Saturday, July 6, 2013

Repost: Nope, girls shouldn't have to 'act like ladies'

I've contributed to the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog since 2010. The blog is changing content management systems and my old posts will no longer be available to the public, so I'm reposting them here, in the order that they were originally posted.

Oct. 3, 2012

Every now and then, I catch myself telling my daughter to do something "like a lady."

"Sit like a lady," I say, when she's so engrossed in play that she doesn't recognize that her clothes are in disarray.

"Act like a lady," I say, when she's tired or hungry and I want to stop her from misbehaving while I do one more grownup thing.

I'm trying to stop, mainly because I recognize that I'm just spewing words that don't mean what I want them to mean -- and because I don't actually want her to be "a lady."

Sure, I want her to be polite and know how to behave in all sorts of situations, but it definitely seems to me that being a lady means being delicate and making sure your presence doesn't cause anyone discomfort. It often seems to be code for "seen but not heard."

A Senate candidate in Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin, recently said his opponent, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is fighting to retain her seat, had been "more ladylike" in a debate with one opponent than she had been in a debate with him. It sounds as though Akin thought it was an insult to describe McCaskill as unladylike, but in my book, being described as ladylike is actually the term that's not complimentary.

It's definitely not what I want for my kid. I want people to know her name (for good reasons!). When she's an adult, I hope she's assertive, projects a commanding presence and doesn't feel as though she has to apologize or ask permission to have opinions.

I want her to be more than a lady.

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