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(19 Posts)
pixwix Sat 06-Oct-12 00:30:33

Is it me? and am fully prepared to be told it is just me. But I struggle with the term 'lady'.

I was chatting to a mate of mine the other day (male) and he called me a true lady. I can't remember why. But it made me cringe. To me, I am a woman, and calling me a lady because I might have behaved in a certain way... well to me - it seems like well - you are a woman, but if you behave in a certain way, usually a bit self effacing, feminine characteristics and such-like - then you are elevated to the status of 'lady' it's a 'compliment' that you should aspire to? It's like there are two tiers of women - those that behave appropriately - and those that don't - and being termed a lady is a reward for the former..

Arrghh! am not coming across very well...

I'll get me coat...

MummysHappyPills Sat 06-Oct-12 00:31:27

I know what you mean. smile

PrincessSymbian Sat 06-Oct-12 00:33:46

I despise being called a 'lady', I saw your thread title and I thought "hmmm, interesting way of titleing a thread in feminism."
I was relieved, to say the least, when I read the actual post.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 06-Oct-12 00:37:27

I like ladies, I feel like I'm reclaiming it when I use it, especially as I'm not what you would consider typically "lady-like".

I also like the way it sounds.

pixwix Sat 06-Oct-12 00:38:43

Thank fuck for that! I was never quite sure why I felt uncomfortable with it - but it does seem like some acolade you can 'earn' by behaving in a certain way - which is erm - not me really?

pixwix Sat 06-Oct-12 00:39:41

Oooh Goth! smile cross posted!

PrincessSymbian Sat 06-Oct-12 00:44:46

Because, for me, being a lady means you have inherent traits built into you, associations with being 'the fairer sex', having to rely on a man to get things done because we might break a finger nail or something.
Like the bit in Gone With The Wind when rhett finds Scarletts hands are rough, though quite frankly that bit always annoys me anyway, because being the clever hussy she was, there was no way that she would have turned up dressed like that without GLOVES to cover the roughness of her hands.
Sorry, rant over!

blackcurrants Sat 06-Oct-12 02:32:49

I dislike 'ladies' because of the force behind it, which is chivalry, and chivalry is the carrot to which domestic violence is the stick: both say, we may put you on a pedestal as a 'lady ' or knock you to the ground, but either way, you are ours to position. Both chivalry and male violence against women say: obey the patriarchy: you may get a pat on the head! Disobey it and you will be hurt, possibly killed.

Also, it comes from the idea that calling women 'women' is insulting, somehow. Therefore you flatter them that you think they are dead posh, and call them 'ladies.' Speaking from a peerage/etiquette point of view, 'ladies and gentleman' makes no sense. it should be "ladies and lords!" and/or "gentlewomen and gentlemen!"

Bit of trivia for you: In the early eighteenth century the term 'gentlewoman' was often a sarcastic euphemism for 'prostitute' - after all, these women didn't work for a living, and gentlemen don't have to work to live, so therefore.... (read the start of 'Moll Flanders', and her childhood, for a description of her getting this wrong as a child, and everyone laughing at her wanting to be a 'gentlewoman' when she grows up). By the time Austen wrote 'Pride and Prejudice', around 1806 (so 100 years later) in the scene where Lizzie defies Lady Catherine de Burgh in the garden, and states she's as good as Darcy, she says "he is a gentleman. I am a gentleman's daughter." She doesn't call herself a gentlewoman because it would be an insulting thing to say about herself. By this point, no one says 'gentlewoman' and women of middle-class men (say, doctor's wives or lawyer's wives) who are not aristocratic but nonetheless do not have to work with their hands - are elevated up a social title, and called 'ladies' even though they aren't "lady so-and-so."

