Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Please DON'T Call Me a Lady

Please forgive this rant, but I gotta get it out.

Maybe its because I'm older, maybe its because I am the mother of two girls, but more and more, I feel like the feminist movement has been backsliding lately. 

Don't get me wrong, there have been many positive changes, particularly in terms of opportunities for women (Ontario just elected our first female, gay premier after all!), but there is really still a long way to go.

In particular, violence against women and misogyny are still rampant, and compared to men, we are still seen as objects for others to admire.  And frankly, I think we women tolerate all this far too much.

I want to mention one thing that really irks me...maybe its not such a big deal, but its a pet peeve of mine: I hate being called a lady!

How do you address your male friends?  As gentlemen?  Guys? Dudes?  And how about your female friends? As ladies? Folks? Women? Personally, when addressing people informally, regardless of their gender, I use the term guys.  While guy is often thought to refer to a man, apparently it can also be used as an informal way to address someone of any gender.

I often find that people still refer to a group of women as ladies.  It’s always made me cringe.  I grew up in a household with a feminist mother and I don’t remember the term ever being used.  In fact, by the time my older brother was 14, I recall him referring to his classmates, as well as any older female, as women.

To me, ladies just seems like an antiquated term.  It makes me think of the word ‘ladylike’ which has some very outdated and sexist connotations.  Wondering if there was any basis to my assumptions, I looked up the definition.

1. A well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior.


a. A woman regarded as proper and virtuous.

b. A well-behaved young girl.

3. A woman who is the head of a household.

4. A woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way.


a. A woman to whom a man is romantically attached.

b. Informal A wife.

6. Lady Chiefly British A general feminine title of nobility and other rank, specifically:

a. Used as the title for the wife or widow of a knight or baronet.

b. Used as a form of address for a marchioness, countess, viscountess, baroness, or baronetess.

c. Used as a form of address for the wife or widow of a baron.

d. Used as a courtesy title for the daughter of a duke, a marquis, or an earl.

e. Used as a courtesy title for the wife of a younger son of a duke or marquis.

7. Lady The Virgin Mary. Usually used with Our.

8. Slang Cocaine.

usage: In the meanings “refined, polite woman” and “woman of high social position” the noun lady is the parallel of gentleman. As forms of address, both nouns are used in the plural (Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your cooperation), but only lady occurs in the singular. Except in chivalrous, literary, humorous or similar contexts (Lady, spurn me not), this singular is now usu. perceived as rude or at least insensitive: Where do you want the new air conditioner, lady? Other uses that are commonly disliked include lady in compounds or phrases referring to occupation or position (cleaning lady; forelady; saleslady) and as a modifier (lady artist; lady doctor). Increasingly, sex-neutral terms replace lady (cleaner; supervisor; salesperson or salesclerk). When it is relevant to specify the sex of the performer or practitioner, woman rather than lady is used, the parallel term being man, or male and female are used as modifiers: I need a saleswoman; Male doctors outnumber female doctors on the hospital staff by three to one.

 Hmm, yes I do take most of that to task.  Proper and virtuous?  Well-behaved?  Kiss my ass! 

I much prefer the term woman, but decided to see just what the official meaning is.

1. An adult female human.

2. Women considered as a group; womankind: "Woman feels the invidious distinctions of sex exactly as the black man does those of color" (Elizabeth Cady Stanton).

3. An adult female human belonging to a specified occupation, group, nationality, or other category. Often used in combination: an Englishwoman; congresswoman; a saleswoman.

4. Feminine quality or aspect; womanliness.

5. A female servant or subordinate.

6. Informal

a. A wife.

b. A female lover or sweetheart.

usage: Although formerly woman was sometimes regarded as demeaning and lady was the term of courtesy, woman is the designation preferred by most modern female adults: League of Women Voters; American Association of University Women. woman is the standard parallel to man. When modifying a plural noun, woman, like man, becomes plural: women athletes; women students. The use of lady as a term of courtesy has diminished somewhat in recent years, although it still survives in a few set phrases (ladies' room; Ladies' Day). lady is also used, but decreasingly, as a term of reference for women engaged in occupations considered by some to be menial or routine: cleaning lady; saleslady.

Okay, so not all of it is ideal…female servant or subordinate?  But as you can see in the usage section, MOST MODERN FEMALE ADULTS PREFER THE TERM.  Ladies just evokes images of the restrictive gender norms from the Victorian era.  So why do so many people still use the term ladies?  I find it especially puzzling that women still use the term to address other women?

Lady makes me think of misogynistic rappers and cheesy waiters at old-school restaurants with red and white checked tablecloths.  It makes me think of prissy, judgemental women with small, dainty hands who wear clean white gloves and carry handbags.  Women who don’t talk about sex or bodily functions and never challenge authority.  A 'lady' is demure and defers to her husband’s needs.  A lady – if she doesn’t have hired help – is diligent about housekeeping.

That is not AT ALL me!

 As my husband recently said, “Everything about you is small except your mouth.”  You betcha!  I am small, but I have man-hands that never see a manicure (how can you be functional at all if you have to worry about chipping polish?).  I love lifting heavy weights and I am really strong. I usually carry a backpack not a purse.  I belch a lot and think farts are funny.  And I speak my mind.  I don’t really like talking about clothes and I don’t like spending a lot on them either.  Aside from cooking and baking (which I adore), I hate housework.  All of it.  Adam is much better at ironing and folding clothes than I am, and isn’t as prone at letting clutter build up.  He is far more likely than I to remember to brush the kids’ hair before letting them leave the house.  I have no problem discussing all bodily functions and sex…after all I do it almost every day with clients in my work as a therapist.  I did not take my husband’s last name. 

So please, call me Erica, call me Dr. Berman, call me dude, guy, pal, woman, freakin' powerhouse, just don't call me lady!!


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