Disrespect Is the New Chivalry

Alana Germany

Alana Germany is craving chivalry. Ayesha Walker hide caption

itoggle caption Ayesha Walker

Watch a 'Youth Radio' Video: Disrespect Is the New Chivalry. Courtesy Youth Radio hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Youth Radio

What's Your New What?

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No wonder chivalry is dead. Hardly anyone under the age of 21 knows what it means. In fact, I'd say disrespect is the new chivalry.

My mom grew up in a time when she says men constantly showed respect for women; always opening doors, pulling out chairs and referring to women as "Miss" instead of the typical "ay, girl" of today. This "new" approach to courtship really started to bother me. I'd be walking down the street or through the BART train station and, "Hey, lil' mama!" would come out of nowhere.

One time when I was walking home by myself, two young guys ended up walking a couple blocks behind me. The entire time they were behind me they shouted, "Yee yee," trying to get my attention. "Yee" is like signature slang in my hometown — Richmond, Calif. Although I'd heard it used a lot around town, I'd never heard it used as a mating call. I mean, when did the standard "excuse me Miss" become "ay bay-bay" or "hey, sexy" and now "yee"? This question, coupled with my annoyance at being harassed almost every time I stepped out the door prompted me to write this story, and I'm glad I did.

I got to talk to my mother and a few other elders of the community. Listening to how boys used to approach dating, I felt even more annoyed with my male peers. My mom told me stories about how her date would have to come inside the house and meet the entire family. When addressing the parents, it was all, "Yes ma'am, yes sir." If the parents didn't approve of the boy, my mom wouldn't go out with him. It may still be like that in some towns, but that isn't the case here. Now anything goes.

Our generation needs to raise its standards, but that won't happen unless we are taught to. This is almost a hopeless cause though. I was taught to maintain high standards, but my mother is over 50, and she raised me based on the standards of her time. For the young mothers having babies at 15 and 16, this is their time. If this culture of disrespect is all they know, they won't teach their children any different; the cycle continues. Writing this piece was my way of calling out for help and trying to end the destructive pattern so many teens have become accustomed to.

Alana Germany is a commentator for Youth Radio.

Is Disrespect the New Chivalry?

Listeners respond to a young woman's claim that chivalry is dead. In the first of an ongoing "What Is the New What" series, Alana Germany of Youth Radio urged young men to change their approach.

A month ago, a girl had forgotten her asthma inhaler in her vehicle and was beginning to suffocate. While another guy ran to her car — parked few blocks away — to recover it, I began asking bystanders if they had an asthma inhaler on them. While the guys simply shook their heads, women looked at me as if I were asking them to do something indecent. I will continue to open the door for women even if they don't thank me; but if women expect men to be "gentlemen," we also expect women to be "ladies."

— Juan, Chula Vista, Calif.

Please address the women who answer to the negative cat-calling. Unfortunately, the response that some men get only encourages their bad behavior. I agree as a 35-year-old father and husband, but when I was growing up, it seemed that the jerks who disrespected women got all the play. I guess I was square.

— T. Imani

Alana Germany's lessons on chivalry reminded me of a story of an older gentleman friend. Once, when opening a restaurant door for a young lady, she responded, "I can open my own doors." He replied, "I'm sorry, Miss. My mother always taught me to open a door for a lady. I did not realize that you weren't one."

— Brad Ledbetter, Salt Lake City

I don't think sound bites of several ignorant individuals constitutes "What's What." NPR is comprised predominantly of Caucasian listeners, and I was embarrassed to be represented in such a way. This "opinion" of the norm is sure to leave the wrong impression. Ms. Alana Germany could better serve herself and the culture she represents (be it young people or African-Americans) by reporting on what's what, instead of offering a brief diatribe on idiots she has encountered or the songs a wannabe "gangsta" wrote.

— Jeff, Newark, Del.

I found the report on chivalry interesting and all too true. I'm 31, married and occasionally still get cat-calls. Do men, or boys, rather, really think that will get a positive response from a woman? When I become a parent, this is one value I hope to instill in my child.

— Tiffanie, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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