Sunday, August 7, 2011

this womon ain't no lady...

being called 'lady' and the ensuing conversation with a couple of friends last week really frustrated, or should that be annoyed or disheartened me - perhaps all three - it's a word i never use because to me it's heavy with oppression...

when i'm called 'lady' i cringe - when i was growing up young womyn were supposed to act like young 'ladies' so we were constantly being told "ladies don't talk back" (opinionated womyn definitely weren't ladies!) - "ladies don't swear" - "ladies don't dress like ______" (insert your own term here - whore, slut, harlot - the antithesis of a lady!!) - "ladies don't smoke in the street" (because they looked 'cheap' - meaning whore, slut, harlot. etc.!!) - it was a constant litany of 'ladies don't do this', 'ladies don't do that'... hmmm, apparently ladies didn't do very much at all so who'd want to be one? everything i did when growing up (and still do) was very unladylike...

and the origin of the word...

"Lady begins in Anglo-Saxon or Old English as hlæfdige ‘bread-kneader’ being compounded of hlaf ‘loaf of bread’ + dige ‘female kneader.’ So the first lady was she who kneaded the bread. Lord is what is left from Old English hlaf -weard> hlaford =, hlāf ‘bread, loaf ‘+ weard keeper, guard (think of ward, wardrobe, guard, garden [place where you keep or guard plants?] ). So the lady kneaded the loaf of bread and the lord guarded the bread as master of the household." from http://www.billcasselman.com/wording_room/lord_lady.htm

there is consensus with this...

"c.1200, lafdi, lavede, from O.E. hlæfdige "mistress of a household, wife of a lord," lit. "one who kneads bread," from hlaf "bread" (see loaf) + -dige "maid," related to dæge "maker of dough" (see dey (1); also compare lord). The medial -f- disappeared 14c. Not found outside English except where borrowed from it." from online etymology dictionary

this last source also goes on:

"Sense of "woman of superior position in society" is c.1200; "woman whose manners and sensibilities befit her for high rank in society" is from 1861 (ladylike in this sense is from 1580s, and ladily from c.1400). Meaning "woman as an object of chivalrous love" is from early 14c. Used commonly as an address to any woman since 1890s."

it was something to 'aspire' to if you were from the lower socio-economic class...

"In the late 19th and early twentieth century, in a difference reflected in the British novelist Nancy Mitford's essay "U vs. non-U", lower class women strongly preferred to be called "ladies" while women from higher social backgrounds were content to be identified as "women." Alfred Ayer remarked in 1881 that upper middle class female store clerks were content to be "saleswomen," while lower class female store clerks, for whom their job represented a social advancement, insisted on being called "salesladies." These social class issues, while no longer as prominent in this century, have imbued the formal use of "lady" with something of irony (e.g.: "my cleaning lady," or "ladies of the night" for prostitutes)." from wikipedia

sadly, the word lady still appears to be in usage as a definer of womyn, a shackle to keep us in our 'place' - according to an article on ms magazine's blog - "who're you calling a lady?" by Leah Berkenwald - an american member of congress caused outrage just last month...


"This week, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) reminded American women that in order to be afforded due respect from him and ultra-conservatives like him, they need to act like ladies.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) had criticized Rep. West’s opposition to raising the debt ceiling:

"The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a Member from South Florida, slashes Medicaid and critical investments essential to winning the future in favor of protecting tax breaks for Big Oil, millionaires, and companies who ship American jobs overseas."

In response, Rep. Allen West sent a personal attack in the form of an email to Schultz cc’d to Congressional leadership. In it, he called the Congresswoman “the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives” and a “coward,” and told her to “shut the heck up.” Then he wrote this:

"You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!"

you can read the rest of the article here, but one of my favourite comments to the article was from a womon called sha:


"If you get right down to it, what he really means by being a “Lady” is being the under-educated, disenfranchised property of her husband with little to no interest or stake in the political process that governs her life and choices. We get it, you would love to return to the days of petticoats and lynch mobs, but it isn’t going to happen, so you better learn to dialogue with a woman who takes her job seriously and may even believe she is there for the people she represents. Radical, I know!"

nah, this womon ain't no lady!! (and i didn't think i'd ever get this post finished - it seems to have taken me all morning because my internet has kept dropping out - talk about pissed off - oooooh, how fucking unladylike!!!!




7 comments:

Anonymous said...

interesting read about lady to be or not to be. the appellation has really come about due to our white european males!!!
Alas we critisize the arabs, chinese indians and other indigenous peoples of our continents, yet the dominance is that of the white european male.
The word has certainly been turned into a subjugational one just as the new muslims are doing to their women today.
Males are irrespective or their colour,religions, class have now collectively joined in either overtly of through nuance established that women are the inferior species-

je me ne regrette pas as Piaf sang that women also contribute to this status of inferiority!!

how are you keeeeeeping otherwise Sharonskai!

Proud Womon said...

hear, hear - spoken so succinctly you radical womon stephania!!!

lovely to hear from you... keeping well - having a quiet, cruisy day - everything's getting done slowly (so perhaps that should read slack day! - worked yesterday though so figure i'm entitled!)

and this has just jogged the memory to check out calendar to see about us catching up before you go overseas again...

Sailor Lily said...

hey, I promise not to use it on you again, but that said K might still cop it. Can you do some research into why the word was so prevalant in the African American JAzz and blues movement? Women like Ella F took it on (first lady of jazz) and Billy Holiday (lady sings the blues) and it pops up in plenty of songs about raunchy/sensual/violent women who hardly fit the 'original usage' requirements! I started but have ran out of time so I'm curious now.
lil'

Proud Womon said...

hmmm - might do some research over the weekend lil - i'm intrigued too - perhaps it was adopted as a way of 'showing' african american womyn were equal?

Sailor Lily said...

I think that's it, and that it is a very deep story. the word was often adopted by opressed African American women as a way of seeking dignity in a very harsh world. As 'blacks' were being marginalized and oppressed and women were too, the plight of the African American woman was probably threefold. I'm not sure if it wa the women themselves who tried to claim the word as an aspiration, or if their 'pimps' (the record industry managers) tried to claim it to create territory in a white marketplace.

Do look forward to seeing what we find...

Leila said...

just stumbled upon your blog and have to say i love it!!! As someone very strongly involved in feminism and various feminist organizations, i was finding myself disheartened lately. Where have all the powerful womyn gone in my life? The folks that are willing to break down our societal structures and norms, the people that I always look to when in need of a little rant. I dont know where they've all gone but i have to say, i adore this blog already. Sincerely, your newest follower!

If you've got time and or are willing, take a gander at my blog and maybe follow if you find yourself interested.

Proud Womon said...

thanks leila - your comments are definitely heartening!!! we all need to rant occasionally - and i find blogging a wonderful forum to be able to release all that pent up emotion over injustices that are rampant in this world... and there are so many gems out there to be stumbled upon - and i will be checking your blog out...