The idea that 'women' - a gender descriptor, ffs! - might be construed as insulting (because who'd want to be a woman, after all?) is pretty horrific.
And yet I use it. "Say thank-you to the nice lady, DS" ... I use it because I'm socialised to think "Say thank you to the nice woman, DS" sounds somehow rude.

grimbletart Sat 06-Oct-12 11:09:36

Agree with you blackcurrants. I prefer the term woman to lady. Yet if I was pointing out a woman to someone I would say "that lady over there" or "this lady was in front of me" rather than woman. How insidious social conditioning is. It's the only time that I believe I really go along with socially conditioned terms.

I often have to give talks and in that case I would say e.g. "thank you ladies and gentlemen", certainly not "thank you men and women". If appropriate I try to say "thank you everyone".

greenhill Sat 06-Oct-12 11:24:44

I always hear it as laydeez and with a leer when addressed to a group of women. Or think of ladies and gents, as in toilets.

However if asking my DC to move out of the way of other people on the street, I try to say move out of the woman's way but frequently default to move out of the lady's way because of an automatic reflex. Especially if the woman is older than me.

PeggyCarter Sat 06-Oct-12 12:47:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

catgirl1976 Sat 06-Oct-12 15:52:37

I hate "ladies". I don't know why. I actually prefer "girls" (not popular on here I know but hey ho)

My cousin is a Lady so she's stuck with it, but I am not and it sounds old to me.

Startailoforangeandgold Sat 06-Oct-12 16:15:42

Ladies is far the best of a bad choice, otherwise it's Girls which at 40+ with a 14 yo daughter who looks way more like a young woman than a child is plain daft.

Women just doesn't fit most if the phrases ladies or girls do.

You can't possibly say "Good evening women and gentlemen"

And I'd always expect any anecdote that begins "I saw a woman......" to go on to be negative. Where as one using the word lady may be positive or negative.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 06-Oct-12 21:37:42

Woman sounds to me like a word that needs a qualifier, like person.
for example:
"say thank you to the man" = "say thank you to the lady" and is ok.
But it sounds more polite to say "Say thank you to the nice woman"

Henceforth I shall endeavour to say, "Say thank you to the nice person."

UnknownGnome Sat 06-Oct-12 22:24:44

I use the word lady as in the examples given above. I also used to refer to the staff a dcs' nursery as 'ladies' which is how they also referred to themselves. I don't like it though, but I can't think of a better alternative.

My boss at work refers to me and the other women in the office as 'girls' which I do find demeaning but not enough to raise it as an issue.

It's funny because I can't imagine a male boss walking into a room full of his male workers and saying 'hello boys!'

CelticParalympian Sat 06-Oct-12 22:25:47

Hmmm I'm not a fan of 'lady' personally, but I use it when referring to strangers like most people. I have sort of learnt to embrace it because I play a traditionally male sport and my club name is XX Ladies not Women. I speak to groups of women reasonably often and there isn't really another appropriate way to address them.

avenueone Sun 07-Oct-12 11:17:23

I think of it in the same terms as someone would use `gentleman' which is in most cases used as being a good man, in which case lady would be seen as a good women
- so for me it would depend on the context and I much prefer a good person in both instances feeling that by attaching a gender specific terms implies it may be due to the person performing what society see as a gender specific task which I don't like.

LibrariansMakeNovelLovers Mon 08-Oct-12 09:56:17

Like greenhill I always hear it as 'laydeez'. usually in the the context of either 'now, now, calm down laydeez' (because being angry isn't 'ladylike' it's the preserve of men) or with a leer when talking to a group of women.

I think my dislike is the result of always being picked up on not being ladylike enough throughout my whole life (mainly by my mother) due to behaving in ways that were perfectly okay for my brothers (drinking pints, getting drunk on occasion, actually having sex out of wedlock shock. I was also always a disappointment because I'm scruffy, don't wear make up and 'make the best of myself' hmm etc)

noviceoftheday Mon 08-Oct-12 10:07:31

Not something I get fussed about. I normally say to dc "say thank you to the nice gentleman" or "say thank you to the nice lady". What tends to strike me more is that typically, when men hear this, they tend to be very surprised and pleased to be referred to as a gentleman.

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