Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Scandinavian Gentlemen?

In this post, I would like to pick up the lead from one of my May posts, "Norwegian "politeness"", and continue on that. The other day, I had a little discussion with some of my colleagues at work about gentlemen. It might be said that we Scandinavians are not truly behaving like gentlemen, at least not in the classical sense - e.g. like a Frenchman. We often don't help the women put on their coats, hold their chairs, open the doors for them, etc. - all the things that would be expected from the classical gentleman.

Personally, I think the 1970s did a great deal of harm to the concept of being a gentleman in Norway. That probably holds true in some other countries as well. The 70s were of course a time of great liberation for women, and we (both women and men) should be very thankful of that. Still, the gentleman in the classical sense was largely sacrificed on the altar of equality at that time.

In the biological sense, the reason women need men at all after the act of conceiving their child is protection. Men are stronger than women, and particularly when the woman is pregnant, they are better equipped to gather food for her and care for her and her offspring. And when the family was faced with danger, the man is of course better equipped to ward off those dangers. To me, the classical gentleman embodies a lot of that strength and that ability to take care of his woman, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated form than the neanderthal club-wielding brute.

In the 70s, with the women's liberation, women seemed to not need men to take care of them any more. They could get jobs of their own, earn their own money, and take care of themselves. When men were trying to take care of them, that was seen as reactionary and as if they wanted to turn the clock back to the time when women were chained to the kitchen - which was not necessarily true.

It seems to me that the Norwegians (especially women) see equality as being the same. Instead of cherishing the difference between the sexes, we want men and women to be the same, and to be doing the same things. We want the same number of female truck drivers as male, the equal number of construction workers, electricians, computer technicians etc., and we want the same number of female and male nurses and kindergarden teachers.

Thanks to the developments from the 1970s, the Norwegian society is one of a very large degree of equality between the sexes, but at the same time one that does not seem to appreciate the virtue of gentlemanliness. Although I do appreciate the fact that men and women do have equal opportunities, I think it is a little sad that being a gentleman is not really something that is valued in our culture. Personally, I think we should celebrate the fact that men and women are different. Of equal value and with equal opportunities, but still different.

There is nothing wrong with men taking care of their women and children. Still, I think it is true for a lot of men that our culture have not instilled in us a sense that this is an important value (living with a French woman, this is something I get pointed out all the time). Our women are capable of taking care of themselves, so what do they need us to do that for? What do they need us to hold the door for them, or hold their coat, or bring them flowers? Of course they don't need us to, but how nice is it not when we do?


Anonymous said...

Wonderful topic that I have mulled over several a non-Norwegian woman married to a Norwegian man.

I love men being men and women being women and we don't have to earn any differently to acknowledge and celebrate those differences.

I also have a Scandinavian brother in-law and I recall years ago being very upset when he left my sister and I with a load of shopping bags, me toting a 8 month pregnant stomach to boot...whilst he merrily went off empty handed.

Then I thought...chivalry is indeed least in Scandinavia!

Think it might come back sometime?


RennyBA said...

Great topic and well written!

As a man over 50 (from Norway), I might be a bit old fashion, but I think being a gentleman is a givers gain and it shows respect for a woman too.

Anonymous said...

On this subject....I have now fetched my long awaited sattelite dish at Posten and have no idea how to install it.
Needless to say, I am very afraid to ask my Norwegian male colleagues incase they think I am a complete floozy!
Any advise on how a woman who realises her limitations goes about approaching a Norwegian man for help?

Again S.

Quenut said...

Thanks for the comments, S and Renny.

I think you could safely ask your male colleagues to help you set up your satellite dish, S. There might still be some deeply hidden gentleman instinct in our back bones, that wakes up when it's most blatantly called for :)

I do not think that chivalry is completely dead in Norway; I still have hope that there are some traces left, if you look really hard.. What's your take on that Renny?

By the way, it's a great point that we should be able to have equal wages, and still let men and women be different..

Anonymous said...

Hey Kenneth!
Thanks for the advice, which I followed and succeeded in finding a nice colleague to help me.

Ofcourse, all of this would not have been necessary if my truly Norwegian husband would have helped me with the move instead of allowing me to go ahead by myself whilst he keeps blogging in South Africa!

Cheers and have a good day!


Anonymous said...

No more posts?


Quenut said...

Sorry, I've been a little lazy :s But I got one coming very soon :)

Quenut said...

By the way, Sevika - your husband isn't by any chance Jonny, the author of the "South Africa" blog? I love that one :)

Caroline said...

LOL - that's why I didn't marry a Norwegian - although I suspect hubby's mature age might have more to do with the chivalry than his nationality.

Now help me with my coat and open that car door honey - pretty pleeeeze

Quenut said...

Come on, Caroline, we can't be that bad?!? ;)

But as to age, you might be right; maybe chivalry comes - at least to a certain extent - with age. So maybe there might be hope for us...

Anonymous said...

Do Norwegian men buy flowers for their women. And how they react when they see a bouquet that is not theirs? Are the bastards at least jealous?

Quenut said...

Anonymous, October 19: I do not think that your comment deserves any answer other than this:

Even when I strongly disagree with someone, I always try to treat them with respect. Next time you decide to post a comment on this blog, you might want to try that approach.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christine said...

I had a Norwegian boyfriend and he was incredible very stable personality like my Nanny who was scandanavian also and they both had a great sense of humor now I m over 50 It ad be great to meet someone like that again.