Gentlemen, Please Stand up?

Written by Sandisiwe (Yogi) Shoba in Senior Editorial

I hate jammies. Those rickety blue busses are the bane of my existence. Mind you, I’m grateful for the service they provide but I don’t appreciate the ‘jammie experience.’ For me, that experience usually includes: fighting every Tom, Dick and Sipho to get a spot on that rickety contraption; scowling at Sipho for getting the last available seat and worst of all being shoved between Tom and Dick’s honking 5pm armpits and wishing God had blessed me with at least one more inch in the height department. 

As the bus begins to move, my annoyance with Sipho multiplies as I repeatedly lose my balance and get slammed against those forsaken armpits. Sipho watches my ordeal for a minute, but doesn’t flinch; instead he whips out a pair of earphones and proceeds to zone out of reality. I observe his reaction and come to the classic conclusion that Sipho is a sorry excuse for a man, who lacks manners and any form of chivalry.

In fact, I stare angrily at all of the males sitting comfortably in their seats when there’s an entire row of women standing on the bus. I must have looked bitter and ridiculous.

I realise that somewhere in my journey of socialisation, I stumbled upon the idea that just because I’m a woman, I deserve some form of ‘special treatment’ in the form of chivalry. Yes, I am a beautiful Disney Princess and the world is filled with handsome princes rushing to open doors for me and let me skip the queue at Budget Rolls. 

I do believe that many women enjoy being ‘esteemed’ in this manner, especially in a world that so often puts us down, however, there’s a huge difference between viewing ‘chivalry’ as an obligation placed on men towards women or as random acts of kindness which can be displayed by anyone with the title ‘human.’

In the Middle Ages, the term ‘chivalry’ referred to a code of conduct adopted by knights. Knights were expected to possess favourable qualities such as courtesy, bravery and most importantly ‘gallantry towards women.’

It was an expectation upon knights to protect weaker members of society during wartime. Women, children and the elderly fit that category by default as they were often victims of physical and sexual violence.

However, modern chivalry still maintains the underlying notion that women are ‘weak’ and fragile creatures who are incapable of opening doortws and standing on busses. Chivalry essentially emphasises the issue of inequality between the sexes.

It implies an incompetence in femininity which can only be rectified by the presence of masculinity. So when a female offers a seat for a male he might take offence as she is seemingly undermining or even insulting his manhood.

At the same time, women (like myself) continue to place this expectation on men. We expect doors to magically open before us, we expect to walk out the jammie first and most of all, we expect Sipho to put away his damn earphones and offer his seat!

But chivalry should no longer be labelled as such. Chivalry, in a modern sense, should merely be seen as a distinct expression of kindness. So if Sipho was kind, I would have been sitting pretty on that rickety bus. But he wasn’t obliged to be a prince and I’m certainly not a princess.

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