Like A Lady
As published on A Vodka Kind of Mom on April 17, 2018.
If you’re a woman you’ve likely been told at least once in your life, “that’s not very ladylike” or “you should act more like a lady”. Be it because you’ve been caught swigging straight from the wine bottle, your sailor’s mouth has run rampant, you didn’t smile politely enough, wore a skirt a little too short or you just simply chose not to conform to the dainty stereotypes of women that society projects on all of us.
My response to those statements is usually, “I never claimed to BE a lady” but I think going forward I’d like it to be the powerful words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “well-behaved women seldom make history”. I think the term “lady” itself needs to be redefined in society. It’s hazardous, it teaches women that they can only be respected if they don’t speak up if they get too wild, if they don’t keep their legs closed and if they don’t then somehow they aren’t worthy.
From the first time, I can remember one of those phrases being said to me it made my skin crawl and I have always bucked against it and been defiant in the face of it. I remember getting in a little tiff with my mother about it once when she said it to me. Most in generations before us millennials are guilty of using it parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. I don’t fault any of these people for saying it but I try to explain to them why it’s creepy and misguided.
I read an article recently that said it would be different if being told to act more ladylike was just in reference to acting more like a respectful human being but the fact that it’s used to shame women for behavior that is typically accepted by men and that is sexist.
Even young girls hear, “because he’s a boy” growing up to excuse a boys behavior and condemn girls for theirs. Teaching young girls to live linear and that they can’t do certain things because it isn’t “ladylike” and allowing boys to engage in similar behavior simply because he is a boy is damaging not only to those children but also to society.
My hope is that more people start listening and realize how misguided these statements are.