Chapter 8, in Wendy Shalit’s book, A Return to Modesty, addresses the long awaited topic of “Male Character.” The whole topic of the character and honor of a gentleman has recently been one of discussion at Arizona State University.
ASU’s NeW chapter will be hosting ASU’s First Annual Gentleman’s Showcase in February 2009. The idea is to show gentleman that we appreciate them and to encourage this behavior on campus. Since we have started the publicity for the event, we have already been asked to define what a gentleman is and what he does. Although I count myself lucky to actually know a number of gentlemen, I found myself hard pressed to give examples of what a gentleman does besides opening doors for women. Unfortunately, I have also found myself backing away from this stereotype of gentlemen opening doors and instead using the Orwellian phrase (as Shalit defines it), “people should open the doors for people.”
Shalit does not offer a definition for what it means to be a gentleman except to equate gentlemanly behavior with being a man and that acting in a boorish fashion is equal in fact to simple boyishness.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives these definitions for a gentleman :
– A man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities
– A man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior
– A man of independent means who does not engage in any occupation or profession for gain
– A man who does not engage in a menial occupation or in manual labor for gain
To me, this seems like selflessness. Nonetheless, if we are encouraging men to be gentlemen, it would seem that we must act like and encourage women to be ladies. What does it mean to be a lady, though? Is this what modesty is all about?
Miriam Grossman’s new article on “What Girls Want” offers insight into what a gentleman is and why women find this behavior very attractive.