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Dec 10, 2015
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Sometimes, there are things that happen in our daily lives that unleash our inner Social Justice Warriors. In these moments, we feel so wronged and treated unjustly that emotions get the best of us. Knee-jerk reactions and rash decisions include publicly shaming individuals who we feel are the villains in our personal stories. Such is the case for Paola Kristal Shane Gardon (but perhaps she'd like a "Ms." to prefix her name) who used the convenience of a public Facebook post to communicate her outrage towards another commuter who allegedly did not give up his seat on the train.

Now, while we are all for respecting individual opinions, her post had gone viral and everyone with a counter-opinion is weighing in on it. A photo of a young man sitting on a train seat with his head down came with an antagonizing caption, labeling him as "unattractive" and "ungentlemanly" because he sat while the dutiful poster whipped up this Gossip Girl-esque blast.

"Chivalry is DEAD," echoed Ms. Gardon. A sentiment common among women who have certain failed expectations from men when it comes to interaction and conduct. But what is Chivalry? Is it a man opening a door for a woman? Is it a man carrying a woman so that she wouldn't have to step on a puddle? Is it a man offering a woman his seat in a crowded Metro Manila train? These are but modern manifestations of the chivalrous acts exaggerated in Don Quixote.

Chivalry is actually a code followed by knights in medieval Europe and served a purpose more military and religious than romantic. It is the same medieval era in which women were burned at the stake for being witches. We have a notion of chivalry as a set of arbitrary entitlements that supposedly benefit women. In other words, it's archaic.

We cannot quantify chivalry in the same way that we can whip out statistics of workplace sexual harassment. It is largely an idea passed on from one generation to another. Keywords such as “values,” “etiquette,” and “good manners” come to mind. What it actually stands for is preferential treatment under the premise of gender. Chivalry would make an excellent guiding principle on how to treat others with kindness if it weren’t so set on defining gender.

In our country, it used to be all about the comfort of the Maria Claras. But today, women don’t go to the office to take home a pay that was actually earned by a man. The Philippines is actually lauded for enacting laws that eradicated the wage gap and discrimination in the workplace. Save for reproductive rights issues, these put women on equal footing with men.

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It makes you wonder why this “unattractive” non-gentleman is being dragged into the Supreme Court of Facebook for everyone-with-too-much-free-time to judge. What do women of today really want? Have their cake of equal pay and sit while eating it, too? Are there rules now that one has to be objectively handsome in order to exercise one’s rudeness? That’s a twisted double standard if I ever saw one.

There is room for some compelling debates but since the development of the Kinsey scale, it has become dangerous to speak for an entire gender. For one, it discards the individual experiences that bring you to here and now. Framing it the way the OP (Original Poster) did ignores what happened in the day of the man in question. It paints him a villain without a backstory who simply denied one woman a seat on the train. I personally have many questions: Was he suffering from a sprained ankle? Was he in the 'women-only' coach? Did he push anyone aside to get to that seat first? Is this on the LRT or MRT? What if his parents didn't instill in him this particular set of manners that cater to and serve women? I wish Humans of New York would do a piece on him so that I would understand better.

Social media blasts that contain only fluff and no purposeful information achieve almost nothing. People are policing other people’s behavior on a surface level. For instance, a car parked badly suddenly warrants online embarrassment. These posts are a dime a dozen. But like for any good police work, you have to ask: Was this investigated before the clamoring for a Top Gear trial?

So, did this man earn the unfortunate right to be publicly shamed by a disgruntled passenger? We don't know for sure because this is a story as incomplete as the OP's grade in Gender Studies. While there are no hard and fast rules on championing what you believe to be your personal rights on social media, one should never overlook responsible broadcasting. Disclosing someone else’s personal information is one big no-no, since there are safety as well as legal concerns that circle it. One could also easily fall prey to cyber-bullying should a considerable amount of people disagree with your opinions, especially one as ridiculous as calling someone unattractive while questioning his manners.

There is a story behind every incident. Every photo pushed to go viral has a subject worth a second look, and a poster’s caption is just one side to a story. When it comes to public transportation seating and the end of a long, hard day at work, the only thing anyone is ever entitled to is their opinion.

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Anne is a freelance writer and a former IT professional. She's known to be an Internet lollygagger, tech junky, and a staunch feminist.

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