A question of chivalry
February 13, 2012 § 12 Comments
Not a long post, nor a particularly sophisticated one – but this is why I cannot stand the mainstream usage of the word “chivalry” to describe certain kinds of behaviour. You know what I’m talking about: doors opened, items carried, chairs pulled out – “it’s not sexist, it’s chivalrous”.
Well. I’ve had this argument a fair few times with friends, mostly with cis men. They can’t understand why I would be so put out by someone wanting to “help” – it’s lovely when people are helpful, surely? So, an illustration.
I have to schlep a pretty heavy electronic piano to and from most of my gigs. It’s awkward and annoying and you can’t carry it for long distances, but it’s my instrument and I’m used to it. I’m also used to helping with harpsichord transport for classical concerts – much heavier and far, far more expensive and delicate. Concert situations, so I’m usually looking (if I say so myself) pretty damn attractive. As such, I’ve had cis men falling over themselves to try to carry my instruments for me, proving how very strong and macho they are in the process. Some have literally pushed me out of a holding position so that they can replace me. Never a question of what they could honestly do to help (open doors, assist with awkward angles, clear people out of the way) but tonnes of “compliments” along the lines of “bit heavy for a pretty little thing like you” – as I may have said before, I’m average height for a man, weigh 11 stone and lift weights for fun. Many a time the man in question has struggled under the weight of said instrument and nearly dropped it – thanks guys, really.
I had an amazing gig in Edinburgh this weekend with Cachin Cachan Cachunga – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I was also as sick as a dog and as weak as kitten (not choosing, as usual). I was desperate for some help – but, sadly, I was looking less than my best. Deathly pale and glassy-eyed and not my usual charming self. So, did any “chivalrous” cis men step up to offer their services? Of course not. Why would they? There was nothing in it for them.*
Just a brief example. I could give you so many more – as I’m sure could anyone else the world has ever read as female. But I’m just so desperate to call a moratorium on this kind of behaviour. I would consider myself a chivalrous person – because I was brought up to be kind and helpful and think of others. Not because I’m trying to prove my masculinity by infantilising and irritating “women” I find attractive.
And as a final point – never touch a musician’s instrument without asking first. It’s beyond rude.
* Obviously, the folks at the gigs were tremendous – and helpful. Thank you!