Our busy 21st century lives seem as though they have little resemblance to the medieval days of knights atop white horses. Stories of chivalry and courtly love may seem to some like a mere fairy tale. Many modern day women feel justified in their belief that chivalry is dead. They believe that the men of 2004 are all out to cheat, lie and steal their hearts away. This attitude can be seen in the inscription on a recent t-shirt that quite simply states, “boys lie.”
Compare such a statement to what a “fair maiden” of medieval times would have said about her knight in shining armor. This knight would have sworn to the oath, “I will remain unvanquished.” He would be living under a code that demanded he “shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to pledged word.”
He would also be expected to conduct himself in accordance to the rules of courtly love. These twelve rules would mold the way in which he would act towards a young lady that he hoped to court. These principles required that he acted with kindness, respect and courtesy toward all women. When entering into knighthood, he would promise to dutifully observe all the rules, including the one that stated, “Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of love.”
One would think that any fair maiden would be delighted to court such a knight; however, many modern women would probably turn him down. The 21st Century woman is in a quest for independence. She feels that if a man holds a door open for her, he is implying that she cannot do it for herself. If her medieval knight went off to defend her honor, she would probably react by saying that she can fight her own battles, or that he was trying to suffocate her emotionally.
This attitude rings loud through the refrain of the 2002 song, “Can’t hold us down” in which Christina Aguilera and Lil’ Kim sing, “But you’re just a little boy, think you’re so cute, so coy. So you’re just a little boy, all you’ll do is annoy.”
Many of today’s women are so intent upon not wanting to be left vulnerable that they are denying any offer to accept any sort of assistance from men. It is a definite advantage for women to want independence and self-reliance, but to shy away from any kind of common dignity offered by a man is simply degrading. The medieval “fair maiden” was raised to a high station by her chivalrous knight. She knew that she deserved respect and was not afraid to demand that her knight give it to her.
Chivalry is not dead. There are knights in shining armor all around who are ready and willing to offer assistance to damsels in distress. Some of these knights, wanting to be sincere gentlemen, are right here on our campus, ready to fight their way into the hearts of any fair maiden willing to put a little faith in chivalry.