Annie's all, "Now get lost."
Humans love chivalry -- just take a look at every movie ever made. Woman gets in trouble. Man saves woman. Or look at some of the most beloved photos from every wedding ever. Grandson dances with Grandma. Father walks bride down the aisle.
Or. Take a look at how much the media loves stories of men standing up and protecting women and girls from harm.
Two recent examples include the Brock Turner case, in which two cyclists stopped Stanford student Brock Turner from raping an unconscious woman, and the four young skateboarders who stopped a man from raping a 15-year-old girl.
Arnaud Nimenya, Carsyn Wright, James Hielema and Starlyn Rivas-Perez are heroes, who have rightfully been recognized for their bravery.
These six men are undoubtedly heroes, and in no way do I mean to undermine their actions.
But! It's worth mentioning that women can be heroes, too -- and that, for the last few years, I've often insisted that my male friends let me handle any kind of conflict that arises unexpectedly.
In 2012, I did two epic cross-country road trips: one by myself (#ViajoSola!) and the other with my boyfriend -- who loved photography. Look at this cool photo he took:
(We were being The Lion King. I guess if I were really feeling chivalrous, I would have let him be Simba.)
One night, we hiked out to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park to take sunset and moon rise photos of one of the park’s most famous sights. It was super gorgeous.
Look at him, taking his photos. Mine turned out pretty nice, but I don't have a super fancy DSLR or anything...
But, of course, we weren’t the only people out there. After sunset, people started trickling away, until it was just him, me, and two photographers – Matt and Jordan.
And, we soon found out, two other dudes. They were perched much closer to the arch than we were, and they wouldn’t stop shining this ultra-bright flashlight on it.
We waited patiently for a half hour for these guys to get their night photos and stop. But they kept shining and shining their stupid light. Finally, Jordan said, “Should one of us go ask them to stop?”
Slowly, everyone’s gaze turned to me.
“Of course you big men would ask the girl to do it,” I teased. But as I walked over towards the other guys, I realized why. In any given conflict:
1. If somehow the situation escalates, they’re less likely to physically aggress against me than a guy. Because it’s drilled into us from a young age that it’s wrong to hit a woman. And, let’s be honest – it is. The average man is much bigger and stronger than the average woman, and beating up on a woman is cowardly and pathetic. (With obvious exceptions, like self-defense.)
2. If they do aggress against me, outsiders are probably more likely to intervene. When people see two men fighting, they assume two things:
a) It’s a fairly even fight
b) They could get hurt if they intervene.
When people see a man roughing up a woman, they don’t make either of these assumptions – for good reason. It probably isn’t a fair fight, and if you get involved, you’ve really only got one person to worry about, not two. (On average, women are much less likely to engage in violence – and, again, even if one did, she’s less likely to be able to hurt you than a dude.)
There is nothing sexist about either of these observations. They're both just true.
Not that I expected anything violent or scary to happen when I asked those guys to stop with the flashlight. And, indeed, the situation proved uneventful.
“In five minutes?” they asked.
“Okay. It’s 6:55pm now. Sure. So at 7 you will stop?”
I don’t know if they left after five minutes, or if they just took a break and waited for us to leave. All I know is that the conflict (“conflict”) was resolved, and no one got upset.
Ever since then, I’ve always told my guy friends (and boyfriends), “If things ever get heated, I think you should let me handle it. Not because I don’t think you can – I think it would be totally sexy if you did, because chivalry is soooo sexy! – but because I love you, and I'm less likely to get hurt than you.”
Because here’s the other thing:
You never know who’s going to be crazy.
I know from unfortunate personal experience that there are a lot of crazies out there. I also know from unfortunate personal experience that it’s basically impossible to predict who the crazies are.
I’m not saying my womanhood will protect me from crazies – in many ways, it puts me at greater risk. As I wrote in Guns Don’t Kill Women – Male Entitlement Kills Women, several women are killed by strangers every year, just for telling a dude at a bar they’re not interested.
