Is Chivalry Dead? And Should It Be?

When feminists identified masculine chivalry towards women as a tool of oppression, they took away from men, especially young men, a whole set of cultural expectations about how to behave towards the opposite sex. And the assumption of the sexes’ equality has meant that no new code has been put in its place. The result has been a fundamental confusion at the very heart of our understanding of ourselves and our society. On the one hand, we expect women to be treated as the equals of men while on the other we continue to expect their special, protected status to be honored — though more in the breach than in the observance.

James Bowman, Resident Scholar of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of the new book, Honor: A History, sees this cultural contradiction as part of a more general incoherence caused by the collapse of the Western honor culture. To those for whom this collapse is not an unmitigated social good there is bound to occur the question, can honor make a comeback? And, even if it can, is it conceivable that something as old-fashioned as chivalry could be rehabilitated as well?

James Bowman spoke and took questions from AEI Resident Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the celebrated study, Who Stole Feminism?