Come for the ethics, stay for the chivalry lesson!
Steve-O-From NJ ( as I strongly suspected he would) responded to the infuriating tale of the high school teacher who ordered her students to act out her infantile and politically-warped view of “chivalry” with a brief lesson on what Medieval chivalry was really about. Obviously an Ethics Alarms post can’t cover this entire, rich topic, but students reading here would come away with a lot more genuine historical perspective than the young victims of a feminist teacher’s ignorance at Texas’s Shallowater High School. This Comment of the Day is admittedly tangential to the ethics issue, which is that our public school teachers frequently don’t know what they are blathering about, and are too often more concerned with woke indoctrination than they are in education.
It also points up a dilemma. Teachers should be capable of conveying the essentials of “the three ‘Rs,'” and perhaps age-appropriate science and geography. But history? Most teachers were educated in a school system that neglected or distorted history, and their own knowledge and analytical abilities in this subject are, to be kind, inadequate. Thus they pass along their own biases, misunderstandings and flawed knowledge to the next generation. I would conclude that teachers should be required to stick to the approved history textbooks and their lesson plans, except that most of those have been polluted by ideological agendas too.
Well, that’s a topic for another day. Right now, the topic is Chivalry.
Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Today’s Dispatch From ‘The Great Stupid’: The Chivalry Assignment“:
What utter garbage. As a long time scholar of chivalry, knighthood, the Middle Ages, and the heroic ideal, I can tell you this assignment is nowhere near what the chivalrous idea or the ideal of courtly love was all about. For starters, chivalry was an idea for knights and nobles, not ordinary people, who were often too easy eking out a bare living to worry about such niceties.
Among the knights and nobles, though, no lady in Medieval Europe ever had bound feet. That cruel practice was something that was done in Mandarin China, from an early age, to make noblewomen’s feet unnaturally tiny. Medieval noblewomen did walk daintily, but that was because they were often wearing two and three layers of clothing, which was very heavy and made it difficult to take big steps. EVERYONE in those class-conscious days addressed a superior by title, and often by bowing. Knights and ladies of equal rank would frequently bow, nod etc. to each other, because that was that era’s handshake, it was just something you did to be polite. Complaining and whining is and was always frowned upon, that has nothing to do with chivalry. Conversation and criticism were governed as much by rank as by gender. A knight wouldn’t initiate conversation with or criticize a baron, and so on up the line, although sometimes that got bent and you would ask your superior to speak candidly. Contact between the genders was limited and regulated, but distinctions of rank still applied, a knight would still have to be deferential to a countess or duchess.
Cooking and providing drinks? That’s something most of the chivalric class and noble class had servants to do, and often the lady of the castle was the one who ran the household while the knight or nobleman was out fighting or attending to whatever. God help you if you were lower ranking and displeased her. Now, the rules of hospitality were something else, and everyone was expected to provide for guests, especially higher ranking ones. If you were a count or a baron and a higher ranking nobleman or the king came through, you better be prepared to kill the fatted calf and give him all the best you can muster. Fail to impress him, and your fortunes might decline very precipitously. Oh, and cleaning? That’s what servants were for too. The lady of the castle might supervise the cleaning people, if the castle was too small to justify a butler or other chief servant, but she’d be very unlikely to join in herself.
Intellectual superiority? Obedience of any male? Who are you kidding? If the women were wise, they didn’t join in conversations that they did not have the knowledge base for, and, unfortunately, that often meant conversations got very segregated, as the knights and noblemen talked of battles and diplomacy and the ladies talked of household things. Obedience to any male is ridiculous. A chivalric or noble woman answered to her father before she was married and to her husband after, usually nobody else unless a superior demanded something of her, but everybody was expected to obey a superior.
This is before we even talk about courtly love. As often as not noble and chivalric women had very little choice in the matter and were married off to political allies to cement alliances or to those not allies to make them allies or end a feud. If, however, you were a member of the class and wished to pursue an available noble or chivalric lady, you had to ask her father for permission to court her, then impress her family with what you did, how you handled yourself, and what you brought to the table. You of course didn’t interact with her much, except under the close eye of her father, her brothers, and their retainers. Eventually her family would consent and you could marry her, or they would not consent and they’d send you on your way. In later romances that’s why you see fictional heroes worshipping princesses from afar like porcelain statues and trying to impress the royal family by jousting evil knights, defeating monsters, etc. That’s why El Cid had to defeat the King of Aragon’s champion to win Ximena (although it didn’t help that he’d killed her father for insulting his), that’s why Beren had to retrieve a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth to win Luthien (I’d love to get into a whole discussion about Tolkien’s rather ridiculous love stories and why I think they are ridiculous, but there isn’t time here), etc. In Peter Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” Prince Lir tries RIDICULOUSLY hard to impress the eponymous unicorn when she is in human form as Lady Amalthea, and wonders what the heck he is doing wrong when she is unresponsive.
This isn’t chivalry, this is, as you say, feminist agitprop, and an attempt to instill the idea that women have been oppressed hard until Gloria Steinem and company came along and told those oppressive men to go straight to hell. It’s also the idea that any man who tries to be polite is really just oppressing women a different way.
Why is it I have started to form the belief that a lot of these feminists just hate men generally?