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Thread: Chivalry and Sexism

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Chivalry and Sexism

    The ultra-macho culture of NFL football and TV football bloviaters is outraged by the latest video showing Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice punching his fiance (now, for some inexplicable reason, wife) in a casino elavator. Rice has been kicked off his team and out of the league. The outrage is reasonable; the subtle sexism that helps to create it might be less so.

    We probably all agree that people shouldn't cold **** their fiances. They probably shouldn't even slug other people's fiances, or beat up confirmed bachelors. What I find interesting, though, is the macho chivalry that finds such behavior uniquely horrifying when it victimizes women. A quick look at the statistics shows that men are far more likely than women to be victims of violent crimes: assault, armed robbery, and murder (women are more likely to be raped). Yet the macho culture of NFL football was quick to forgive Ray Lewis for being an accessory to murder (for non-Americans and non-sports-fans, Lewis covered up for some buddies who knifed a guy to death outside a night club).

    The macho ideal, of course, is that (helpless) women must be protected. Macho men (like the chivalrous knights of old) are expected to punch, beat, and even kill each other. But (say the TV bloviaters) laying hands upon a woman is the most horrible of transgressions.

    Of course it is true that, in general, women are physically weaker than men, so punching a woman is by default a form of bullying. However, most NFL football players are so big and strong that the same could be said about almost any man they decide to beat down.

    In any event, the chivalry that views women as a class deserving of special protection is clearly sexist. That doesn't mean that women shouldn't be protected, or that we shouldn't be more horrified by violence against women than we are by violence against men -- but the same chivalry that views women as more helpless and in need of protection can also be used to justify less benign forms of discrimination.

    So my question is: Is the chivalry that sees violence against women as far worse than violence against men reasonable? If so, why and how? Is chivalry a sexist relic of the past? (By the way, although men are far more likely than women to be victims of violence, they are more likely to be perpetrators by a far greater margin. I'm not trying to defend men, just to wonder about the cultural implications of even the seemingly benign sexism associated with chivalry. In addition, macho culture does protect women, and perhaps not all sexism is a bad thing, although, of course, different culturally constituted mores might provide equal protection at a lower cost.)
    Last edited by Ecurb; 09-08-2014 at 07:56 PM.

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