As we further our agenda to make our advocacies bear weight and gain support from our peers, we must raise an important question: do we really know—and understand—what we are pushing for?
Feminism, as an idea—otherwise known as the “feminist movement”—refers to the series of political campaigns birthed in the 1960s that pushed for the allocation of equal rights to women. Feminist criticism, on the other hand, refers to the assessment of the struggles faced by women—and feminists—brought upon by patriarchy and sexism. Theorists of the movement target to expose the root causes of female oppression and the exertion of dominance over their species. They have often concluded that this was due to man’s “pervasive thinking”. Man often perceives that a woman is beneath him in aspects such as power, importance of being, and roles in society and politics. This “male mentality is something that I, being of the same species, cannot comprehend. Males call themselves “gentlemen” and promote the ideology of chivalry when they may be confused about the whole general idea of it.
Chivalry’s very concept started out as a code of ethics for men, originating from the French word “Chevalier”, which directly translates to knight. This was used as basis for the conduct of knights in both battle and in addressing other people—most especially women. Chivalry died years ago, and that is a fact. The interpretation of such is now reduced to the giving off of seats to women, and opening of doors for them—very much far from the actual ideology. In this age, the concept seems blurred out as the feminist movement has evolved into something more than just pushing for equal rights. There is now a call to empower women, all while involving in the dialogue men—who first were the reason why such movement was created. It may seem ironic to some, but to be able to resolve an issue, you will have to eliminate the problem from its source. In the case of women, it was to enlighten their oppressors.
It’s when this gets brought up that I remember arguing with my Komunikasyon sa Filipinohiya (FILKOMU) professor regarding the validity of calling men as ‘feminists’ that I get irked. For most parts, it was because that my arguments and reasoning were replied to with “ganoon na ‘yon; you can’t be a feminist because you’re a guy, that’s it,” and accompanying laughs from the said professor and the class.
For the rest, it was due to my aggravated self who had to learn that a movement that pushed for gender equality started out as something too “exclusive”. It came off as something very sexist to a mundane man’s thinking. But where really do men lie in this dialogue—apart from producing crude commentaries?
As a male engineering student, it is evident and observable that the population of the college mostly comprises of men. For me to say that such instance is unnatural would be a lie; more often than not, it is men who usually pursue programs, and eventually careers in engineering. Although, this evidence cannot be the sole basis for one to determine the success of women in the field. Apart from the lack of acknowledgment that women, too, are interested in the programs aligned to such, they are regarded as “special cases” after qualifying the exact same criteria given to men during applications. Having heard it first-hand from a blockmate, it is as if males pretend to be territorial when “intruders” are in their—our—turf. But then again, the discipline was never created to cater to just one gender; more importantly, women are not threats or hindrances to the growth of men—each man has himself to take care of such process.
In order to go further in this dialogue, we, men, must know the roles we want to play. Will we be the oppressors, just the mediators, or the agents of change? More so, we have to clarify and align our actions with our own intentions. One must understand that just because one feels urged or required to show “respect and reverence” towards others, doesn’t mean that the subject of such is indebted to them. Again, we must be able to clear out our intentions when we act upon them. If men were to offer seats to women just to feel invigorated and to feel highly of themselves, then that is not what we call “respect and reverence”. It is simply a self-serving intention; it is one that lacks regard.
If the only goal of men in the dialogue of feminism was to make themselves feel better and to make up for the previous instances that they’ve proven society that they truly were the reason for women’s oppression, then there is a lack of understanding on our part. In the end, the labels may not matter anymore, but our actions will. I now understand that I need not be concerned with the label given to me—a feminist, or a “supporter” of the cause—for what is important is what I do to help.
Being a part of a movement entails one to go beyond the agenda set by her or himself. To be able to create and initiate changes in society—especially for ways of thinking that have been inculcated in the minds of many for a long time already—one has to think beyond oneself.
To say that feminism “killed” chivalry may imply a lot of things. This may suggest making way for mindsets and perception of things to be made better, but also burying in the past what needs to be buried. If society would want to move forward, and if men would decide to start seeing women as equals, the oversimplified, and misinterpreted form of modern-age chivalry must be forgotten—or transformed. But then again, it does not serve its purpose anymore.
Modern-age chivalry is nothing but an average avenue for opportunistic men to enforce their masculinity on every chance they get. It is not anymore “knightly”, it is egoistic. So just like how it killed off the hopes and dreams and opportunities that should have been given and offered to women, chivalry should be treated the same way. Perhaps it should stay dead.