Thursday, July 10, 2008

What it Means to Be a Lady

It occurred to Pretty Lady, during a gentle discussion this afternoon, that there are, perhaps, some wide misconceptions about the nature of Ladyhood, or lack thereof. To wit, it was implied that Ladies are inherently lacking in qualities of 'toughness,' to the point that if one has them, one must advertise this fact, in a modifier to the title 'Lady.'

Gracious. How we have fallen.

Darlings. The plain facts are thusly; crude, superficial signifiers of 'toughness,' are, and always have been, blatant advertisements of integral weakness of character. Rudeness, aggression, pugnacity, cruelty, machismo, spite, illiberality, and vacuous mocking of those with whom one has differences of opinion are all hallmarks of the insecure and undisciplined mind. Such a character has no inner compass; its assessment of self is determined relatively, and is maintained by the perpetual denigration of others.

There is no strength in this. A mind which is at war with all around it is a tiny and inconsequential thing. It is, sadly, next to impossible to engage with such a mind; one may merely look upon it, sigh, and turn away. For to deal with it on its own terms is to be dragged down as well, into a self-defeating huis clos. And such a mind is wilfully blind to the existence of any other terms; to adopt them would be tantamount to annihilation of self, in its twisted perspective.

Conversely, Ladylike characteristics such as courtesy, respect, patience, understanding, generosity, benevolence, suspension of judgment, and refusal to be drawn into petty altercations are not only qualities which grease the globe in its orbit, but are difficult to attain. It is a choice not to respond in kind when a fool hurls pejorative epithets at oneself and one's loved ones; it is a choice made under duress, and against one's animal inclinations. It is a choice to listen quietly, sincerely and empathetically to persons who espouse opposing views, and to search for the merits in their arguments, in a measured suspension of egoistic interests.

It is also a choice, not only to undertake a career which carries no guarantee of material success, but to pursue this career in good times and bad, whether or not respect, recognition, or financial renumeration attend it. It is a choice, not only to refrain from whining about the difficulties attendant upon this path, but to continually reach out to those even less fortunate, less recognized, less healthy and less blessed.

These are the choices that Ladies make; not once, not twice, but daily. We make them quietly, with (usually) little fanfare or publicity. Additionally, we dress well and throw excellent parties. Pretty Lady challenges the 'toughest' of her pugnacious and vauntedly cruel readers to do the same for a single day, without collapsing in defeat and exhaustion.


Anonymous said...

Isn't this the definition of a civilized person of whatever gender? I personally don't like the word "lady", but I know you're reclaiming it for your own purposes, a la "queer", or maybe trying to rehabilitate it, a la "feminist", so you go, lady!

Hey, that could be a slogan on one of your PL t-shirts - You go, Lady!



Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It is exactly what I needed to read.