Valentine’s Day has come once again, and across the country, old ideas of chivalry are resurrected to pressure men into emptying their wallets to prove to their significant others that they love them. It’s a sickening cycle of manipulation, of both sexes, that is amplified to the Nth degree every February 14th, but stretches to more than just Valentine’s Day. Above all, though, chivalry is an ideology that treats women as incompetents, and men as beasts of burden. It’s a trap and a disgrace.
Allow me to explain.
Everyone wants to be happy, que no? The big question, though, for most people, is from whence will my happiness come? In our society, the answer to that question depends on your sex/gender. American culture teaches men that their happiness is achieved by making a woman happy. And women are taught that their happiness is derived from a man giving them things (watch a couple of DeBeers commercials if you have any questions about this).
So, a man and a woman get together. They want to be happy together, so he buys her things and does nice things for her, and he believes that this will make her happy, which in turn will make him happy. But, of course, happiness is not a material thing you can buy (unless you’re a horribly shallow and materialistic person, in which case your partner likely will still be miserable, but I digress). So what happens?
She’s still not happy. But, she’s been socialized to believe that more things, more gifts, more more more (one guy in the video mentions this), will be the key to her happiness. Because she’s not happy, he’s not happy. And he knows that what’s “supposed” to make her happy is more (see previous paragraph). So, he works and works to try and make her happy with gifts and houses and cars and lifestyle upgrades and fancy dinners (and diamonds, never forget the diamonds) and all those things that both of them have been taught are what will make her happy, and in turn, make him happy as well.
And before you know it, they are both broke and miserable, and neither of them knows why. So they break up, and attempt the same cycle again, with another person, in the hopes that more of the same will somehow have a different result.
My favorite question is “cui bono?” And the answer here is obvious. Over $13 billion spent every year just on Valentine’s Day. “Proving” your love to someone is big business. And it all stems from old, chivalrous ideals of men taking on a role of patronizing benefactor, and women accepting the role of damsel in distress.
And it’s all bullshit.
I’ve seen a lot of failed relationships. And, in all fairness, been in more than a few myself. And from where I sit, it seems one of the biggest factors in so many of those failed relationships stems from people allowing everyone else’s expectations to dictate how they think they are “supposed” to be, instead of defining those expectations for themselves.
In a recent post, Jim Wright of Stonettle Station wrote
There is only one truly inalienable right, one right that can’t be taken away by gods nor governments nor men, and that is the right to define yourself. If you limit who you are to the labels others apply to you, you’ve given up the only right that truly matters.
And though he was referring to the definition of a successful writer, the sentiment applies to so much more than that.
Over the last year, I have developed a relationship based on none of the labels and expectations foisted on us by our society. Where neither of us feels obligated to one another beyond the bounds of mutual respect, regardless of whatever labels might be applied. It’s not me who holds the door for her, it’s whoever gets to the door first. It’s not me who picks up the tab on a date every time, it’s something we both do. I don’t expect her deference because I’m a man and she’s a woman; rather, we arrive at mutually agreed-upon conclusions based solely on the merit of ideas. She does not define her happiness by the things I give her, nor do I do that with her, and neither of us expects the other to ride to the rescue and solve one another’s problems. Instead, we work on those things together, and do what we can to help and support each other. She is a strong, talented, hardworking and independent woman, who defines herself on her own terms, and I love and respect that about her. And it’s a love and respect that goes both ways. Oh, we do things for each other that the other can’t do, sure. We have different abilities and skill sets, which is entirely to be expected with different people. But, we make a concerted effort to learn these skills from one another, because neither of us wants to be dependent on the other. We are together because we want to be, not because we need to be, and it’s ever so much better that way.
And as far as labels go, when referring to one another in the context of our relationship, we use the term “partner,” because it fits so much better than anything else (thanks gay folks, for popularizing that, by the way).
Cultures are slow to change, that has always been the case. But they do change, always, or they die.
The old chivalrous mentality is unable to change, and so it is dying.
And I say good riddance.