Let’s begin with an exercise:
Tina Fey, Hilary Clinton, Whoopie Goldberg, Jennifer Lawrence, Ruby Rose, Diana Keaton.
Here is set of strong independent popular modern women, so pick the odd one out: Who is not a lady?
I Really Cannot. Who Is A Lady After All?
A lady is a mythical creature with four limbs and a pretty smile, who can cook and clean like she was born to do, wears modest hemlines that don’t provoke the good boys.
She never complains, never raises her voice, is generous, polite, kind like the Oxford dictionary defines she should be. She respects. She is the cool girl, the mother woman, the successful entrepreneur, the walking goddess out to conquer the world with her winning charm.
She has a high moral character, she is a little more of an Austenean Elizabeth than a Shakespearean Cleopatra.
She also has table manners, is hairless like a baby and sports a vagina capable of pushing more tiny humans out whether she likes it or not.
Or that is what 80% of the women on earth are differentially brought up to believe.
I say, Never Shave Your Armpits.
Even building that superset of modern women is a dangerously ignorant maneuver.
Of the many things that might unnerve you about how to be a presentable woman, body hair becomes an implicit controversy. It, therefore, looks like an enormous statement of to-hell-with-your-patriarchal-standards-of-beauty when a celebrity like Miley Cyrus dyes her armpit hair pink. A feminist stand for homeless youth.
Regardless of the nitty gritty, would our society really classify the likes of her, Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj along with Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton as ‘ladies’? Will we be gracious to accept Kim Kardashian as much a lady as Julia Roberts in a heartbeat?
If we were to take a cue from Pretty Woman, are good manners and high culture simply enough to delineate someone as a lady in our common imagination? Or has feminism supplied us with fresh equalizers yet?
Team Diana vs Team Kate: Which One is You?
Okay, let me make it clearer with an example, the whole conundrum about Lady Diana and Kate Middleton. For starters, we know beautiful Diana as Lady or Princess as a naturalized first name for her. We don’t call Kate, Lady Kate, but yes she is often referred to as the Duchess of Cambridge. All this time and yet, royalty isn’t intrinsic to her popular identity.
Why the comparison and distinction? Even though I understand that the historical legacy and the contemporary media operates with a fluidity we ought not to simply complain against, I think it is a very good example of how we take two perfectly marvelous women in time and try to pick on the essential incongruities lending them their brilliance in order to homogenize what they should symbolize. Here, a perfect lady in line to the throne.
Ladyship is Privileged.
Ladyship becomes a very sensitive space even in our everyday world without our realizing it. Feminism has chronically failed to equalize women within their own discourse by always homogenizing or radically deconstructing womanhood.
We ourselves are not very sure what being a woman really means. The notion remains as classist as ever and depends heavily on visibility.
Sorry, nobody cares about the Virgin Mary you are at heart if you have bad breath.
It is, therefore, a projection. There is no one right way to be a lady, if the world decides that you are a lady, you are one. This very arbitrary prejudice is what feminism wants to fight.
In picking popular names randomly, I insist you question yourself why some women come to be identified as a lady and others don’t. Why does the world judge Jaquelin Kennedy, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump with completely different set of rules?
How many of those silly movies have we fed on that show the maturing of a girl into a lady?
We have borrowed our mother’s heels to tip toe one, wrapped a sari around us and put some lipstick on to feel more like an elegant lady. We cannot wait to grow up to that image. An image slightly distorted and different for everyone, but still right there kept on a mental pedestal.
If We Rebel.
Even when we rebel, we still want to be beautiful. We want to deviate from these standards of beauty and ladyship but we want to recreate fresh standards with fresh traits under the same labels. We want to redefine and reinvent rather than define and invent because honestly, that is just how the discourse works.
Redefining ladyship is then no longer about taking the road less taken by, because we are stuck in the same forest at the end of the day we would like to find a way out of.
The goal remains the same, to be an image of strength, balance, and poise. Ladyship albeit a privileged space is a lot about character. Therefore I ask, can we successfully not be a lady in any way? I think not. It is a differential role. We try to become it.
So if you are still trying to become it, just give yourself a break. You are already it.
[That’s not all folks! Stay Tuned For More…]
Image Credits: Google Images