“Your behavior isn’t ladylike.”
I can no longer count on my hands or toes how many times I’ve gotten a lecture on how unladylike I am. My faithful response to this is, “I don’t like that term.” Then I send a screenshot of Google’s definition of the term. The not-so-sad truth is that I really don’t give a shit about being ladylike.
Disclaimer: I am not a feminist who is about to go on a rant about the inequalities females face due to this term (although I’m sure one could make an argument about how the expectations of a gentleman and being ladylike very much differ). I’m just kindly explaining how a well-regarded word is actually very offensive.
I Googled ‘ladylike’ and received several definitions:
Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word was “appropriate for or typical of a well-bred, decorous woman or girl.”
Merriam Dictionary gave me four different definitions:
1. becoming or suitable to a lady.
2. resembling a lady in appearance or manners: well-bred
3. a) feeling or showing too much concern
b) lack in strength, force, or virility
4. polite and quiet in a way that has traditionally been considered suited to a woman
Now, why would I, or any woman, want to be any of these things?
Polite, yes of course. Quiet? Literally no can silence me. Well-bred? The synonyms (educated, respectful, well-mannered, polite, etc.) are less offensive. The word itself – I’m definitely not accepting it. Especially after I research the definition and the example given is, “she was too well-bred to say anything.”
Telling women to be “ladylike” is just another way to control and limit our actions and voice, all while diminishing our existence and purpose.
I’m not quiet; I’m highly opinionated and I put my opinions out there with a lot of pride. If I have a problem, you will hear my mouth. I lay out all my emotions and hide nothing. I probably use more profanity than a sailor.
I don’t care about how elegant or proper I look. I look up ladylike and click images; I couldn’t imagine myself dressing like that regularly. I don’t wear skirts or dresses to my knees; I hate heels and flats; The only hats I wear are beanies and caps; and the last time I wore shades were in elementary school. I genuinely hate dresses and skirts; I wear sneakers with everything. How I dress is the furthest thing from conservative— a little distasteful majority of the time. I prefer sports bras or no bras at all, fitted crop tops, sheer shirts, leggings and baggy denim. If we’re being completely honest I’m a bare-it-all kind of person. One thing is for certain: my attire definitely doesn’t resemble one of a lady.
Don’t get me wrong I have suits, flats, and professional dresses and skirts for events, interviews, or work that requires professional attire. I can speak and be professional when required (the switch up is real guys). I’m also always polite, well-mannered, respectful, and all that other stuff— not because I’m trying to be “ladylike” but because I’m a decent human being who thinks everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness.
While I dress and do all these things, I’m also a well-educated woman with a GPA well over 3.0, still in college, with a shit ton of goals, and a job that I love (not a career because I’m only 20). In addition to that, I’m writing this article from London because I chose to study abroad and learn during my summer instead of taking an actual break.
So when I get told I’m not being “ladylike” and I have no future or I’m not asking for respect because of how I speak or dress; because I voice my opinions that don’t fit social norms; or even because of the things I choose to post, I hope you understand why I’m offended. Society gets to decide that I deserve to be treated a certain way because I choose to express myself in ways that aren’t traditional.
Welp, guess what? I’m a woman, clearly not a lady (which is 100% fine with me given the technical definition). As a woman, I will continue to dress how I want to dress; post what I want to post; talk how I want to talk; and do whatever it is that I want to do. Why? Because it makes me happy and that’s how I express myself, and that is genuinely all that matters.