My morning routine was starting nicely. I woke up just after 3pm (I work graveyards,) had breakfast, made coffee, planned to do some housework and prep dinner for when my fiancée got home. I give myself a free hour everyday to catch up on the interwebs. Things went sideways.
I was reading an Academie Duello blog post, and watched the attached video about the recent Canada Day parade. Twenty two minutes in, disaster strikes. Two students are fencing in protective gear, at an easy pace. Male and female. The male student gains an advantage on the female student, and leans in to land his shot. The announcer seems surprised by this. The quote: “…goin in for the kill! I mean, is chivalry dead?…” The announcers female counterpart, after a slight pause, makes a comment that it might be about equality.
I’m just stunned by this. Honestly, I just took a five minute writing break to vent. It’s the fucking 21st century. It’s Vancouver. Canada for gods sake. I suppose I’m having a hard time articulating why I’m so worked up. It’s the assumption that a man shouldn’t hit a woman. It’s the assumption that, by default, even with similar arms, a woman is not going to be as capable of defense as a man. She should be pitied and given handicaps because nature has punished her enough by making her not a man. When the Feminist Frequency thing hit the web, I kind of ignore it. I made the assumption that it was just trouble stirred up the usual portion of humanity that fills the bottom of the well. It had to be, because we’ve grown past the need for feminism. Heck, we’re almost past the point of needing gay activism. Good for us!
Except, not. Dinner at my mom’s (I won’t use her real name) last Christmas will serve as an example. My mom had a big turkey cooking, and she was worried about manoeuvring it back out of a hot oven. She asked for help. My girlfriend was right there, so she jumped in to take it out. Serious screeching erupted from my mom and the other women in the room as I stayed put on the comfy couch watching. The screeching was directed at me. How dare I not jump up and help my poor, weak girlfriend? It was a huge turkey, and she was just a woman! How dare I expect her to lift it herself?!? Yeah… This is my girlfriend:
I firmly believe she could shotput a thirty-pound turkey the length of a football field, if she wasn’t worried about blowing our mortal minds.
I guess when a woman takes up swordplay, the menfolk are supposed to humour her. Don’t attack back! Just let her attack you, and defend yourself. Don’t want to treat her like a real person, with a real interest in learning something, do we? Hells no.
I’m just struggling here to find the right analogy, but I don’t think I can find it. I will just never understand the mindset of some people. I honestly think they live in a fantasy land. I realize that it’s a shared hallucination, and a sizable chunk of humanity participates. I don’t. I won’t. I hate it. I hate every little bit of what it stands for. I hate where it came from, I hate what it means.
We are human. We are animals of free minds. Even though so many of us decide to surrender our freedom, and keep our minds locked into a false world, that does not mean all of us have to. What I am comes from my mind, and is expressed by my body. I am limited in what I wish to do with my body solely by the amount of effort I wish to spend. It is within me to reach as high as I want to reach. The only failure is never to try. If my dick magically fell off that would not change. If I sprouted boobs I would not suddenly feel like I had better sit down and shut up and accept my role in life. No matter what sex I am or chose to express, I will do what ever I goddamn want to. Life puts enough limits on what we can do, without sex roles being tossed in where they don’t belong.
Sure, sex hormones can cause the body to grow in different ways, and at the high ends of performance that can have a strong effect. Big fucking deal. Give me a hundred people, one of them might have the genetics to reach that level. For the remaining ninety-nine of us, what we do in life is dictated by the work we put in.
I love swordplay because it’s so clearly true that what makes success is hours of practice. The genetics of growth and muscle reflex speed have their say, but time with sword in hand is supreme. A length of steel respects no gender, only sweat. Endless buckets of sweat spent in perfecting every tiny, elusive increase in skill. Chivalry was about protecting the weak, and no one with a sword in hand is weak.
I used to feel differently. I used to be a child. When I studying Shotokan Karate in my teens I learned better. There was a very cute woman in our school. She was short, curvy, and very pretty. I got partnered with her during a sparring session, and I did the right thing–being gentle with her. She called me on it. I told her it was because she was a girl, and I was a guy. She proceeded to show me that she was a woman, not a girl. A brown belt woman who was on an elite competition sparring team. She proceeded to literally kick my ass all over the dojo. Trying not to sit on my bruises for the following week, I revised my opinions. People are more than they seem. Appearance does not reflect the real person.
Not enough people learn that lesson. More people should. I love women that fight, because they teach people that important lesson every day. Every woman that studies a martial art helps make the point that we should be defined as people first, not gender. There are a lot of women out there with sword in hand teaching that lesson. They don’t intend to teach that lesson, they are just doing something that they love.
Chivalry is an unknown and mutated concept these days. No one understands what virtue means. Without that understanding you can’t grasp how chivalry is an expression of virtue. But when you fence an exchange of rapid blows, miss a parry and watch your opponent stop her blow from creasing your skull, letting it gently bounce off of your mask instead? When you and a friend fence a friendly bout on the beach, and laugh at how the wind is blowing your blades off track? When you share a look of mutual exhaustion with the woman across from you in a gruelling drill, and that camaraderie gives you the strength to go on just a little longer? When you feel that, maybe you are starting to understand what chivalry is.