Chivalry and the Costa Concordia Tragedy: Should We Expect It?

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Is holding a door for a woman really offensive?

By now we’ve all heard about Captain Francesco Schettino who who abandoned his sinking ship in the Costa Concordia tragedy. (In stark contrast, the ship’s purser Manrico Giampedroni stayed aboard to ensure all crew and passengers were evacuated.) When the ship was going down, Schettino jumped off the boat and would not go back on even under intense orders to do so. He apparently wasn’t the only one who panicked because there are reports that men were pushing women and children out of the way to get to the safety boats.

Accounts of a few Australian passengers range from bad to worse: One woman says “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls,” while another recounts, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats.”

Naturally panic mode can easily set in during life and death situations and it does not discriminate according to gender. Of course, it goes without saying that the crewmembers should have stayed behind to help with proper evacuation, and children and elderly should have gone first. I would also say that the moms should have gone with their children in order to keep them safe and calm. But what about the cases of young, single females vs. males? Should the men have gone last in the era of equal rights between the sexes?

This case is extreme but it stir up the age old question yet again: is chivalry dead (as Rich Lowry does in his piece in the NY Post)? Perhaps more than that, the question should be, do us women, us moms around the globe in 2012 expect it…and should we?

We all know those women who balk at men for holding doors to the point that some men are reluctant to do anything chivalrous and get called out for being sexist. However, there is a clear difference between being courteous and sexist. I find the adage that holding a door or walking a woman home is sexist, well, ridiculous.  I think those small courteous (or chivalrous if must call them) acts of generosity are endearing and yes, I’m all for equal rights and opportunity between the sexes but is it really so bad when a man shows a thoughtful gesture toward a woman? I don’t think it is. Having equal rights does not obliterate manners or consideration. And I’m sure I just might get called out for being everything from right wing conservative to 1950s woman, neither of which I am.

It’s nothing less than infuriating to get trampled on a subway by a 6’2 business executive scrambling to get a seat (although I tend to think it’s more the individual man rather than the gender as a whole), yet I have also been offered a seat by a gentleman many times as well. I don’t think men should necessarily have to offer a seat to woman, unless that woman is holding a small child, pregnant, or elderly, but I do appreciate the gesture. Of course, I’ve encountered women who do the same self-centered subway push but more often than not, it’s the women who will give up a seat when they see someone in need.

Growing up in school, it was always the boys who carried the heavy books and climbed up ladders for the teachers. The girls were often allowed to go ahead of the boys’ lines, with a teacher saying “Ladies first.” Boys were taught in many small ways to be chivalrous but today it doesn’t happen as often. I have taught my son from a very early age to never disrespect a girl, let alone hit her. He knows that he can defend himself against a boy but never touch a girl.

I hope he does grow up to be a teen that curbs his language around girls, a man who holds the door for girlfriend and eventually his wife, and someone who gives up his seat to those less fortunate. While I don’t expect chivalry, I gotta admit I do like it when I see it in action.

Should women still expect chivalrous acts in 2012? Do you find it insulting when a man holds the door for you?

Image: Stockxchng

For the full details on the sinking of Costa Concordia as well as how to explain the tragedy to your kids, check out Carolyn Castiglia’s piece here.


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