“Be a Lady They Said” Brings up Important Issues

“Be a Lady They Said

Kenzie Moten, Contributor

Since the beginning of time, we as females have fashionably confined ourselves to society’s standards of how women should represent themselves. History has only revealed these actions based off the judgement of man.

In the 1890’s, women had to cover up chin to ankle in public while in the UK. This was a law determined by a man, and it was so childish that “legs of wooden tables were covered up too because they apparently resembled women’s legs” (Marie Claire).

By the 1800’s, women finally earned the right to have pockets. Men had originally created pockets in the 1600’s and took it and ran away with it for themselves for 200 years.

In Asia, Chinese women would bind their feet to be smaller and curved. “Seen as a symbol of beauty, legend has it that the Emperor at the time saw the dainty feet of one of his favourite courtesans, and enforced a ruling that all women in his court must make their feet tiny and curved too. The practice continued until 1949,” according to Marie Claire.

Like today, women cannot breastfeed in public or go outside without a bra without being judged by the public. “Historians reckon that women only began to cover their breasts in public about 3500 years ago – when men decided they were private, sexual body parts that needed to be tucked away. Prior to that, artwork from the era suggests that women were able to wander around topless without anyone batting an eyelid” (Marie Claire).

Now in today’s culture in America, you can wear what you want: just have on some formality of clothes. But now the pressures are on how tight the clothing is versus looseness and how natural we look versus “plastic”.

I watched a video sometime last month titled, “Be A Lady They Said,” and I thought it was terrifyingly true but empowering. Because if it isn’t our clothes then it is the way women are “supposed” to act based off of a quiet attitude versus assertiveness.

The video mentioned comments like, “Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low … Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. Wear black. Wear heels…” (The Guardian). The video is a wonderful example of how the way a woman dresses is always judged by men.

Then recently, I caught myself always apologizing. For example, if I went out to eat and my food was completely wrong or cold, I would always say sorry and then the waiter or waitress would always reassure me to not say sorry because I didn’t do anything wrong. But I was raised always to be nice about anything and simply think to apologize.

Many women apologize frequently for things that were not even their fault to begin with. In fact, there are studies on why women apologize more than men.

“Girls,” Dr. Hinshaw explains, “are also told to be ambitious, smart, and successful. But for them the directive comes with conditions that hamper individuation.

  • Be confident, but not conceited
  • Be smart, but no one likes a know-it-all
  • Ambition is good, but trying too hard is bad
  • Be assertive, but only if it doesn’t upset anyone else”  (The Mind Child).

This is only a glimpse of how women are constantly framed to be a certain way. As a society, I think we all need to rethink how we are taught to judge.