In my previous post I noted that it took me many years of blogging before I recognized that chivalry and not feminism is the primary corrupter of modern conservative Christianity. This understanding is essential, because conservative Christians are laboring under the assumption that chivalry is a tool to fight feminism. Part of what makes this so confusing is that chivalry and feminism are often quite difficult to tease apart. Feminism is fundamentally an appeal to chivalry, which is the essential truth of Dalrock’s Law of Feminism:
Feminism is the assertion that men are evil and naturally want to harm women, followed by pleas to men to solve all of women’s problems.
The fatal conservative error is to assume that doing feminists’ bidding will eventually lead to feminist gratitude. Conservatives foolishly believe that one more act of valiant chivalry will finally win the feminists over. Chivalry is a way to strike a heroic pose while cravenly avoiding the terrifying prospect of opposing feminism. It is cowardice posing as bravery.
Even worse, in the chivalrous mindset feminist expressions of ingratitude are only proof that the chivalrous man is on the right and heroic path. Persistence in the face of cruel scorning by his lady is the very essence of chivalrous manhood. As Roger Boase explained (summarizing Gaston Paris, the man who coined the term courtly love):
…the lover continually fears lest he should, by some misfortune, displease his mistress or cease to be worthy of her; the lover’s position is one of inferiority; even the hardened warrior trembles in his lady’s presence; she, on her part, makes her suitor acutely aware of his insecurity by deliberately acting in a capricious and haughty manner; love is a source of courage and refinement; the lady’s apparent cruelty serves to test her lover’s valour
Feminist tantrums are in the mind of conservative men actually positive signs that everything is in order. Professor Laura Ashe explains in Love and chivalry in the Middle Ages that the chivalrous man’s only response to women expressing ingratitude and irrational demands is to do his lady’s bidding (emphasis mine):
Malory’s ideal of chivalry has love at its heart: ‘thy quarrel must come of thy lady’, he says, ‘and such love I call virtuous love’. Each knight is to fight for the sake of his lady; with his victories he earns her love, and defends her honour. He is absolutely loyal to her and will follow her every command, whatever happens – whether she sends him on an impossible quest, banishes him from her company, or stands accused of some terrible crime, in desperate need of his help.
The pattern for chivalrous manhood was set in the epic that introduced us to Sir Lancelot, the original White Knight. As the title suggests, central to the plot of Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart is the symbolism of the cart. Early in his quest Lancelot is forced to ride in a cart of shame in order rescue the kidnapped Queen Guinevere. Lancelot’s noble romantic love for another man’s wife was so strong that he chose humiliation after only the briefest hesitation. From C.S. Lewis in The Allegory of Love:
[Lancelot] hesitates for a moment before mounting the cart of shame and thus appearing as a common criminal; a moment later he obeys. He is driven through the streets where the rabble cry out upon him and ask what he has done and whether he is to be flayed or hanged. He is brought to a castle where he is shown a bed that he must not lie in because he is a knight disgraced. He comes to the bridge that crosses into the land of Gorre–the sword-bridge, made of a single blade of steel–and is warned that the high enterprise of crossing it is not for one so dishonored as he. ‘Remember your ride on the cart’, says the keeper of the bridge. Even his friends acknowledge that he will never be rid of the disgrace.
But the moral of Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart isn’t just that the noblest of knights would gladly humiliate himself in the service of adultery. This kind of debasement is essential for chivalry, but not sufficient. A true chivalrous man will not only gladly dishonor himself for his lady, he will do so expecting not gratitude but scorn in return. Lewis continues:
When he has crossed the bridge, wounded in hands, knees, and feet, he comes at last into the presence of the Queen. She will not speak to him. An old king, moved with pity, presses on her the merits of his service…
It is only later that [Lancelot] learns the cause of all this cruelty. The Queen has heard of his momentary hesitation in stepping on to the trumbril, and his lukewarmness in the service of love has been held by her sufficient to annihilate all the merit of his subsequent labours and humiliations.
This is merely the beginning, setting the stage for the right and appropriate relationship between the chivalrous man and his lady. Lancelot further humiliates himself when she instructs him to do so, and then fights valiantly when she demands valiance. Our hero’s eagerness to bear his lady’s capriciousness is eventually rewarded with glorious adultery (purified by romantic love). When Guinevere is then rightly accused of being an adulteress, Lancelot gladly fights for her honor.
This is chivalry’s lesson of virtuous manhood, modeled by the original White Knight himself, and it is why every round of feminist demands is so eagerly accepted by conservative men. Chivalrous men know in their hearts that they are secretly winning. Sure they are currently humiliated at every turn, but they know that with just a bit more chivalry they will ultimately triumph and finally become recognized as the epitome of virtuous manhood.