After taking quite a bit of heat for the tweet below, I’ve decided to formulate my response here, for those who care to take the time to read it outside of 160 characters.
This morning I read the details of the horrific gang rape of a 16 year old girl in Northern California, and was moved to post the following.
“Hey Parents. Teach your boys how to treat women properly, and your girls how to be ladies. The shit I’m reading in the news makes me sick.”
Of all the criticism that followed, being accused of slut-shaming is by far the most egregious. Honestly? I, the shamer of sluts? Oh contraire…
Of course having been motivated by the reprehensible, criminal behavior of the male assailants in the piece, I wrote the initial section of the tweet, but then thought it best to include something female related so as not to be labeled sexist. And thus, my troubles began as the outcry from heretofore adoring fans came in broad waves, keyboards blazing, and directed squarely at me, for my use of one single word. Lady.
But why the outrage? Why the hoopla? A lady is a magical thing! A rare and precious sighting! I should think all girls would want to be as such. Unless, of course, there’s something negative attached to the term…
So I began by googling “lady,” and here’s what I came up with…
How about that! Term of respect for the female equivalent of a gentleman. And what characteristics does the term gentleman conjure up?
Someone with manners. Someone who is polite. Someone who demonstrates good character and judgment, especially when it comes to the treatment of, what else, Ladies… So that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? If a lady is defined as the female equivalent of all of those ostensibly good characteristics, why the long face? I’ve never heard a male balk at being called a gentleman! Never once.
As I re-read the responses to my tweet, I began to understand that girls, don’t like the idea that lady represents, and that the offence begins at the notion that girls, or females in general, ought to act lady-like. Ah ha. The culprit! Not just three words that, in our contemporary, liberal, equal-minded, no-loser, no winner society, raise the hackles on women and gender defenders the country over; but what they perceive the idea is; and furthermore, how they believe society is telling them they have to be.
I don’t have to act like anything! I should be empowered to be me! I wont support the outdated civil conventions of an outdated civilization. We’re equal and I’ll be damned if I’m going to act like a lady. I seem to hear them screaming…
But I ask you, where and how did the majesty of the Lady, become so soiled to the point, where young girls across the nation want nothing to do with the notion whatsoever? And more importantly, how do we rectify this travesty? And even more importantly, do women even what to rectify it? Because it’s truly up to them.
Understanding the differences between men and women, and ladies and gentleman isn’t sexist. It’s merely… understanding the differences. The sexes are separate. They are equal in ability(for the most part), but they’re definitely not the same. If you’ve ever rounded second base on your way to third, you know what I’m talking about. So what’s the big deal with being different? The fundamental nature of women is female, and the fundamental nature of man, male. We don’t have to be the same.
Being a Lady or a Gentleman is about embracing the very best of your self as you are and those characteristics are ubiquitous. They are thoroughly human characteristics and transcend specific societies and cultures. They are more noble than the mere civility we expect from one another on a daily basis. They are universal in their aim to demonstrate kindness, selflessness, consideration, and always to present one’s self with grace and poise.
The negativity with which the connotation of lady is received with these days is a result of convention which is a bit behind the times.
A lady is proper, she’s minds what she says, she listens to men, she holds her tongue, she never gets her hands dirty, and she most certainly, guards her virtue above all other things!
Of course all this is aged crap that, for the most part, has gone by the wayside opening up the door for women to live and behave how they please without the conventional insult of not being lady like. And hooray for progress.
However, I would suggest that we tossed the baby out with the bathwater. For along with shedding the dubious garments of mid-century era culture, we have also lost the noble idea of what a lady is, and I submit that every female should aspire to be one, whether they chose to act like one or not.
Can a lady have tattoos all over? Curse like a sailor? Have sex with more than one person? In my opinion, of course she can. Because those criteria are terrestrial, pedantic, antiquated ways of viewing and quantifying the worth of a woman, and or the respect that she may or may not deserve. As deemed by others…
So what is a lady?
She is confident.
She has well thought-out beliefs, and defends them.
She embraces with all her strength, her own self respect, and in doing so, garners respect from others.
She has an unwavering belief in her own value.
She treats people kindly, and nurtures love in her heart.
She does not look down on the inner feminine beauty that she possess as part of her very nature.
She aspires to all this and more, without the need to sacrifice any opportunity that anyone else receives, just because she has a vagina.
When I meet a female who heralds these ideas, in speech and action, both for herself, and for others, I call her… a lady.
Chivalry is not dead. It is alive and well, taking on many forms, with many combinations of players, but we must address our desperate lack of Ladies and Gentleman in the world, in order to play it out.
I read this post, and then I tried to go to sleep. I have two shifts to work tomorrow, and by all means, I should be asleep. But I can’t go to sleep because I keep coming back to this post, and simply put I’m just too pissed to sleep right now.
Dear Mr Bohen,
There is so much problematic shit in this post I don’t even really know where to start. Perhaps, with the original subject, on how you victim blamed somebody and then decided to turn it into a patronizing lesson for women on what it means to be a woman.
