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There are some words that make my blood start to sizzle. Sometimes it's just ugly words (like 'gusset' or 'doily' or 'moist'), sometimes it's the associations and prejudices built into the word that get my blood pressure pumping.

I loathe the term 'ladies'.

Perhaps that's not strictly true. 'Ladies' is perfectly suited to those situations when you wish to be polite to female members of my mother's generation. 'Lady' is just fine for a small child answering the door and yelling "Mumm-eeeee, there are two ladies to see you!"
And I suppose it's fair enough for the sign on the women's bathroom.

But call me a lady and I will growl at you.

I hate it in so many ways.

See, when I hear the word 'lady', I start hearing phrases like "a lady would never behave like that" or, "that's not a job for a lady".

(Or I imagine signs like "free entrance for ladies before midnight" hanging above really tacky nightclubs.)

Ladies are polite, and demure. A lady would rather behave 'appropriately' than daringly, or follow her wishes and whims. Ladies will actually waste time thinking about whether some job or adventure is 'suitable' for them, as females. A lady would never swear in public, though she might hiss a discreet 'bloody hell' under her breath when she drops a cup of tea. A lady would rather avoid confrontation than fight her corner. Ladies value manners over effectiveness.

Ladies are not supposed to hitch up their skirts and jump in puddles.
Ladies refrain from rocking the boat, and challenging established ideas.
Ladies are not supposed to pounce on people, or demand attention.
Ladies are supposed to be quiet, and not make a big deal about their opinions.
Ladies would be horribly embarrassed about laughing till they fell off their seats, or drinking till they made no sense. Or they'd just not do that in the first place.
Ladies never fight for the last chocolate brownie on the plate.
Ladies would curl up and die if their tampons spilled out of their bag.
Ladies would never interrupt and tell someone they were full of bullshit.
Ladies might worry about leaving the house if their shoes and handbags do not match.
Ladies would never wear diamonds before sunset, wear combat boots with a ballgown, or eat dessert for all three courses in a fancy restaurant.
Ladies would not think it was right to dance in the night-rain in the middle of the street, just because there was a good moon.
Ladies never kiss (or smoke) in the street.
Ladies would never go out of their way to create trouble.
Ladies are certainly not supposed to be inordinately fond of sex.
Ladies would never dream of masturbating (or if they did, they'd never admit it).
Ladies would rather die than raise hell.

See all those negatives? That's why I have no desire to be a lady.

I'm not a lady. I'm a woman. (or a chick, if you must.) And I'm extremely proud of that.

Being a "lady" is about restriction, about conforming, about apologising for your existence.

It's not about social class: ladies are prevalent through every strata of society. And it's not about age: I have met wonderful bold old women in their eighties who would happily throw their tea cups on the ground, swear juicily at the queen mother, and go skinny dipping before dinner. And I have met tightly coiled sixteen year olds who would be shocked out of their hair-clips if you told them they didn't have to defer to their brothers.

So when my mother tells me I'm no lady, I can only breathe a sigh of relief.


ideath, it's a damn shame that dame has such different connotations in britain. it's closer to dowager and doddery old dear who's a pillar of society than 'broad'. you can call me a dame if ever i'm in the US. yeah. that would work.