A guide to being a modern day knight in 2018 without being sexist

Is it possible to follow a code of decent behaviour, developed by actual knights in armour, in the age of DMs, selfies, trolls and d**k pics?

It was all well and good for rescuing folk from dragons in the year 1170, but, these days, try to help one rescued princess onto your magnificent steed, and you'll get "Oh my God, I can get on a horse by myself. And let go my ankle. You're touching me without consent! Help! Help!"

What was once a moral code could easily find the most chivalrous knight, confused and accused in his own #metoo moment. "But it was true love's first kiss!" wouldn't cut it in court these days.

So perhaps it's time for #chivalryreimagined.

Humanity's dark underbelly

One of the problems with the internet, which the aged like myself enjoy muttering about (apart from all the crap writing and spelling), is how the ability to talk in public but remain anonymous has exposed a nasty dark side to humanity.

Bullies, trolls and various pervs hide behind their keyboards, showering almost anything positive and quality with a shower of badly written bile and vitriol.

Modern day chivalry is simply this: Treat everyone with respect. We are all equal. We all deserve dignity and freedom.

That's it.

In good spirits

That's why Qantas' much-mocked language guidelines, developed by the Diversity Council of Australia, is actually wonderful. In it's "Spirit of Inclusion" month, Qantas is asking its staff to think about their language and speak appropriately to people, to offend as few as possible. It's not the thought police, as Miranda Devine, Tony Abbott, Mark Latham and a significant number of commentators have claimed, but perhaps "thought school" – making flying better through staff considering their language. And it's not mandatory, it's a guideline.


Pair that with recent horrific studies into the hazing rituals at university colleges and new statistics showing more and more women are reporting gender bias and harassment in the workplace.

Our daughters' phones are regularly invaded by unsolicited pics from boys who grew up watching porn from the age of ten.

Asking for a little respect doesn't seem too much to ask, given there's so little of it about.

The little things

So if I see a pregnant woman on the bus, I'll offer her my seat. She may well hiss "I'm not sick, sexist pig," at you, but it's still a nice thing to do. As I would for an old man or someone on crutches. And if I hobbled on to a bus with a broken leg, I'd bloody well hope a fit young woman would give me her seat.

Modern chivalry just can't have anything to do with the sex of the recipient of the chivalry, that's all. Modern chivalry is sex-blind.

So, open doors for everyone.

Modern day tick list

Who pays on the first date? The person who did the inviting, or whoever gets in first. It's a nice thing to do if you can, and nice to have done for you.

Never say anything that will make anyone else feel bad.

Never abuse your power over anyone, professionally, emotionally or physically.

It should be the same online. Everyone out there is a human being with feelings. Consider them with every word you write and picture you send.

Don't send, or be, a d**k

I believe it's still possible to flirt, even with the threat of #metoo dogging every office romance. Treat the object of your desire respectfully.

Take it outside the workplace. Saying "I like you, Olivia, and I'd like to get to know you better, and I think you're very attractive, if you don't mind me saying so," is better than sending her a shot of your todger and an DM reading "DTF? Netflix and chill, babe?"

So, to be a modern day knight, and a genuinely chivalrous man comes down to this. Be nice to everyone and don't be a d**k.

With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is a consultant creative director and communications specialist, currently writing a book on "man stuff" for publisher Allen & Unwin. He is a regular commentator on the lives and style of Australian men.