That’s why many women will give a fake number, or even her real number, never intending to talk to him again. She is afraid this guy might turn out to be crazy enough to hurt her for saying no to him.
They are trying to avoid "escalation."
Which is actually really good advice.
Your best bet, in most situations, is to avoid escalation. Here’s a scary story that will help you understand why:
A few years ago, my brother and his girlfriend, Yihua, were celebrating with friends at a bar in China. At some point, Yihua had to pee, and my chivalrous brother (Andrew) walked her to the bathroom. It’s a good thing he did! Turns out, the door didn’t lock quite right, so Yihua asked him to stand by the door and not let anyone in.
So Andrew sat on a crate and waited. Sure enough, a man approached the bathroom and tried to enter, so my brother politely told him, “There’s a girl in there – you need to wait a minute.”
The guy got all huffy about it and tried to go in, anyway. So my brother – all six feet and five inches of him – stood up and told the guy again, much more firmly, that he would have to wait.
Clearly outmuscled, the guy stormed off.
When Andrew and Yihua returned to their friends’ table, he told them what had happened – and everyone blanched.
“Andy, you need to leave. Immediately.”
They explained to him that in China, people don’t typically square off, one-on-one. Instead, offended parties call/text their friends and family and tell them to come to the place of the offense to fight.
Andrew didn’t want to leave, but his friends kept insisting, so he eventually left.
The next morning, one of his friends told him that after he left, a bunch of guys with knives showed up – and since Andrew wasn’t there anymore, they picked a fight with someone else. It was ugly, people were injured, and the bar was shut down for two months after that.
Here’s another story:
A robber was robbing a store. An armed bystander tried to intervene, but was fatally shot by the robber’s accomplice.
This isn’t actually one story. It’s several. Because it’s happened more than once.
Moral of the story: it’s extremely dangerous to intervene or escalate if you don’t know exactly how many people are involved and whether the “backup” is armed.
It breaks my heart that good people have died trying to help someone else. But I’m definitely not advocating for complacence. What I’m saying is:
1. I’m a Rescue Diver. I’ve had Lifeguard and Waterfront Lifeguard and First Aid for the Professional Rescuer and Oxygen Administrator training. And the very first thing you learn in any kind of rescue training is that the first thing you do is asses the scene and make sure it is safe to proceed.
Even if nothing “seems” wrong! Say someone is lying on the ground, unconscious. Before you approach them, look around. Why are they unconscious? Did they get electrocuted by a downed power line? Did they fall off a ladder halfway through installing some kind of ceiling panel that’s about to come crashing down?
2. You never know who’s going to be crazy. You never know what low-level conflict will lead to unexpected violence. But, in general, I feel like it is safer for me to handle conflicts than it is for my guy friends – and that is why I prefer to be the one who steps up and addresses minor issues when they arise.
3. Chivalry is important – and women can be just as chivalrous as men. Remember: there are many ways to be “chivalrous.” You can be the one who volunteers to confront the person about the thing. You can be the one to stand up for the man or men or women you’re with.
Or, as I wrote in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Gif ALL Women Need to See IMMEDIATELY:
Whenever I see a girl leaving a party or walking down the street who might have had too much to drink, I stop her and the guy who's dragging her away. I usually pretend I know her.
My plan isn't to physically confront the guy and call him a rapist -- if he's willing to rape an unconscious woman, who knows what else he's depraved enough to do? Instead, I create a space for the woman to escape without escalating the situation any more than necessary. (Though, obviously, I would take a different approach if I caught some dude in the act.)
As such, I’ve never been written about in the paper because I “saved” someone. But I have absolutely saved at least one woman from sexual assault, and administered rescue services or first aid to several others.
Moving forward, I will continue to do or say something if I see someone who might need help. If I assess the scene and decide it’s unsafe to directly intervene, I will, at the very least, call the police. Shout for help. Honk my horn. Do something – do anything – to stop a bad person from inflicting harm on another.
I think we can all agree that the bystander effect is a horrible thing -- but with a little more confidence and mindfulness, we could all be slightly better Samaritans. Chivalry is not dead.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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