A women’s Facebook group that I’m in recently banned the word “lady” (and its plural and derivatives), citing it as offensive not just to the members of the group who may be trans or genderfluid, but also to women in general. Words have weight, and “ladies,” it was argued, was loaded.
Sure, there’s all the bullshit traditionally associated with the word “lady.” “Ladies,” conventionally, are quiet and polite and demur to their men. Before the rise of feminism, “lady” was a high compliment, a word that came with status. A lady was married, had children. A lady ran her household, obeyed her husband.
But a lady could also be the center of attention, the object of desire, the driving force in a relationship, even if she could not vote or own property. A lady could launch a thousand ships, inspire hundreds of sonnets. To be a lady was to have power over a man, in a man’s world.
Being a lady is so much more than knowing which fork to use at dinner or how to waltz (backward! In heels!). And while the patriarchy hauls out the word “lady” as a means of putting women down (listen to them talk about women running for office, and how ladylike they are or are not), I would personally argue that the word can be of the highest compliment.
So while the patriarchy would say that a lady should be the perfect hostess, I say that a real lady knows how to handle herself in any situation. While the patriarchy would say that a lady should listen to men and let them speak, I say that a real lady makes herself heard as much as she listens. While the patriarchy should say that a woman’s world is domestic, I say that a real lady decides for herself what her place in the world is.
To be a lady is to handle every situation that is thrown your way. It is grace under pressure. It is strength. It is knowing which fork to use, sure, but only because you’re able to make or choose that meal your own damn self. To be a lady is to let a man pay for dinner, or insist on paying for it yourself, and not worrying about what either action implies about you or about him or about what you are to each other.
Don’t be afraid to be a “lady.” Announce to the world that you are A MOTHERFUCKING LADY.
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