As more and more brothers disrespect sisters without even noticing, columnist Nathan Hale Williams wonders if chivalry is on its death bed.
When my mother walks up to a door in the presence of a man, she waits. It was the way I was trained to always open a door for a woman. It is one of the myriads of things my mother taught me about being a true gentleman. Unfortunately, it seems today that such chivalry is dead. You see, so many women seem pleasantly surprised by my gentlemanly behavior. Thankfully, I was “raised right,” but this type of treatment should be the norm, not the exception.
I’m one of the biggest proponents of women’s independence, but there are some standards of behavior that I believe should still exist today. While watching one of those embarrassingly addictive reality shows, I was taken aback at how one of the male characters spoke to his wife. He was “telling her about herself” in a non-aggressive way, but using profanity and consistently saying, “Your ass does this or that…” Although he wasn’t hostile, the fact that he would even speak to his wife in that manner made me cringe. And even more so, that she would let him.
Recently, I was in a neighborhood bar talking with my boys and we decided to engage with the women sitting next to us. We were all getting along and joking around until my boy started cursing and using the “B”word. (It was not directed at her, just being used in general). I quickly corrected him on his language. I was raised to know that you don’t use profanity in front of a lady, especially one you don’t know. With our friends, at times it’s different because you may have an established rapport and the boundaries are clear. However, with strangers in public, it is definitely a don’t in my book.
My parents got a divorce when I was around 10 years old. Before they called it quits, I never saw them argue. Clearly they had some major disagreements that led to the divorce, yet my father would never disrespect my mother in front of me. I’m pretty sure he didn’t do it in private either. Living in New York City, unfortunately, I see men disrespecting women left and right. The sad thing is, the women stand there and allow it to happen as if it’s okay. To this day, I’ve never heard my father say anything but great things about my mother. And I think that’s how it should be.
The problem is a two-sided one. Women need to understand that they deserve to be treated with respect. Opening doors and using polite language are just the beginning. The underlying problem is a lack of respect. Men, as well, need to learn how to treat women and how to act around a lady. Most of the time, the best person to teach a man how to treat a woman is another man. But, if that’s not an option, the responsibility falls on single mothers who are raising boys to be men. They must instill certain levels of respect in their sons at a young age.
I started this column with an essay called I Love Black Women, because I do. And, the best way to show my love is by showing respect to all women, on all levels. As a community, we need to do something about the way Black men treat Black women. It’s a mutual problem, so let’s do the work and get chivalry off of life support. Shall we?
Wishing you LOVE & CEASLESS JOY!
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Nathan’s book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is available now.