In a time where gender norms are consistently questioned, and expression & fluidity of gender is becoming widely accepted, the term 'ladylike' sounds as outdated as one of those savory jello salads from the '60s. I had to look up the term just to reacquaint myself with the meaning. Some of the definitions included words like, 'gracious', 'quiet' and, 'good manners'. I searched 'ladylike', and looked at images associated with the word. I wasn't shocked but was dismayed to find several images of shoes, long dresses, lipstick, and ladies peering into ovens. Wow, that word really is outdated. So I'm glad Vocal reached out to me and several others to help redefine what it means to be 'ladylike'.
I'm calling this chapter of my life, "Ladylike Ain't Like Nothin' at All". I want to celebrate all the things that define my personal gender journey and expression. After over a decade of struggling with what it means to be a woman, now in my late twenties, I've settled into the understanding that gender is a construction meant to box us in. Here's a list of a few things that make me so ladylike!
Sitting How I Want
People think being ladylike means crossing your legs, and while I'm a fan, I also like to splay my legs out and sit in whatever way is comfortable. Sitting however I feel like makes me so ladylike.
I haven't shaved my armpits since highschool. I've been berated for it by boyfriends, parents, even friends. Now the choice of not shaving is more socially acceptable because let's be rational, what's the point in shaving if you don't feel like it. Not shaving my armpits, and shaving my legs is how I roll and that makes me so ladylike.
Cooking...When I Feel Like It!
I love cooking. But I hate how being a woman in the kitchen has sexist connotations. Cooking for friends, myself, or a partner when I feel like it makes me so ladylike.
Expressing myself through tattoos without caring what anyone thinks makes me so ladylike. I could do without the tatcalling though.
Working in the garden, doing ceramics, playing sports are some of my favorite things. Getting sweaty and dirty makes me so ladylike!
Sweatpants & A Bun
Wearing what I want to when I feel like it makes me so ladylike. Whether I'm feeling a sundress or sweats and an updo, I love wearing what makes me feel comfortable without worrying about how society will perceive me.
This is a difficult question to answer. Mainly because of the word 'woman'. How can I identify strengths that are exclusive to my gender, when there are so many different genders. Instead, I'll think of it in terms of the oppressed. Those who don't have all the advantages that a CIS white man would have. What makes the oppressed strong?
Patience. Having the patience to teach others when it's not their duty. The ability to endure toward an uncertain future and maintain hope in a world where hope can be hard to hold onto. Facing fears that hold us back, like wearing what we want, participating in behaviors that go against gender norms. And celebrating the successes of others, reveling in the joy of our friends, and uplifting them.
My current femme idol is Ma Rainey, the 'Mother of Blues' and an early advocate/member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Ma Rainey was unapologetically herself, and one of the first Black women to record music. Her lyrics speak of independence from men, preferring to do things alone or in the company of women. She makes reference to wearing men's clothing and walking down the street confidently. She sang about the gambit of human emotions authentically from the heart. Check out Ma Rainy's Black Bottom on Netflix to get a theatrical glimpse into her life.
Out with the Outdated
The term ladylike is old news, and I'd rather be called unladylike any day. The definition is associated with being weak, demure, apologetic, well-bred, well-dressed. But we're not animals trained to perform in a way that society considers normal. With the hashtag #soladylike we are reclaiming what it means to be a woman. It's the 21st century and we have bigger problems to solve rather than worrying about what it means to be a 'lady'. So spit if you want, splay your legs, go to bars, wear what you want, curse, get dirty, replace cooking and cleaning with take-out and dry cleaning. Do whatever you want without worrying that someone will call you unladylike.
"My mom said to me, 'You know sweetheart, one day you should settle down and marry a rich man. And I said, 'Mom, I am a rich man.'" - Cher