and here’s why,” and somehow doing it in a non-lecturing way (which doesn’t mean I don’t squirm — the whole topic makes me antsy — but does mean I can listen and use it as a reminder). Woo hoo!

I really am going to talk about something other than Q someday. Really.

So, a bit ago I was talking about chivalry, and then last night Q and I headed out to grab food and she was opening doors and whatnot. It caught my eye, so I started paying attention. UP argued the other day that chivalry could be any caring gesture. I haven’t responded to the comments from that post because, uh, I keep running out of time. Anyway, this doesn’t feel right to me, but at the same time as I was watching Q last night, some of the things she did that felt chivalrous to me were the same things I would do for someone else, and yet, when I do them, I don’t think they feel chivalrous. (She peeled an orange for me, because I dislike peeling oranges. No, wait. She remembered that I’d said two weeks ago that I didn’t eat oranges because I disliked peeling them, and then she offered to peel this one.)

So, I looked up chivalry on to see if I’d get any better ideas:

1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.

2. the rules and customs of medieval knighthood.

3. the medieval system or institution of knighthood.

4. a group of knights.

5. gallant warriors or gentlemen: fair ladies and noble chivalry.

6. Archaic. a chivalrous act; gallant deed.

Two things strike me here.

1. Knight. When I first started looking at butch and generally getting weak kneed, I recognized then that what I was reacting to was that knight energy. It was the queerness of it, too, the female-masculine, but that gut-tug is knight. DK has it, Q has it, Sugarbutch and G seem to, at least online. There’s a lot of butch blogs that are very interesting, but don’t show off a knight side of the butches writing — doesn’t mean they don’t have it, just means it’s not being put to computer. I read those blogs and I find them very interesting, but I don’t have that same “Yum,” gut-tug. (The guys I’ve dated have all had it.)

My uncle doesn’t have it. While I was visiting in GA, he opened doors for me, and it came across as very Southern-mannerly, and I appreciated that he was trying to treat me in a respectful way. My reaction was still more, “…uh, okay,” than anything, and even occasionally, “knock it off — it’s easier for me to get the door!” That’s not a reaction I have to people who do have a knight archetype. I didn’t have that reaction to Q, even the one time bags and people and angles collided and getting to the door was suddenly problematic. *laughs*

…Have I mentioned archetypes here? I don’t think so. Real life archetypes describe patterns in a person’s life — thought patterns, behavior patterns, patterns of desire, etc. Everyone has them. My dominant archetypes are storyteller, warrior, and femme, which I think of as an offshoot to princess/damsel.

So, what’s the difference between chivalry and a gesture of kindness? I’d have to say it’s, in part, that knight energy. Furthermore, if I look at those definitions of chivalry, something else leaps out at me.

2. It’s not about the person that is being helped; it’s about the action. Chivalry isn’t defined as, “helping someone because that person is special to you,” but rather, “Helping someone because it’s the right thing to do.”  Look at 1 and 6, here:

1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.

6. Archaic. a chivalrous act; gallant deed.

It isn’t about why or how much you like or love that person. It isn’t about the helpee at all: it’s about the person doing it, and the deed itself. It’s about taking the correct, gallant, action. Don’t get me wrong — how much you like a person matters, and I think chivalry crops up a lot more when you do like someone. But the intention, the feeling behind it, is slightly different when something is done out of chivalry rather than when it’s done out of caring/kindness.

One night, while DK and I were out walking, a car pulled up to the curb nearby. I was curbside that particular night, and as I was eying the car DK put her arm around my shoulders, lifted her chin a little, and watched as we walked. Was that because she cared for me? Of course. But I have the feeling if I’d been anyone else, she would have watched out for them, too. Maybe she wouldn’t have put her arm over their shoulders, but the intention was the same. It wasn’t about me, not entirely. Rather, it’s about the correct action.

Last night, Q peeled an orange for me. The fact that she remembered an offhand comment from two weeks earlier is impressive and tells me she like me, but the act itself felt chivalrous; it seemed like she was doing it in part because it was the correct action to take. Maybe if she didn’t like me she wouldn’t do it, but she wasn’t doing it only because she likes me.

If I peeled an orange for someone, it wouldn’t be because that’s the correct action to take. It would have nothing to do with the act of peeling an orange; it would be specifically because I was trying to show caring or kindness.  Two weeks ago I gave Q a back massage. Is this caring? Certainly. But I didn’t do it because it was the right thing to do; I did it to make her, specifically, feel better. Anyone else wouldn’t have gotten a back massage from me, no matter how much they were hurting. If I were of a chivalrous bent, on the other hand, I have a hunch they might have. Heck, Q mentioned she’d spent the other day giving out massages — chivalry. It’s the right thing to do. People were sore. I would never, ever have done that, not unless they were VERY GOOD FRIENDS at the very least. I might have offered tiger balm. 😉

Nezu posted about chivalry in response to my earlier post, and I think some of the things she says actually show this off pretty well. For instance:

I did always sort of like it, though, when my dad saw me safely in my seat in the car before he took his seat behind the wheel. But what I learned from that was that when I was the driver, it would be my job to see my passengers settled safely.