The problem with this situation is not that we’ve forgotten what “lady” means, but thank you for your Wikipedia-ed definition lesson. I’m sure it took you all of six minutes—it’s not like the people you are addressing are actually female and have to live with the repercussions of what society defines as a lady or anything, right?
The problem, Mr Bohen, is that somebody was raped and you commented on how her behavior somehow caused it, instead of commenting on how the rapist’s behavior caused it. This, Mr Bohen, as I’m sure it’s been called to your attention, is called victim blaming, and it is wrong.
Let’s be totally clear: you know who causes rape? Rapists. And rapists? Don’t give a shit about behavior. They care about control and power and the feeling of entitlement towards women’s bodies because that’s what they’ve been taught. You know who does not cause rape? Victims. And yet, we are blamed for it. Constantly. By society at large, by people we think are our friends, by actors we follow on Twitter because they act in our favorite tv shows.
You know when the idea of “lady” stopped being majestic? When women realized it was getting us assaulted. When women are told to be ladies, they are told to be quiet, we are told to be politeand gentle and you know what? You know what quiet and polite and gentle gets us? It gets us raped. It gets us raped and harassed and it gets us blamed for it.The burden of rape gets put on us.
The “negative” aspects of the word “lady” haven’t “gone by the wayside”. Quite the contrary. They’re still there, and they still matter, because those negative aspects and expectations of behavior are what gets us blamed for our rapes and assaults.
You know who tells us to be ladies? White men like you. You know who are the vast majority of rapists? White men like you. You see how that works out? White men overwhelming control the way a woman’s body, mind, and actions are perceived in society. They tells us what to wear, how to speak, how to look and how to sound. And then it gets us assaulted they tell us it’s our own damn fault.
Do you see why, just maybe, it upsets us when you condescendingly try to tell us what being a woman is all about? Do you understand that your opinion as a white man is entirely irrelevant? Do you get that your attempt to tell women how to be women actually falls into a culture of rape?
This, Mr Bohen, is what needs to be addressed. The desperate lack of consideration and understanding that you and society at large exhibits towards women.
Just for the record, Mr Bohen when a woman, whether she falls into your Wikipedia-ed definition of “lady” or not, tells you that there is a problem with what you are saying in regards to women the response is not to Google the ways you must surely be right it is to sit down and shut the hell up and listen. Pay attention. Because the “screaming girls on twitter” are deigning to try to make you less ignorant and that is a goddamn gift.
Furthermore? All women are not feminine. Some women are ladies, and some ladies are women. Some women have vaginas- others don’t. We don’t all share the same clothing or virtues or confidence or “inner feminine beauty”. Based on our ability, skin color, sexual orientation, or gender we have radically different experiences on what it means to be a woman in this world.
Some of us don’t mind the word “lady”, others do. Whether or not we find it offensive is our perogative, not yours. You don’t get to tell us how we feel about it.
One thing we are collective on, however, is that we are really sick of men telling us what to be.
people are not responding negatively to that tweet because they don’t want to be called ladies because there’s some sort of negative association with being a lady. (which, okay, they might be, and there is, but that’s not the primary issue at hand here.)
people are responding negatively because you told girls to be ladies in the same breath as you sounded off on rapists and rape.
telling girls what to do and how to be has absolutely no place in a discussion about rape. (telling girls what to do and how to be has absolutely no place in your vernacular, but that’s a bigger issue.)
it is not sexist to call out rapists without mentioning anything about girls. it is not sexist to point out that parents need to be teaching their male children consent. a girl’s/woman’s/female-identifying person’s conduct has no place in that discussion. the very fact that you felt the need to include it is the root of the problem here.
and then you dug yourself a deeper hole by telling us what a lady is and how we should want to be ladies because being a lady is a good thing! yeah - some girls/women/female-identifying persons would like to call themselves ladies after a definition of their own choosing.
none of that has anything to do with you. women are negatively reacting to a white, cis, het male telling them how to act. if you can’t accept that then you have a much bigger problem than foot-in-mouth disease.
I was going to write a post about the show Hemlock Grove and the various reasons it bugged me, but of course the blogger behind Tiger Beatdown does such a great job I decided to just link to her article here.
I will add that in addition to what she discusses here, I picked up on the apparently inexhaustible horror-movie trope of killing sexually active young women. This bothered me because 1) obviously this doesn’t really help in the stigmatization of sex and sexuality among teens, especially teen girls and 2) it’s so fucking lazy and old MY GOD COME UP WITH SOMETHING BETTER.
