Opinion: Chivalry at TCU is alive and well

Either the university's male population has undertaken a good deeds-based collegiate equivalent of the Boy Scout badge system, or chivalry is alive and well in the land of Horned Frogs. Though I harbor an improbable hope in the former (I’d be two held doors and a “ma'am” shy of becoming an Eagle Scout), it is quite clear the men of this university are wholeheartedly engaged in chivalrous practices that would make my mother proud.

Chivalry, according to Wikipedia, is the “traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood.” Though men may no longer see chivalry as a knightly pursuit (riding upon your noble deed?), it surely remains something every male should take seriously. Just being on campus makes this mindset clear.

A girl walking into a building behind you? Hold the door. Oh, she’s 20 yards away when you enter the building and you’d have to wait 10 seconds? Hold it anyway. A girl walks into a room in which everyone, including you, is seated, but there are no chairs left? Looks like you’re standing.

Instances of chivalry such as these are not huge sacrifices for males, nor do they bestow overwhelming benefits on females. Often times, chivalry is just a simple good deed done in a matter of seconds. More important than the deeds themselves is the simple idea that backs them: respect women and put them before yourself. The many ways in which this idea is personified on the TCU campus can come as a surprise to those not from around these parts. As Wisconsin native Marie Watson said, “I just don’t get it. No one ever holds a door for me back home.” For a female germaphobe, the university could be paradise, for it is unlikely that she will have to touch door handles often.

The origin of these random deeds is most likely our geography. Roughly 75% of TCU students are from Texas according to the university's admission website, and they, like me, were probably raised to be chivalrous. I have fond memories of my own mother making toddler-me say “ma'am,” hold doors that were heavier than my tiny, albeit adorable, frame and always telling me to allow “ladies first.” As it is for many Texans, chivalry is just part of the way I was raised, and I don’t really know how to act any differently. It literally pains me to shut a door on a girl or not help a woman carry something heavy. I have even been known to hold a door for 5 minutes because I refused to enter a doorway before a girl. I and my fellow males of similar upbringing carried this mindset with us to TCU, and this chivalric migration has led to the prevalence of an unwritten code of manners on campus.

While many believe chivalry is romantic and courteous, to some it may seem strange, or even insulting. These people would argue that women are no less capable than men and that they do not need help from self-righteous males bent on impressing girls and absorbing whatever selfish benefits flow from such pointless wooing. I would never say that women are incapable – in fact, I would argue that they are equally, and often more, capable than men. TCU men are in no way attempting to insult the gender we intend to help. We do not see women as incapable or unequal. We are truly just trying to be nice like our mothers taught us. We are simply being kind. In a society that often demeans and disrespects women, we want to show that we still respect you, and we want to make you feel like a princess-in-passing every once in a while. And for many female Horned Frogs, chivalry does just that. 

Freshman Sarah Westphal (my blood relative) said that it makes her feel special. She said it makes her feel like guys still care about making a girl feel good. Because chivalry has such a huge potential to make women feel special and respected, I am a strong proponent of it. But because I also understand the point about sexism made by chivalry’s critics, I am also a proponent of "bro-chivalry."

Bro-chivalry is just like normal chivalry, but it encompasses kind acts from bro to bro, girl to bro, and girl to girl. If chivalry is truly about respect and kindness as we claim it is, why not extend it to everyone? Why not put the same effort into caring about everyone on campus, regardless of gender, that so many put into traditional chivalry? Think about how much better the university could be if we all practiced bro-chivalry. Girls would still feel like princesses, but guys might get the chance to feel like a prince as well (quite the royal accomplishment). Nothing says “I got you bro” quite like giving up your chair in a full room, and isn’t that what we’re all after? Don’t we all just want to know that we as a Horned Frog family are capable of putting one another in front of ourselves?

So, guys and girls of the university, continue your path to knighthood, remain chivalrous in your deeds and keep making TCU special.