“What I find, when I ask [what it means to be a good man] of men, is words like honor, integrity, doing the right thing, standing up for the little guy.” All of which are crucially different, in Kimmel’s mind, from the words they use to describe “being a man”—words like to win, get laid, get rich."...Those fraternity charters are by and large artifacts of 19th century college culture. This model of what it means to be a gentleman was self-consciously drawn from medieval sources, but the extraction was troubled by this very question. The part the 19th century proper gentleman admired was the honor, the courtesy to ladies, the moral uprightness (which I notice our left-leaning gentleman has substituted with 'standing up for the little guy'; but since it was an explicitly Christian sort of moral uprightness that the Victorians wanted, the substitution is not ridiculous).
By way of contrast, he says that he might very well be able to persuade fraternity members to show respect for women by urging them to “live up to the ideals you yourself profess in your charter.” He quiets down a little. “I think I can sell that.”
What the knights and their ladies themselves wanted, if you go back and read the Medievals directly, was first and foremost prowess. The quest to win is not severable from the quest to be a good man.
The Medievals wanted the other things too. Honor in doing one's duty was the very foundation of their civilization, which was much more fragile than ours if people lied or cheated. Keeping one's word was deeply important. Lancelot, in the long vulgate prose stories from Middle French, is so willing to be obedient to ladies that he allows himself to be kept in prison without resistance for a long time at the orders of a woman. She values his prowess, though, recognizing that it is somehow at the core of his being a good man and a good knight: when battles or tournaments occur, she paroles him to go and fight. In return, he meekly returns to resume his imprisonment after his victories.
What they were able to do, which we have not so far been able to do, is to resolve the conflict between 'developing and proving prowess' and 'being nice to the little guy and to ladies.' Those things are definitely in conflict -- one is about pursuing your own interests, and the other about relinquishing some of what your power could have claimed in order that others may be happier. Still, this conflict is not necessarily a logical contradiction.
If you want this to work, you have to be smarter than the Victorians, and as smart as that Medieval lady. If you try to force them not to win, to drive out this ethic of prowess and competition with one another, you will fail. They will not buy that at any price. This is too much at the essence of manhood.
They can strive mightily in war and competition, and yet gently in service to the lady who respects and honors them for their striving. You should want them to strive for prowess and for victory, as a precondition and training for striving for moral uprightness and kindness. Institutions, faiths, civilizations can make headway on this ground if they do not make the mistake of trying to turn this into a bloodless ethic. It is the ethic of blooded men.