Monday, February 23, 2009

Fuck you, I'm a Lady.

Jump under the cut!

If there's one thing I hate in this world, (and there's actually a lot of things I hate but let's stick to the subject), it's the concept of 'being a lady'. Now, don't get this confused with good manners and being a decent human being. I'm all for that shit. Eat nicely at the table, open doors for other people behind you, say 'Please' and 'Thank you', and all that jazz. It was strongly encouraged in my upbringing to be kind and courteous. This is supposed to be universal, and is actually a key way to guarantee that children we have don't grow up to be total assholes.

But there's a certain brand of ettiquette that is pushed upon us women. It's different to what is expected of men. It can be seen in reality TV shows such as "Charm School" and "From Ladette to Lady". Expectations and restrictions are placed upon us, and the most horrible and cruellest thing is done to us when this happens – they hold our humanity for ransom.

Behave, they say, or you are not a respectable lady. If you are not a respectable lady, you are worth nothing at all. You will deserve all the scorn, disrespect and disregard that society can throw at you.

It starts with things like not being able to swear, ever, or raise our voices, or show anger or be opinionated. It extends to things like not being able to speak about our sexualities without being labelled easy or a whore. Sex with whomever we like and on our own terms is also a no-no in the Lady Game, as is showing any sort of superiority to men. We're just not allowed to be better at anything, the poor male ego can't take it.

I'm sure a lot of you have stories of finding yourself in a situation that has you thinking, "Man, I must be a total guy because I'm nothing like what people expect me to be as a woman."

I think a great example of the Lady phenomenon is two very different movie stars: Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

Hepburn was the quintissential elegant lady. Thin, soft-spoken, fragile looking.

Monroe, however, was curvy, flirtatious, self-confident and openly sensual.

Ignoring the personal lives of these women (who I both admire and love dearly), I'm focusing on the public opinion of these women, the perception that has lived on. Women often say they would like to be like Hepburn. Women also want to be like Monroe, but often these are women in 'sexpot' roles in the media, like Scarlett Johanssen, Anna Nicole-Smith and Christina Aguileria. You can't be Monroe and be sophisticated or respected for your mind. You can't be Hepburn if you have a loud mouth and an opinion.

I'm simplifying it a lot for the sake of brevity, but I think you see my point. I have been called a lot of things for my behaviour. I've also been disrespected by men assuming things about me because I am not a shy retiring flower.

Every time it happens, I say the same thing. "Excuse me, I'm a lady!"

And I am. I am a lady because I have a mind and a heart. I am a lady because I care about the world and the people in it. I have as much dignity, charm and finesse as any self-restrained woman of virtue, I just choose to damn the torpedoes and let my natural personality flow free. (Please note I have absolutely no scorn for women who do choose to live a certain way – I'm all for women living however the bloody hell they choose. My point is that we shouldn't be given shit for choosing to live differently).

I think it's time women redefine the concept of being a 'lady'. I think it should be about valuing the power of our womanhood, the diverse and amazing thing that it is, and hopefully encouraging behaviour that not only betters ourselves, but the world around us. Kindness. Courtesy. Compassion. Thoughtfulness. These are the things we should aspire to.

We should also tell those that try to define our worth with a dry set of behavioural rules, "Fuck you. I'm a lady."

And being a lady can be whatever we want it to be.