Reciprocal obligations for women under chivalry?

The topic of chivalry was recently touched upon in a couple other posts, and it is easy to see the obligations for men, from small to great, but are there any reciprocal obligations for women under chivalry? If so, what are they?

A month ago I came across a post by Doug Wilson on Christian schools

in which he states

Parents should want, and the board of the school should insist upon, an environment where the differences between boys and girls are recognized and honored, and where they have a very public place in the consciousness of all. The manners and customs of the school should demand it. For example, establish little customs like girls exiting the classroom first, and then the boys. Encourage boys to hold the door open for girls. You know, all the things that feminism taught us to sneer at.

I found it notable that no examples of expectations for girls are provided, for which I do not fault for Wilson since it was not the main point of his post. But it got me thinking: what customs should girls follow to recognize and honor the differences between girls and boys? Or are there no customs that girls need follow? Or no customs that women need follow?

Here’s why I think it is an important topic to explore. Throughout my life there has been a push to open male-dominated spaces to women for the purpose of equality while simultaneously demanding accommodation for the different nature and condition of women. This perceived double standard provoked resentment in me as a young man, whether justified or not, and I believe it drives much of the bitterness of the Manosphere that has been touched upon in a couple other posts. I think it is accurate to say that Evangelical Christianity and traditional conservatism have largely made their peace with feminism, whether they realize it or not, such that calls for chivalrous behavior on the part of men will fall on increasing deaf ears because no one likes one-way obligations. Indeed, the WLC teaches that obligations are two-way, although often not equivalent.

So going back to my original question, are their obligations for women under chivalry, and if so, what are they? Any ideas out there?


Meanwhile, when my wife was young she resented the fact that she couldn’t go camping with the men and boys in the Boundary Waters.

It is helpful here to note the difference between negative and positive duties. If you are blind to negative duties, then the boy who holds the door open is the only one who had any sort of duty or did anything. But it only takes one attempt to hold a door for a militant feminist to realize that all the other women you’ve held doors for have done something this woman has not. They have been modest. And a bit more thinking reveals that they have not done something that this woman has—namely, they have not kicked against the weakness of their sex. Obedience to this negative duty becomes all the more evident when the “man” holding the door for her is actually her young son who is much weaker than she is.

In other words, this whole idea of men holding the door for women is bidirectional to the extreme. You could almost characterize it that men should be strong and women should be pretty. If men feel that holding the door so that women can be pretty is a bummer of a deal, I can only say that I personally like women to be pretty. It’s certainly preferable to all the women being strong and men being pretty.

In other words, there is a double standard of sorts. Both Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat the fruit, but contrary to the WCF, they were not both responsible for the fall. Adam was. Let that sink in as you think about today. Do feminist women sin? Sure do. Who let feminism pervert this nation to its current state? Men did. It doesn’t matter how many women’s marches there were before or after the fact. “The woman you gave to be with me…” is accurate enough, but pathetic to the max. It’s an excuse.

Perhaps another example is in order. Several months ago I exchanged emails with a well-known writer on masculinity who objected to the idea that men should feel an obligation to protect women they aren’t married or related to. I brought up the example of men getting in the lifeboats last when a ship is sinking. I’m sure this man isn’t the only one today who would object to being told he should do this. It’s quite the duty to lay down your life. Where is the equivalent duty on woman? Her duty is to obey you when you tell her to take the children she bore you and get on the boat without you. Which one has the harder duty?


I’m not following the exact train of thought here.

This is much more articulate than the two-word answer I was going to give: Let them.


You aren’t laying your life down so “she” can live. Every woman on that boat owes her life to you.

Yes, I think this is a good point. What sort of negative duties should be expected of women? Maybe this sounds like an obtuse question, but I think in a feminist culture it is good to reorient ourselves to the basics.

I’d like to stress that what you outline above is a very unusual circumstance for our society – is there anything left that is reserved only for boys? Even the Boy Scouts are now enrolling girls. Recall that a foundational principle for my argument was that throughout my life there has been a push to open male-dominated spaces to women for the purpose of equality. As a boy and as a man, I never experienced any event or privilege that was not also opened to girls and women under force of law or cultural pressure, aside from sports teams and within my own church. To create a hypothetical analogy, it was as if feminist pressure had opened Boundary Waters camping to girls, but since girls are weaker than boys, the boys were expected to carry the girls’ packs for them. Essentially, it is simultaneously argued that girls are equal to boys, so they get to go camping, too, but since girls are not equal to boys, the boys must pick up the slack. That’s the sort of double standard I had in mind, and the source of my resentment as a young man. Was it justified? Maybe not – as you say, it’s easy to be blind to negative duties. But a negative duty implies that something is foreborne, and do women forebear anything these days?

So now let me clarify my original question. By “reciprocal” I did not mean “identical”, and by “double standard” I did not mean “lack of identical duties”. What I intended to ask was whether some duties should be expected of women, and if the duties are in the negative sense, that’s fine, but what are they, or what ought they to be?


Dang, the 21st century summed up in an acerbic nutshell.


Generally not. My comment was meant to be a prophylactic against the sort of solution that throws out the baby with the bath water when it comes to tossing aspects of sexuality that come down from our great grandparents. And such tossing has certainly begun to include the baby today.

But I already gave two examples. Give some other examples of “chivalry” and let’s decide whether they are based in biblical sexuality or not. Let’s find out what they require of both the men and women and why. Let’s see whether they are a double standard and if so whether it’s an appropriate one. Let’s discuss whether the man should fulfill his “duty” even if the women today refuse to fulfill theirs.

And most of all, let’s make it real by talking about what we are therefore teaching our children.

