Is chivalry dead?

chivalry

If only he had a hat to doff

Chivalry is dead, goes the cry. Gentlemen no longer hold doors open for ladies, they expect the weaker sex to pay for their own restaurant meals and tickets to the picture house, men no longer stand or doff their hat when in the presence of lady, etc., etc.

Which makes the historian wonder when the golden age of everyone behaving properly towards the fairer half of our population actually was. The 1980s? The 1950s? The thirties? Well, of course, the answer is always and never. There never was a golden age and people have always been complaining that chivalry is dead.

At the end of the end of the 18th century, English philosopher Edmund Burke declared “the age of chivalry is gone” and “the glory of Europe is extinguished forever”. These lines were later invoked to oppose the suffragettes, who were “boring” men with their constant claims for equality.

Here in Australia, in 1884 women were allegedly being “degraded” on roads and in parks, but only because chivalry was dead. By 1905, someone calling herself Beatrice said young ‘hooligans’ were only walking their girlfriends to the bus and forgetting to lift their hat to say goodbye, and not even opening the bus door for her. ‘Jack’ responded to Beatrice, claiming that if women wanted men to be more chivalrous then women should be more thoughtful and ladylike. It’s always the woman’s fault, always.

Try catching a tram from Victoria Park in 1926, because it was clear chivalry was dead when young men were so obsessed with their iPhones (sorry, penny dreadfuls) they weren’t standing for the gentler sex. The following year the West Australian ran a picture of a woman changing her own tyre with the headline “Is chivalry dead?” To which a feminist responded that she bloody well hoped so, since women could change tyres without any help from men.

And this brings us to the real point: few people (read men) ever bemoaned the lack of chivalry without turning it into an anti-feminist rant. If women would stop demanding equality, men would behave better. Curiously, some suffragettes tried to turn this to their advantage by noting that the truly chivalrous should understand women’s claims to basic human rights.

So the next time someone complains that society ain’t what is used to be, just ask them when their golden age was. And then laugh.

Lesbian Amazons in Demark

 

feminists

Feminist utopias r us

 

“An Adamless Eden” ran the headline. “Mere Men to be banned from Utopia”. Clearly some lunatic PC scheme was destroying the very fabric of society. Indeed it appeared to be so in Western Australia as men-hating feminists started taking over our wonderful state.

In 1909 it was reported that the south coast of WA, near Denmark, was to see the birth of a new colony, one where no man would be be allowed to own a foot of land within the settlement, or to hold any kind of office in the new town of Emilliah. Worse still, it appeared to be an industrial town full of lesbian Amazons, and men were even forbidden to step foot in it.

Most of this, as you might have guessed, was #fakenews. But there was some truth behind it. Emily Crawford was president of the Householders’ League, a British suffragette society. Since women still did not have the vote in the UK, the League offered grants to English female entrepreneurs to emigrate to places they were enfranchised. Such as Western Australia. They believed (correctly) that only where women were respected enough to get the vote could female capitalists flourish.

The League also obtained land where their members could set up businesses. So in 1908 Emily Crawford came to WA. Emilliah was going to be a health resort just outside Denmark, at a site now called Ocean Beach. The customers were to be WA residents and families from India. Clearly, being feminist did not stop you being colonially minded.

The Government gifted Emily a beautiful reserve near the mouth of the inlet, much to the disgust of the Denmark Settlers’ Association, who just lost their favourite picnic spot. The project was steaming ahead, when Emily suddenly had some kind of nervous breakdown in Albany. The whole thing ground to a halt, and Emilliah never got off the ground.

Dodgy Perth regrets that Emilliah didn’t work, since it would have been fascinating to see how this unique group settlement turned out. The closest we ever came to it was the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement of  the 1960s and ’70s, where a few feminist communes sprang up in rural areas. Mainly an American phenomenon, there were some in Australia, but none ever approached the scale of Emily Crawford’s vision.