Chauvinism Or Chivalry: Can Feminism Go Too Far?

The term ‘chauvinism’ is thrown around a lot these days. It justifiably refers to anything from demeaning, gender focussed comments, to the pay gap, to sexual harassment. However, as modern feminism has evolved, other forms of conduct have crept into the definition. Things like a man giving up his seat for a woman on the train. Or opening doors for her. Or paying for her meal. Pre-1970, this behaviour would have been classed as chivalry (or even good manners). Nowadays, women consider it chauvinistic.

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The argument in favour of including this behaviour under the chauvinism umbrella is sound. In an age where women are still trying to assert their financial independence, of course we might bristle if a man wants to pay for us. Of course the little voice in our heads screams “patriarchy!” when a man opens a door for us, or gives up his seat. Aren’t our own abilities sufficient? This all seems like a no-brainer – at least on the surface.

Here’s the thing: when I am standing on the train, I get irritated if a guy doesn’t at least offer me his seat, especially if he’s younger than me. When I’m in the company of male friends, I expect them to open doors for me (which, invariably, they do, because my guy friends are awesome). And if a guy has asked me out (I realise I may be shooting myself in the foot here), I get very offended if he doesn’t pay for my meal, coffee, movie ticket, fro-yo, whatever.

This isn’t because I’m old fashioned, or because I expect men to take care of me. It’s certainly not because I have a superiority complex. It’s because men have a wonderful primal instinct to protect and to provide. I’ve observed it many times. According to author, actor, and television host Steve Harvey in his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: “Remember what drives a man; real men do what they have to do to make sure their people are taken care of, clothed, housed, and reasonably satisfied, and if they’re doing anything less than that, they’re not men.” This statement may seem a little extreme, but Harvey has a point. Men who care for you will act on this primal instinct; men who don’t, won’t.

I have a huge amount of faith in the male species. I thrive in the company of men. I would not be the person I am today were it not for all the wonderful men in my life. I see the way they act around women. If they want to impress a girl, they’re always helping her with her coat, or buying her things, or opening the car door for her; anything to make her existence that little bit more pleasant. It’s not because they’re manipulating her, or don’t think she can do all those things for herself. It’s because, well – that’s just what they do. They wouldn’t consider doing anything else. They are surrendering to their base mentality; to protect and to provide.

This is not to say that women should expect men to bend over backwards for their every need. However, if you’re out with a guy and he is INSISTING on doing all those old-school chivalrous things, let him. He’ll get a kick out of it. It’s a sign that he’s trying really, really, REALLY hard. Don’t cut him down or make him feel stupid for offering. Don’t insist that you’re an independent woman who can pay her own damn way. Let’s set chauvinism aside and consider chivalry a sign of care, rather than an insult.

Image via Executivestyle.com.au

Why Men Don’t Listen And Offer Unsolicited Advice

If you’ve ever felt like your man is indeed from another planet – nay galaxy far, far away – you’re not alone, sister.

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Just recently, a best friend and I bemoaned the fact that our husbands were, at times, frustratingly highly skilled at offering unsolicited advice, but were far less capable listeners. Why can’t men just shut the f*** up and listen? Why do they have to offer solutions when you’ve never sought them? It’s an age-old relationship problem psychologists have long counselled couples about. So, why are men’s and women’s relationship needs so different?

Relationship experts say generally speaking, when we women have a problem, we usually want to sit down with a friend or their partner and talk about the issues, mull it over, express our feelings about the problem and receive empathy and encouragement. Above all, we just want to feel listened to and heard. Only after we’ve received this support do we want to move into problem solving, receiving advice and discussing solutions.

So, we women often become really frustrated and annoyed with our male partners when we try to talk with them about a problem, because men just seem to want to jump straight in with solutions and unsolicited advice. How many times has your loved one, bless him, said something like: “If you just do it like this…” or “You should have just done what I told you…” Gah!

relationships, listening skills, relationship advice


However, clinical psychologists do concede many men are also bad listeners, cutting straight to problem solving when you just want to talk and feel listened to. And some men feel compelled to offer unsolicited advice for no reason; when you are actually more than capable of dealing with the situation by yourself. So, why do they do this?

For some, it may be a form of chauvinism, with the underlying belief that you as a woman can’t cope without their help and guidance. Grrr! Others may be well-meaning and genuinely want to help, jumping in with solutions and advice too quickly. Which category does your man fit into?

Another part of the puzzle is that relationship experts say men are genetically programmed to be problem solvers; and problem-solving behaviour rather than exploring feelings and motivations is encouraged in the majority of boys as they grow up.

relationships, listening skills, relationship advice

The solution? They say to try encouraging our partners to be better listeners by explaining to them we’d really just like to talk about our problem and have him pay attention to us and really understand before he comes up with solutions. What’s more, we may have to gently remind him of this each time we want to talk about a problem. Sigh.

But if this doesn’t work, and if the man in your life continues to jump in too soon with solutions and unsolicited advice, you could try:

a) Punching him in the arm (er, just kidding) or
b) Talking to the women in your life for the empathy and understanding that you need, then…
c) When you’re ready to address the problem, talk to the man in your life for solutions to your problem.

relationships, listening skills, relationship advice

Intimate relationships sure aren’t easy at times, but hopefully the bargaining will pay off. What do you think? Why don’t men listen to women and offer unsolicited advice?

Images via listcult.com, kikiandtea.com, huffingtonpost.com, someecards.com