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Man, that’s good. If I can add one thing, when a woman receives a chivalrous act, whether as small as opening a car door for for her, as helpful as carrying heavy things for her, or as major as dying so she can live, she is being modest in the reception. However, it seems to me that there is an appropriate response to these acts, and that’s gratitude. Generally, this is done just by saying thank you, and meaning it. I think an attitude of gratitude (not intending to be cute) by women is a reciprocity that would go a long way towards heading off the resentment that @Joel mentioned feeling.


Agreed. But with this qualification: home economics disappeared before the Boy Scouts. Part of my wife’s complaint was because she was a tomboy, but part of it was because there was nothing for her. This is another aspect of the (positive) duties for women you are talking about. They have indeed been lost.

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I’m not sure this is quite what you’re looking for, but this is what came to mind first:

Some friends were visiting at our house a year or so ago… they have two sons and a daughter, while we only have boys. I was curious to see how they interact with their girl and teach her. At one point the kids were playing outside and one of my little boys got slightly hurt and was crying. The little girl was gently chastised by her father for not being sympathetic and comforting him. I was astounded.

And then embarrassed, because it has never occurred to me that we ought to be teaching girls to be womanly in their sympathy for those who are hurt. I like to think that I would have thought of that if I’d had a daughter… but I’m glad to learn this lesson before I have one (if God ever sends us one!).

Other duties to teach daughters could be taking care to be respectful of their brothers, to refrain from mothering them in an oppressive way, to follow their lead in games (or at least to not be a brash bossy-pants!).

The duties of women naturally fall into the category of “negative” duties, do they not? Since women are called to follow, submit, and respond, while men lead, command, and initiate…?


So so helpful Joseph. As a woman I absolutely agree!!!

(And I didn’t have the same resentment your wife does because MY dad took me on the father/son BW canoe trip :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:)


And Heidi and her friend eventually convinced their parents to take them to the BW as a family vacation. But that’s not the same thing as being allowed on the father/son trip. Heidi is scandalized. Lol.

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The lifeboat example is complicated by the fact that passengers are assigned muster stations and are herded on to boats as fast as they can. Chaos would ensue if all the men were suddenly to refuse to get on until every woman and child was safely on. When the crew member tells me where and when to get on, I obey the crew member. Whatever responsibility I supposedly have to all of the women I don’t know I yield to the ship’s crew to make sure they got off alright.

How many more people could have been saved on the Titanic if more men had been willing to get on the lifeboats instead of lifeboats half full being dropped into the water?

But I guess you can’t make a chivalrous egg without breaking a few male omelettes, right?

What is your point? That a man has no more obligation to die so women and children can live than a woman’s obligation to die so that men and children can live?

It is this sort of twisting away from male duty and responsibility that is at the heart of feminism. It is reciprocity itself is appealed to by those conscripting women into the armed forces and putting them into combat positions.


I’ve never heard that half full life boats were dropped down from the titanic. I’d be very interested to read about it - can you follow up with a link?

The question of how to handle the ship crew when they are herding everyone indiscriminately is difficult. It makes me think of how difficult it would be to serve in combat positions with women - what are Christian men going to do in those situations when women are taught to go first into harms way? Sounds awful.

Still, nothing of what you’ve said has anything to do with the principle of the matter, if you know what I mean. You haven’t argued effectively that men shouldn’t bother to be chivalrous, but only that it would be very difficult in certain circumstances.


You’ve got your mythological a little mixed up. Many were half full but not because of chivalrous men disobeying orders. The orders were in fact women and children first. Sadly crew, and first class male felt exempted from this order. it was cowardess that led to these sad statistics.

“More men survived than women. The survivors among the men were relatively more crewmen, then more First Class and Third Class, with 92% of men dying from Second Class. The women and children travelling third class died in relatively high numbers, with 66% of those children dying.”

Since we’re only talking about myths and legends I’m sure you won’t mind my source.


I deal with how to respond when women are putting themselves into danger every day. A radio call tells of a fight somewhere in the facility, and officers come running to respond. Whoever is closest and available first. Sometimes it’s that petite young African American lady who might be a buck twenty sopping wet. Sometimes it’s that generally sweet gray haired older lady. If I saw her in church I would be looking for her grandchildren around her. I’m not sure if it makes it harder or easier that I am not authorized as a civilian to go running into that danger. I mostly respond in prayer, and talking with the officers afterward. Makes me long for the days when ministers were leading men from their congregations to sign up for the just war.


No individual man or woman is relieved of duties required by God because another has not fulfilled his or her obligations. But on a broader level, incentives and disincentives matter practically.

Yes, I think this is important. An attitude of entitlement on the part of women kills chivalric attitudes in men. The resistance that the Manosphere expresses against chivalry I think is not so much driven by cowardice or selfishness as it is by the feeling that they are being played for chumps. Men will put themselves on the line if they think they are viewed as valued lions but not if they think they are viewed as expendable donkeys.

One important fact is that men define manhood in a negative sense – being a man is not being a woman. So if women engage in some activity, it becomes no longer masculine but merely neutral. So once women become captain and crew, men will see no reason not to let them go down with the ship when it hits an iceberg. This point is understood by hardline feminists who have more integrity than the soft feminists who want to play it both ways.


The thing about leadership, though, is you’re the one out front. This means that a man may very well find himself in a position (for instance) where he’s letting a woman go before him who has the bad manners to demand that she go before him. This also applies to any responsibility a husband begins to take for leading his wife, where she may not immediately be on board with it–to refuse to do his duty until she is willing to do her part is to refuse to lead. Men have to understand that of course we might be the only one on board at first–part of the work of leading is teaching, answering objections, and demonstrating stability. It’s not “she wouldn’t so I couldn’t,” it’s “ah - I see there’s more work to do here. Strengthen me, Lord!”