Once a month I meet with a group of retired educators for lunch. This is a formidable bunch of women, strong, opinionated, polished, and witty. They are well-traveled and extremely well-read.
There are usually several conversations going on at once, and you better be quick to keep up, this crowd does not suffer fools lightly.
The women at these gatherings have the ability to make you squirm in your seat merely by a raising eyebrow and shooting a look. They are not to be trifled with.
After we are assembled at the restaurant, invariably we hear something like this: “What can I get for you today, ladies?” and invariably I cringe.
These are not ladies, I think; these are women.
Miriam-Webster defines ladies as “a woman of refinement and gentle manners“.
Inquiring about the “gentle manners” of any member of this group might cause them to do a spit-take with a sip of their exquisite Pinot Grigio.
At our Christmas gathering, a waiter made the mistake of asking one former physics teacher with snow-white hair if the “young lady” was ready to order. She pinned him to the spot with a stony stare, honed over four decades of dealing with unruly teenagers. He finally mumbled an apology and slunk away.
Being referred to as a lady makes me feel as though I am being patronized by someone who is either younger or a different gender than me. Here’s the thing: I don’t know how to be a lady.
I was never very lady-like.
When I was a little girl, I played baseball with the boys, rather than dolls with the other girls, at least until the boys were old enough to play organized ball and I was excluded. And yes, I threw like a girl. I was a girl.
I climbed trees, ran races, skinned my knees, and caught bugs. My best friend was a boy.
As I got older, I was not interested in being a cheerleader or even a majorette. I wanted to play sports.
Now, I rarely wear make-up and the thought of donning high heels makes me queasy. You would never catch a man teetering around on a pair of six-inch spike heels. I don’t want to imitate men, but this is something I believe they have right.
When you call me a lady, my mental image is of a prissy, dainty woman whose house is immaculate and who never sweats. Someone who would never talk about sex with her girlfriends or husband. That’s not me.
Women are given confusing messages when society tells them to “be a lady“.
Does that mean we should be quiet, docile, and passive? Should we refrain from laughing too loud, talking too much, being assertive? Maybe we should dye our hair, get ourselves some bigger, perkier boobs and Botox our wrinkles? Would that make us more lady-like?
Throw faith into the picture and the water becomes even murkier.
For a long time, I could not embrace Christianity because I believed it to be a male-centered religion. What about all those verses from Scripture that seem to promote patriarchy? Aren’t women told to be “submissive“?
A deeper reading of those Scriptures reveals more about the cultural attitudes of biblical times than the will of God.
Yes, God wants wives to submit to husbands, but His intention is for husbands to submit to their wives too. Through mutual submission, obedience, and humility, we gain strength.
In his instructions for Christian households, Saint Paul tells husbands and wives “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Patriarchy is a tool used to suppress women, not God’s plan for humanity.
As it turns out, Jesus loves women too. He doesn’t want us to be more like men, or to be more lady-like; He wants us to love ourselves. Just as we are. Even if we are loud, boisterous, and exuberant. Yes, even if we sit with our right ankle on our left knee.
Women are made to shine with God’s reflected light just like men. Playing small and quiet doesn’t benefit anyone. We are, each of us, a unique and precious individual, created to raise our voices and speak Love.
These are my thoughts on a sensitive topic. I realize they may not be popular with everyone and that’s OK.
You might call me a strident, emasculating, feminist radical. On the other hand, you may call me an uneducated, angry, anti-progress reactionary.
Please just don’t call me a “lady“.
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