April 24th, 2017 .

“Woman” versus “lady”: I’m no lady!

Pat Morden


I go into a restaurant with a woman friend or two, and the waitperson comes up to the table. “What can I do for you ladies today?’” he or she asks cheerfully. When we have finished our meal and get up to leave, he or she calls breezily, “You ladies have a good day now!” I grit my teeth.

Why does it bother me so much to be called a lady? According to many sources, “lady” is simply a “woman of refined behavior and speech.” A lady is always a woman, but a woman isn’t always a lady.

And yet somehow I’m pretty sure there’s a sub-text here. As one writer put it, “The difference between ‘ladies’ and ‘women’ is the difference between femininity and embodied femaleness. . . It isn’t feminine to be strong, or ladylike to get physical.”

Helen Reddy put it more succinctly: “I am woman. Hear me roar.”

Shania Twain clarified the issue this way: “The best thing about being a woman/ is the prerogative to have a little fun.”

Ladies are bourgeois, dainty, easily shocked, and often elderly. They turn away from unpleasantness, mind their manners, and don’t have strong opinions. Women are tough, opinionated, hard to put down or shut up. Women break glass ceilings, and anything else that needs breaking. Ladies don’t like to get their hands dirty.

Calling me and my friends “ladies” is an attempt to corral us – to encourage us to behave, or even worse, to act our age. It won’t work: I’m no lady.


P.S. For the past year I’ve been posting my blogs to my profile on linkedin.com. If you’d like see more, visit me there.

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