It is an interesting word—somewhat archaic and loaded—particularly in today’s world.
The word was originally used in feudal society to designate a member of the landed gentry, but we live in a more egalitarian culture, and have accepted a less rigid definition of gentleman—one who holds himself to a high standard of conduct. A gentleman is honest, fair, and cultured. He observes good etiquette and treats people with respect.
‘Gentleman’ is inherently gendered. ‘Ladies’, its female “equivalent” has different connotations. However, women can have all the traits of gentlemen. Perhaps it is time for a non-gendered term to take its place—gentlepeople, maybe.
In today’s world, these people are not born, but made. They are shaped by their education and experience into thoughtful members of society.
Gentlepeople are often thought of as good romantic partners—they are respectful, generous, and make good parents and partners.
They can, however, be intimidating. They can unwittingly make others feel inferior, which can lead to a lack of trust. However, gentlepeople often overcome others’ mistrust by treating them with magnanimity and respect.
Gentlepeople generally make excellent leaders, BUT others often doubt that they have the grit to fight to the end to get their goal; but they are excellent at making fair and intelligent compromises instead of tolerating stalemates forever.
Whatever word we use, it is worth noting the lack of gentility in today’s political climate—the lack of moderation, respect, and honesty. It seems clear to me that part of the appeal of Trump and Sanders is their lack of moderation and respect, which is thought of as straight-shooting or speaking truth to power. But we want results today not just noise.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton is the most “gentle” of the candidates. She speaks with moderation, cares about etiquette, and refuses to sell the American people unachievable dreams.
Perhaps that’s why she is struggling.
However, if we could shift the national conversation towards the value of electing gentlepeople to work out fair and rational compromises, perhaps more people might better understand today’s choices.