The acting is pretty good. I thought it was well done in that respect. But overall, the show left a sour taste and a deep sense of aggravation, whether looking at it through a feminist lens or a writing/editorial lens. A real shame, because I thought it’s take on monsters, demons and their respective hunters was a unique and interesting one.
i just finished hemlock grove and really want to sound off on it. i don’t have enough concrete thoughts on it and don’t want to waste the time on doing the in-depth analysis for a proper meta, so i’m just piggy-backing on someone else’s post and a really great article. (hope you don’t mind, femme-fatalist!) seriously, read that article. it hits the nail right on head, both on hemlock grove and hannibal.
i’m not going to rehash what the article author wrote in regards to dead girls and their importance in the narrative - she said it perfectly and i have nothing more to add. i just want to say - hemlock grove is a total trainwreck of a show. it’s sexist, misogynistic and racist as fuck. watch at your own risk. (spoilers below; trigger warning for rape and murder.)
Full disclosure: in an attempt to act like an adult human being, I stayed up all night last night so my body would go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. This never works, and yet I always forget that - anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying I’m tired and cranky. And when I’m tired and cranky, my mind wanders to things that I find upsetting. Warning: any Fitzgerald, Dickens. Bronte, or Franzen fans should avert their eyes from the following.
Caught up in my thoughts about how terrible I think the Great Gatsby is and how it’s just bad art, I found myself wondering why we still force high schoolers to read it. Why do we read that heavy-handed masturbatory piece of crap and not any Virginia Woolf? Or Sylvia Plath? Or Alice Walker, or Toni Morrison? Why the hell are our high schoolers reading Charles Dickens, some hack who was paid by the word? The only reason you should ever read Dickens is to learn how NOT to pay your writers. Honestly, it’s an enormous stroke of luck for all of us in the US that we have to also read To Kill A Mockingbird (which, though much better in representation and substance than the aforementioned authors, is generally taught by white teachers to their majority white students as a tale of how awful racism WAS, and aren’t we so glad that unpleasantness is firmly behind us!). And there were about five minutes on Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance in the curriculum too, I guess.
And all of these questions are rhetorical, of course. I know why. We all know why. It’s pretty obvious why these mediocre white men writing about mundane, self-involved crap get undying praise and fame - to the point of being forced on a captive audience - and one of the only woman-authored books required (Jane Eyre) glorifies abusive relationships and embracing one’s place in the patriarchy.
It’s because those are our social values, plain and simple. And that’s why Jonathan Franzen’s garbage novel Freedom is lauded as an incredible portrait of the all-American family, but Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was a sexy summer beach read. We teach our students that for writing to be “important literature” rather than “chick lit” it just has to be mediocre, white, and male.
I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT LITERATURE AND PUBLIC EDUCATION AND I’M JUST REALLY TIRED, PEOPLE.
ALL OF THIS. and also - i’m reading freedom right now, and i don’t even know what to think. it’s so incredibly sexist and misogynistic and dismissive of women. i can’t tell if franzen is actually a genius and writing to make the reader hate his characters and the world they live in, or if he’s just a tool. literally, every single person in that ‘novel’ hates women. even the women hate women. i’m about halfway through now and at this point, i think i’d take great pleasure in throwing it off of a cliff when i’m done.
Let me be clear: I don’t believe that previously non-raping audience members are going to take to the streets in a rape mob after hearing one rape joke. That’s an absurd and insulting mischaracterization. But I do believe that comedy’s current permissiveness around cavalier, cruel, victim-targeting rape jokes contributes to (that’s contributes—not causes) a culture of young men who don’t understand what it means to take this stuff seriously.
And how did they try and prove me wrong? How did they try to demonstrate that comedy, in general, doesn’t have issues with women? By threatening to rape and kill me, telling me I’m just bitter because I’m too fat to get raped, and suggesting that the debate would have been better if it had just been Jim raping me.
This isn’t just coming from anonymous trolls. Local comics — whom I know and work with — have told me to shut the fuck up. One hopes I’ll fall down a flight of stairs. (He later apologized—to my boyfriend, not me.)❞
I vote we heed the conservatives plea and being behaving more naturally like earth’s other creatures. I say we inherit the instincts of the many species of insects whose females eat the males after mating.- aroseinmisery
Why do we have an abortion rate 20% higher than France’s (and more than twice as high as Germany’s), especially considering most doctors here won’t perform them? The answer is any country that has universal health care, where contraception is free, where child care is free or inexpensive, where there is less poverty because people don’t become bankrupt over medical bills — those societies are simply going to have fewer unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
And there the mask gets pulled off the Bart Stupaks and the “Christians.” If the statistics show that countries with government-provided universal health care and nearly-free abortions are, in fact, the countries with the fewest abortions, then why on earth wouldn’t the Right be the first in line to support universal health care?
Because it isn’t about “universal health care.” It’s about controlling women, period. It’s about sticking your nose in other people’s business. It’s about pushing your religious beliefs on everyone else because voices in your head tell you your Jesus is The One — even though your Jesus never said one single solitary word in any of the four gospels of the Bible about abortion or fertilized eggs being human. You’ve just gone and made it up about “life beginning at conception.” Jesus never said that. The little voice in your head said that, the same little voice that wants your grubby paws on women’s uteruses. You need help. Please get some help and leave the rest of us alone, Mr. Stupak and friends.❞