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Disrespect Is the New Chivalry

No wonder chivalry is dead. Hardly anyone under the age of 21 knows what it means. In fact, I'd say disrespect is the new chivalry.

My mom grew up in a time when she says men constantly showed respect for women; always opening doors, pulling out chairs and referring to women as "Miss" instead of the typical "ay, girl" of today. This "new" approach to courtship really started to bother me. I'd be walking down the street or through the BART train station and, "Hey, lil' mama!" would come out of nowhere.

One time when I was walking home by myself, two young guys ended up walking a couple blocks behind me. The entire time they were behind me they shouted, "Yee yee," trying to get my attention. "Yee" is like signature slang in my hometown — Richmond, Calif. Although I'd heard it used a lot around town, I'd never heard it used as a mating call. I mean, when did the standard "excuse me Miss" become "ay bay-bay" or "hey, sexy" and now "yee"? This question, coupled with my annoyance at being harassed almost every time I stepped out the door prompted me to write this story, and I'm glad I did.

I got to talk to my mother and a few other elders of the community. Listening to how boys used to approach dating, I felt even more annoyed with my male peers. My mom told me stories about how her date would have to come inside the house and meet the entire family. When addressing the parents, it was all, "Yes ma'am, yes sir." If the parents didn't approve of the boy, my mom wouldn't go out with him. It may still be like that in some towns, but that isn't the case here. Now anything goes.

Our generation needs to raise its standards, but that won't happen unless we are taught to. This is almost a hopeless cause though. I was taught to maintain high standards, but my mother is over 50, and she raised me based on the standards of her time. For the young mothers having babies at 15 and 16, this is their time. If this culture of disrespect is all they know, they won't teach their children any different; the cycle continues. Writing this piece was my way of calling out for help and trying to end the destructive pattern so many teens have become accustomed to.

Alana Germany is a commentator for Youth Radio.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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