“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.” – Nora Ephron
Let me first say that I’m saddened by Nora Ephron’s passing. She made some great movies, one of which (You’ve Got Mail) is of no small importance to my wife and I. What I’m about to say is no reflection on her specifically. I’ve heard the above sentiment so many times from so many sources it can’t really be attributed to her anyhow.
When I saw the above quote on Facebook today it pegged my snark-o-meter, as most trite generalizations usually do. But on deeper, more serious thought, I find myself increasingly puzzled over this quote and the general sentiment behind it. Can someone please explain to me what is wrong with being a lady? I don’t hear women calling for men to stop being gentlemen. I’ve heard that it’s actually preferrable that we do act like gentlemen? So why are we calling for women to act uncivilized?
Oh, I’m sure they really mean that women shouldn’t be quiet and subservient. But one need not be that to be a lady. I’ve never heard that Queen Elizabeth is a pushover. I’ve never heard that said of Angela Merkel, or Michelle Obama. So again, what’s wrong with being a lady?
There’s plenty wrong with not being a lady. There’s a woman who works on my floor who I would sooner quit than work for–and nearly all my bosses throughout my career have been women. It has nothing to do with her gender. It’s her behavior. She’s loud. Since she moved closer to our section we’ve all had to start using headphones to drown her out. She’s argumentative at the drop of a hat. She regularly kills the messenger, and if someone starts to tell her something she doesn’t like to hear she’ll start off on a tirade, complete with swearing. If they try to clarify or add anything she cuts them off and refuses to let them speak. She is a despicable woman, and yet people like Nora Ephron would make her a hero?
Same goes for breaking the rules. Why is that a virtue, exactly? Because they were made by men to keep women down? That is so last century. I hear more discussion online about women chafing against the rules set for them by other women! Most actual laws, if they discriminated against women, have been struck down or altered by now. Most companies have rewritten their HR handbooks very carefully to the point that most men are afraid to even compliment a woman they work with. So what’s left? What rules are we talking about here? I’m not a woman, so perhaps I’m just oblivious. Please enlighten me, but since it’s my blog, I’m going to insist that you be a lady about it. I get enough of the woman in my office already, trust me.
Making trouble? Please, what’s so great about that? Someone’s been watching too much Thelma and Louise. Sure, they made trouble, but then they killed themselves so they wouldn’t have to face the consequences. Seems extreme to me. “Don’t do anything you can’t take the consequences for” seems like good life advice to me.
On behalf of women? What does that mean? That would imply that all women are the same, think the same, want the same, and have the same values. I can guarantee you that whatever you might do “on behalf of women” is going to be unappreciated or scorned by a large portion of them. Don’t believe me? Two words: Sarah Palin. Prosecution rests.
A large number of women did not appreciate that a woman was vying to be vice president. Why? Because she didn’t represent their values. And yet who can argue that having a woman as vice president or president would be a positive step? But whether Palin was running even in part on behalf of women was totally lost on a lot of women.
And that’s the main problem I see with feminism these days. Like many good causes, it’s been sidetracked and suborned. What was once a movement to free women up to do whatever they wanted without interference from men has become a movement to free every woman up to be whatever what the feminists want. Want to be a stay-at-home mom? Too bad! You shouldn’t want that! We will save you from yourself, kicking and screaming. Want to be a virgin? Too bad! Women must sleep around! It’s your duty to every woman to become a sexual object, which is so much better than being sexually objectified by men because it’s your choice this time. Even if it wasn’t what you would have chosen if we’d let you.
Want kids, to be a good mother? Sure, you can do that. Just don’t put TOO much emphasis on those kids. They should never get in the way of all the other pursuits we have in mind for you. You can be a mother and a CEO, because we say you can–and should! You have a duty to every other woman on this planet to be the absolute most you can be, even if the most you you can be is “dead tired.”
Now there are plenty of you out there getting hot under your collar at this moment that a man is daring to lecture you on being women. Get over it. I’m not just a man, I’m a father. I have a daughter, and the world you want for her is not the world I want for her. I hope all you misbehavin’, trouble-makin’, rule-breakin’ non-ladies all wipe each other out in a tremendous round of mutually-assured destruction, and preferably before my daughter becomes an adult and has to deal with you. Because the future I see you prescribing for her seems to be like that obnoxious woman I work with.
I want my daughter to be free to chart her own path through life, not to have it dictated to her by other women. I want her to be able measure her value and worth by what she accomplishes for herself, not by your impossible standard. I want her to treat herself with dignity and respect–and expect the same from everyone else, especially men. But I also want her to realize that dignity and respect must be earned. How can you expect others to treat you better than you treat yourself?
I want her to find what works for her, not what works for your agenda. If she wants to be a CEO, fine. If she wants to raise the best darn kids you’ve ever seen and never work a day in the professional world, fine. Right now she says she wants to be a writer, and I’m helping her with that as much as I can. It’s her choice, not yours. I don’t worry about men oppressing my daughter. She’s got the spunk to put them in their place. I worry about women oppressing my daughter with their cookie-cutter views of what a woman is supposed to be. Please, stay away from my daughter (my sons, too, for that matter).
I happen to believe she can get whatever she wants in life and be a lady–the type of lady that makes men want to be gentlemen just to be near.