BEING AN ITALIAN EXPAT IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, MANY TIMES I HAPPENED TO MISS THE WORLD-RENOWNED ITALIAN GALLANTRY. BEL PAESE’S GENTLEMEN HAVE BEEN RAISED WITH GOOD MANNERS AND TAUGHT HOW TO TREAT WOMEN WITH POLITENESS SINCE CHILDHOOD. ALL THESE DAILY ACTS ARE SOMEHOW SEEN BY MANY AS A MACHO ATTITUDE, HERITAGE OF THE MANLY SOCIETY OF THE PAST. IN ITALY THOUGH, WOMEN SEEM NO TO COMPLAIN THAT MUCH ABOUT IT.
When I came to France, I realized that most of the men were very far from gentlemen. Not that they weren’t polite and all, but they seemed to restrain themselves from some “politically incorrect” behavior, trying to keep their gender-equality friendly conduct. I was curious to know better why in 2017 men were scared of doing something that modern feminists would describe as offensive as opening the door of the car to a woman or paying the bill at the restaurant. I decided then to know more about the topic and asked some male friends of mine to answer a few questions. Here’s what I came up with.
“What do you think of today’s feminism in response to the gallantry acts you’ve been thought since you were a kid? Do you feel scared of women’s judgment when behaving as a gentleman?”
Axel – Italy-France, 41 years’ old. I never dealt with feminist episodes, at least not that I remember. I was brought up to behave in a certain way with women. I do not know etiquette by heart but I always try to follow the basics. And so far, no one has ever complained.
But I have to admit that when travelling around the world I noticed that in some countries more than in others there is a certain kind of distrust regarding to an act of gallantry. For example, in America they looked at me weird when I got up several times whenever a lady came or went away. No statement or anything, but simple looks.
Then I found very gallant people in Germany and the Netherlands for example… in ways I did not know. For example, introducing a woman before a man in a meeting.
I don’t feel scared of behaving in a way that I consider appropriate and respectful of a woman. I’m not afraid of the judgment of women towards my acts of gallantry. And even if in France women are more independent than in other countries, this does not prevent me to act like I think it’s best.
“Do you think gentleman’s acting can be mistaken as unequal treatment based on gender? Do you feel this is an old heritage that should be removed from our society, or a good habit that would be good to pass to the next generations of kids?”
Sofiane – France-Morocco, 24 years’ old. I think that some gallantry acts can be considered as “macho” by some women. Gender equality issues are always very sensitive and difficult to approach objectively.
As a man, I think it would be good to pass down this heritage. If I say so it is because since I was a kid I’ve been introduced to gallantry acting as a way to respect and protect women.
Now, I understand this could start a long debate whether women need to be protected or not, given the fact that they’re equal to men. In the end I think men and women depend on each other. For example, when women can be seen as “physically weaker”, they can also offer men the psychological and emotional support they need (and sometimes lack of), in an EQUAL exchange.
I find the idea that everyone has his/her strengths and weaknesses rather interesting in terms of complementarity.
Even if I can relate to some feminists’ point of view, if gallantry is seen as a way to respect and protect the woman in this equal exchange dynamic, I don’t think this is disturbing.
This way, if gallantry is part of a society balance between men and women evolving in a context of reciprocal contributions, then I think that it can find its place. We’ll all be winners if it can be passed down to our kids, most of all in a society where respect and affection dissipates generation after generation.
Text by Marta Tomasini