Saturday, 1 October 2011

The paradox of being ladylike

Transatlantic Blonde's Feminist Friday prompt is myth busting.

In the spirit of taking a theme and largely ignoring it, I'd like to explore the contradiction of our ideals of femininity.

So what's feminine? How do you become lady-like? 

Possibly the best medium to explain this is, obviously, musical theatre. The orchestra strikes up and the heroine (think Eliza Doolittle meets Sandy from the first half of Grease and Calamity Jane) is receiving some advice from her mother/teacher/gay best friend.

If you want to get a man, be a lady,
If you want to run the show, be a lady,
if you want to be on top, be a lady,

How do I do that then?

(Stage directions suggest the cast dash around turning her into a lady in the manner of the birds in the Disney version of Cinderella)

Well... you will never smell, never swear, never sweat.
You must keep your knees together, eyes wide open, sit up straight.
Never fart, never grunt, never burp.
Don't spit, don't scratch and cut your food into teeny, tiny, titchy little pieces.
In the loo-oo-oo, look at you. Your poo won't niff.. hell, it won't even splash.

Gee, that sounds hard.

Girlfriend, it's not supposed to be easy, if it was we could rule the world as well.

Don't pick your nose, don't sniff and if you gotta blow, do it dainty.

Don't shout, don't get cross, and never nag. Never moan, don't complain. And remember no one likes a bossy boots.

Always smile, say hello, how'dyoudo and it's my pleasure. Pinkies out again.

Your shoes will match your bag. Your clothes are always clean, always nice, always right. There won't be a ladder in your tights or gravy down your bosom.

Speaking of your bosom: it's time to tame those babies. They mustn't bounce or spill. And keep your raspberries in the shade.

Say no to tattoos, cover your ambition. Keep your salary less than his and never wear a frown. Banish VPL or you'll look like hell.

Getting up, going out. Always look your best. Hide your feelings and your bra strap.  Or you'll only have yourself to blame. Banish frizz and smudges, they're not welcome here. No stray hairs. No zits. And be smooth. Everywhere.

Don't stride, that's not nice. A real lady takes tiny tootsy steps - tippy, tapping up the road.

That's it then? Is that all I have to do?

Ha ha ha. Good grief no, my dear. There's all the stuff you'll need to know.
Can you cook? Can you clean? Can you care and do the admin?
Can you buy the perfect gift? Soothe a fevered brow?
Can you find things? And repair stuff? Write an elegant letter?
How's your flower arranging? Your dinner party planning?

Phew, need a nap. Don't yawn or snore or drool.
What do you mean that all sounds a bit hard, you fool?

If it was easy the men would do it too-oo-oo.

(Cast bows to rapturous applause)

Probably the reason this show didn't get made is that in act two the heroine has got hacked off with all the bullshit of trying to be lady-like, grown her pubic hair back, found a gun and shot the rest of the cast in a very satisfying bloodbath (the mess from which, of course, she has cleaned up).


  1. Very funny - and true. xxx

  2. Iron my shirts

  3. Hmm I may or may not be lady like....

  4. I said iron my shirts

  5. Love it. Particularly the 'if it was easy the men would do it too' bit.

  6. hah! love it.

    I wrote a very sweary poem once about being told off by someone who worked for me (for swearing) because his mother had brought him up to believe that it wasn't ladylike for women to swear...

  7. Stronginwill, of course it fucking isn't!

  8. Crikey. I ain't no lady! ;) Thanks for a good laugh :)

  9. Brilliant. Just brilliant. You'd be a sell-out at the Pavilion in record time :)

  10. I am soooooooo not a 'lady'. :D


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