Texas School’s Lesson on Chivalry Asked Girls to ‘Walk Daintily’ and Obey Men

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tags: gender, education, Texas, sexism, social studies

It was a tradition that went back years at Shallowater High School in northwest Texas. For one day, the senior boys dressed in suits and ties and the girls put on frocks and heels.

The boys addressed the girls as “milady,” held doors open for them and helped them to their seats in class or at lunch. The girls had to walk behind the boys and were forbidden to “complain or whine” or demonstrate any kind of “intellectual superiority.”

The rules were part of an assignment from an English teacher who for years had used it to show students in her class how women were treated as inferiors under the chivalric code of medieval times. But this year, the school in Shallowater, a town of about 2,500 people about 12 miles northwest of Lubbock, canceled the lesson amid parent complaints that asking girls to act subserviently to boys was the wrong way to teach them about sexism and history.

The cancellation comes as many schools are re-examining traditions that are now being recognized as outdated, sexist or racist. It also highlighted, according to students, how even well-meaning lesson plans can backfire.

“I really don’t think it was the teacher’s intention to have it be such a sexist lesson,” said Hannah Carreon, 18, a senior at the high school. “There were girls that were excited to get to do this finally and get to dress up.”

She added, “But there were also a lot who were obviously upset about it.”

School officials declined requests for an interview and the teacher did not respond to a request for comment.


The exercise had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Female and male students, who had been reading “Beowulf” and the works of Chaucer, were given assignment sheets that described 11 “rules for chivalry.” They would be awarded 10 points for every rule they followed.

Boys were asked to rise any time a female student or faculty member entered a room, to avoid profanity or “vulgar words” and to “allow ladies to leave the room before they leave.”

Girls had to walk behind men or “walk daintily, as if their feet were bound”; address men with “a lowered head and a curtsy”; “clean up” after their male classmates; and “obey any reasonable request” from a man.


Read entire article at New York Times