Usually I take everything on social media with a grain of salt (or a ring of it around the rim of a margarita glass), but yesterday I read a thread that I could not get out of my head.
A friend posted this meme from Francisco Rendon of our fabulous First Lady, Michelle Obama. One woman’s immediate response was “Bitch.” When questioned on why she disapproved of our FLOTUS, she offered the following, “Mrs. Obama has made so many faces that are unladylike in photographs, refused to say the pledge of allegiance, or to put her hand over her heart, and has said so many things to turn me off, that I will be happy to see her leave the White House. My ideal First Lady was Jackie Kennedy. Poised, intelligent, beautiful, classic in her dress and carriage. A far cry from our current First Lady.” She later went on to add, “When I SEE her (Michelle Obama) do disrespectful things in public, I feel like she shows the worst possible side of herself. Public appearances are such fleeting moments for most First Ladies. How difficult can it be to smile and ‘play nice’?” She went on to ignore facts disproving her allegations, but did offer an apology for not “acting like a lady” herself during this exchange.
So, essentially, this person dislikes Mrs. Obama because she does not fit her notion of what it means to be a “lady.” And, thank God for that.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a lady is defined as:
So, if my goal is to be a lady, I simply must be born to a wealthy man, then find me a man to court, and then behave in a mannerly fashion for the rest of my life. Or, I could be a fully-functioning human with her own accomplishments and agenda.
Historically, to “act like a lady” meant to sit down, keep your mouth and thighs shut, smile demurely, and wait patiently until you were told what to think, say, and do. A lady was expected to look pretty, be sweet, and never raise her voice or eyebrows, especially in challenge to anything said by a man.
If suffragettes Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone had “acted like ladies,” we wouldn’t have the right to vote.
If Rosa Parks had “acted like a lady,” the Civil Rights Movement would have taken much longer to gain the momentum needed to end segregation.
If Marie Curie had “acted like a lady“ we would not be able combat cancer through radiotherapy.
If women like track star Babe Didrikson, skater Madge Syers, and tennis great Lucy Diggs Slowe had been satisfied to just sit on the sidelines with their ankles crossed, we would not have modern role models such as the players of the WNBA, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, or SI’s Sportsperson of the Year, Serena Williams. On a side note, I seriously doubt the coaches of these awesome athletes ever ended a pep talk with, “Now, get out there and act like a lady.”
If computer trailblazer Grace Hopper, had “acted like a lady” there wouldn’t be the accessible technology that is allowing me to blog right now.
The list goes on and on.
“Acting like a lady” is a huge obstacle when it comes to becoming a bold, brilliant, powerful, passionate woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and follow her heart.
I also have to address the request that the First Lady “play nice.” First off, why play nice when you can just genuinely be nice. The phrase itself implies duplicity.
Also, playing nice will not help will you get ahead, but it will help get you dead. In their article, “Self Defense Myth—Don’t Fight Back or the Attacker Will Become More Enraged and Hurt You Worse," the website SelfDefenseCentral.com explains, “Current evidence is overwhelmingly in favor in most cases of fighting back. So why is this myth still so often prescribed? My theory is that past inadequate training, poor socialization of women, and 'good ole boy' mentality historically conditioned women to play the consummate victim. With all this conditioning to fight against, women in general were typically not empowered to fight back. In fact to the contrary, women were taught to be 'nice' and not make a scene.”
Women, it is time to abandon this antiquated view of the female ideal. We must choose values that empower us while uplifting others, not those lame qualities that were deemed appealing by a patriarchal society where we were underserved, underappreciated, and underestimated.
Instead of striving to “act like a lady,” I will strive to “act like a woman.” Keep your pearls and poise, give me compassion and courage, empathy and ethics, power and purpose, and an open-mind filled with all kinds of original thoughts and controversial opinions, which I shall not be ashamed to voice.
Those who demand I “act like a lady” will see just how unladylike I can behave.
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