Chivalry, Grace, and Women

dennis grace amazing at
Wed Jul 16 11:00:35 PDT 1997

Hi all. Aquilanne here.

Gunnora forwarded a missive:

>then told a story of what had happened when I was setting up the vigiling
>pavilion during the afternoon. After  I had walked through a whole group of
>men, it was she who took the bags out of my hands. I pointed out that this
>was not necessary and she stated "No, you are in a
>dress. I am in armor. Therefore, I get to take the chivalrous role. When
>the  garb is  reversed then we will reverse the roles." 

First off, I'd like to offer that if anyone of any gender in any kind of
clothing come walking into a room with arms too full of bags that anyone of
any gender in any kind of clothing should make an effort to help. 

Just for the record, Mr. Webster tell us that his first-ranking definitions
of both chivalry *and* grace apply primarily to men, so that women are
basically SOL as far as expecting any such quality be attributed to them.

to wit:

chivalry--1: mounted *men*-at-arms 

grace--1: unmerited divine assistance given *man* for *his* regeneration or

So, ladies, are we left bereft at the suggestion that higher ideals are
attainable by the more brutish gender? (Sounds a bit like a contradiction in
terms, doesn't it?)

But wait--let's read further into Mr. Webster's thought on these matters.

Since the "chivalry" I believe we are speaking of here is the *ideal* of
chivalry as opposed to the dudes on horseback, we might want to look at the
adjective "chivalrous."

chivalrous--1. Valient (basically meaning brave or heroic).

And once we get past the religious connotations for the word "grace" and
look for the more generic *ideal* that the word grace represents we get

grace--3a: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness or clemency
b:mercy, pardon  4a: a charming trait or accomplishment  b: a pleasingly
graceful apprearance or effect, charm  c: ease and suppleness of movement or

So, using these definitions as criteria, and favoring the second set of
definitions, my answers would be: 

>1. Is chivalry different for men than for women?

If your preferred definitions are the first set above then women are
incapable of chivalry. If you consider chivalry as the ideals outlined in
the second set of definitions, then how could chivalry possibly *be
different* for men than for women?

>2. Can you give an example of a traditionally female courtesy that
>exemplifies chivalry?

Any act that requires courage exemplifies chivalry. Childbirth comes easily
to mind (and if you don't consider childbirth a courtesy, you obviously
don't have enough experience to opine ;->), as do such things as dealing
with households, nursing wounded, speaking out against injustices, etc.

>3. Can you point to a female who, in your mind, exemplifies chivalry and
>state why using examples both from the field and from off the field?

I've seen Sir Leah de Spencer give up a limb after having taken the limb of
an opponent. I've heard of acts of female acts of prowess and chivalry from
my husband, who is a fighter.  As for off field, I've witnesses pretty much
all the above examples at one time or another.

>4. Do you agree/disagree with the statement that grace is the feminine
>mirror of the masculine virtue of chivalry? Why or why not?

I disagree. Just look at the definitions; they have some ideas in common,
but they don't *mirror* each other, especially in regards to gender.

>5. If so, then can you give an example of a traditionally female courtesy
>that exemplifies grace?

Any act that requires or demonstrate chivalry can also demonstrate grace.
The two terms/ideas are not mutually exclusive.

>6. Can you point to a female fighter (and in this case it must be a
>fighter) who exemplifies grace and state why using examples both from the
>field and from off the field?

Sir Leah de Spencer moves quite gracefully on and off the field. Sir Alicia
has seemed to me to be very kind to newcomers in my present barony.

>7. Do you believe that the SCA values grace equally with chivalry?

No. The SCA seems to value things that look and seem pretty more than things
that require courage.
>8. Would grace be a consideration when evaluating a woman for squireship or
>knighthood? Why or why not?

That would depend entirely on the knight considering the squire and on the
knight circle considering the knight.

>9. Should grace be a consideration when evaluating a woman for squireship
>or knighthood? Why or why not?

I would hope so. Kindness and mercy seem like quite appropriate traits for
any peer to have and display; especially those whose part it is to carry
around big sticks and play with them.
Dennis Grace
University of Texas at Austin
English Department
Recovering Medievalist
amazing at

That's right, you're not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.
         --Lyle Lovett

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