It isn’t about who the passenger is: it’s about the act itself. Nezu and I haven’t talked about this aspect of chivalry, the deed-focused rather than person-focused, because honestly I don’t know if either of us had picked up on it — and yet she talks about it unconsciously.

Chivalry is changing. There’s a perceived inequality, now, and a sense you should do it only for those you’re dating. Again, from Nezu’s post, starting off still talking about opening car doors:

I always wonder a little whether I should do so for JB, when I am driving with her. It becomes a little trickier, somehow, because there is a power dynamic in chivalry, and it is at odds with the equality JB and I share as friends. I hesitate: should I go around and open her door for her? Should I not? If it is raining, do I hold my umbrella over her head? Or does this impose things onto the relationship that don’t belong there.

And this, I think, is where caring comes in. The action is the correct thing to do — now, though, the boundaries of who you are allowed to do that action for are in question. For friends? Only for SOs? Hmmm.

On a tangent, last night, when Q offered to peel the orange, we had a conversation that  made me laugh really hard. Q mentioned that she tended to do things like this to show caring, but it often became something that was taken for granted. (This is SUCH A SHAME. Never take this for granted, people.) I don’t remember what I said in response, but the comment she made then was, (paraphrased, I’m sure) “That’s right. It’s just like dog training. When someone does something right, you praise them. When your butch is good, you say so. Bad butch, no boobies.”

I nearly killed myself laughing! Ahhh, fun times. *grins*

One last comment on chivalry: I do think it’s shifting, that now it’s something people do for those they care about rather than just anyone. But I also think it’s something that a certain sect of people — those with a knight archetype — do in large part because it’s a sign of respect, and the right thing to do. But it still feels so malleable, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Comments? Thoughts? If you’re of a chivalrous bent, do you see anything here that sounds right, or am I totally off kilter? Is there something I’ve missed or something we can add?

…I love this stuff. 😀



Nezuko says:

Nezu and I haven’t talked about this aspect of chivalry, the deed-focused rather than person-focused, because honestly I don’t know if either of us had picked up on it…

The action is the correct thing to do — now, though, the boundaries of who you are allowed to do that action for are in question. For friends? Only for SOs? Hmmm.

Hah, yes. I think you’re exactly right here. I hadn’t realized the distinction, but I definitely had it unconsciously in mind. I think for me the context really is important. Like, if you get to the door first, obviously you open it for me, and vice versa. We care about each other and we both do the right thing. If you arrive at a door before someone else, you hold it for them. And if I have an umbrella and it’s raining, of course I hold it over your head.

But things like car doors are trickier. To a certain extent it feels awkward for me because I don’t have a lot of experience. I mean, my most recent ex-girlfriend is someone who emphatically opens and closes her own doors. And the one before that did all the driving since it was long distance, I was visiting her, and it was her car. If we are approaching my locked car from the passenger side, then I should open the door for you. But if we’re approaching from the driver side, and I click the unlock button, then I usually let you get your own door. It’s mostly your writing about this that has raised my awareness, actually, and given me the idea that many I should be opening your door for you, regardless.

The Knight archetype issue is an interesting one, and I think I need to do some more research on that. Maybe even additional *gasp* conversations with you. Oh how dreadful, hanging out with a friend.

[…] not the service of himself or his own ego. I think they call it “knight energy” over at FemmeMobile!. He’s great in all sorts of ways, but this is what I like most about his approach to […]

G says:

Thanks for the mention.

If you say chivalry is about the person committing the act (and I agree with that, by the way), then I believe it should be present no matter what the situation is – SO, friend or stranger. I try to behave the same way across the board. Is this to say I offer my arm to my friends while walking down the street? Probably not, but I’ll offer my hand to help a friend out of a car, or walk a friend to her car after dark.

The difference for me is in how it makes me feel. I feel good about doing the right thing, no matter the situation. I don’t think there’s THAT much difference in doing a chivalrous act and doing something out of kindness; to me, they seem related. But if it’s with a SO, it’s one of my major expressions of affection and care.

[…] patterns in our life, and if you know what pattern you have you know how to stop it from happening. I talk about how some butches — the ones I’m attracted to — have a knight archetype, for […]

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