Chivalry Isn’t Dead ... Not Yet, At Least

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - PA­TER­NITY WARD D. L. Ste­wart

Prob­a­bly the most dis­turb­ing news item I read this past week that didn’t in­volve pro foot­ball con­cerned Baby on Board signs.

The story wasn’t about those yel­low signs that dec­o­rated the rear win­dows of cars a few decades ago, a phe­nom­e­non I never un­der­stood. What was I sup­posed to do, I al­ways won­dered, only have col­li­sions with cars that DIDN’T have ba­bies on board?

As re­ported Tues­day in The New York Times, t he cur­rent Baby on Board no­tices are but­tons be­ing worn by preg­nant rid­ers of the city’s sub­ways in hopes of en­cour­ag­ing other pas­sen­gers to yield their seats to them. Be­cause the vast ma­jor­ity of preg­nant per­sons tend to be fe­male, the but­tons are in­tended to be worn only by women, but in these times of gen­der flex­i­bil­ity you never know.

I sup­pose what dis­turbed me about the story was the fact that there was a need for the but­tons, be­cause I’d like to think giv­ing up a sub­way seat would be in­stinc­tual for any per­son who had a mother who was ever preg­nant. But that’s be­cause I’m a prod­uct of a time in which not giv­ing up my seat to a woman would have earned me a smart rap on the back of my head from my mom. (Par­ents didn’t worry as much about con­cus­sions back then.) And the woman didn’t even have to be preg­nant. She could h a v e b e e n a n Olympic weightlifter and I still would have had to give her my seat.

We had all sorts of rules about how guys were sup- posed to treat women back then. Stand up when a woman came into the room. Tip your hat when you en­count ered a woman. Walk on the street side of the side- walk when ac­com­pa­ny­ing a woman.

I’m not quite clear about why we had to do that last one. One the­ory I read was that the woman would be shielded if a car pass­ing in the street splashed through a pud­dle of wa­ter. An­other was that, in the re­ally olden days, peo­ple in the up­per - dency to toss their garbage out the win­dow and it would arc onto the heads of the per­son walk­ing fur­ther away from the build­ing. That’s prob­a­bly why so many men wore hats.

But the whole male- fe- male cour­tesy t hing t ook a U-turn in the ’70s. I per­son­ally trace it to the day a co-worker and I were board­ing an el­e­va­tor. “Af­ter you,” I said to her. “Oh, no,” she replied, “af­ter YOU.”

“Chivalry is not dead,” I de­clared.

“No,” she snapped, “but it’s mostly use­less.”

Maybe she was right. But at l east preg­nant women didn’t need to wear signs to re­ceive the con­sid­er­a­tion they de­served.

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