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The International Writers Magazine: A Woman's World - Archives

How To Be Ladylike
Aby Davis

I grew up in a girls school where we had to wear skirts instead of trousers cos it was more 'ladylike', I wonder what my old headteacher would say if he knew me now....
Bridget Jones is everyone's favourite 'normal' girl. She yearns for her very own Mr Darcy, and eventually gets him. However you see her, blonde American or brunette diarist, Bridget won her man despite smoking like a chimney and falling on her bottom a few times. So do we all get our knight in shining armour even if our air of female elegance wears off?

Cycling into Uni the other day I rode straight into a bollard. It really hurt and the horrible accident occurred straight as a handsome man crossed my path. He escaped unscathed, and politely asked if I was ok. I wished there and then to be more ladylike, rather than wailing at him over the handlebars like it was his fault.

I resolved then and there to pluck my eyebrows, tidy my bedroom, and read the Observers Woman magazine for some hints.

First, I read the paper. Cherie Booth wrote an article about our culture demeaning women. 'Women in full time work still take home 83p for every pound that men get paid'. I was shocked, what happened to equal opportunity?. However, some indian women earn 10p an hour sewing jeans for overweight westeners. And it was in protest for them, rather than Cherie that I abandoned the idea of waxing my legs. On another page, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas holds hands with an orang-utan and says, "I don't dress for men, I dress for myself and I want people to know I wear more revealing stuff on stage". She poses in a floor length dress and the orang-utan wears a nappy. I wonder if he still got paid more than she did.

I read how to dress like Kate Moss, naked but for a pair of Ugg Boots. A parody of Elizabeth Hurley puts her make up on in the loos at Tramps. Fashion icons 'normalised' for the modern lady. About right! I think as I remember Mrs Blair's statistic. Why should I go through all that plucking and waxing business, if I'm still not treated equally to a man?

83 pence may very well be loose change in our society, and its probably not something to burn bras over, but I found myself getting cross on behalf of short changed girls all over the world. Especially the ones who feel they won't get anywhere unless they're painted orange with their thighs on display.
A ladylike approach to feminism exists in the 'You Are Normal' campaign. Women are, literally, going underground. Armed with slogan bearing stickers, they deface offensive advertisements on the underground. A smiling woman with oversized breasts is slapped with a sticker saying 'YOU ARE NORMAL! THIS IS NOT!'. The woman who posted it skips along to work knowing she can stand up for her sex and still look pretty, and no one need know.

On my bike again, I had vague fantasies of riding past the handsome man, smiling politely. He doesn't need to know my legs remain unwaxed and I'm armed with some new post-its. I cycled along peacefully, until the wheel met with a concealed curb and I fell off. The only man around cycled off without giving me a moments sympathy. I sat stunned, half under my bike, feeling a bit cross and silly. I told myself I felt cross because of the death of chivalry, and not just because my foot really hurt. This is the sort of thing that happens to Bridget Jones all the time, and she still got her man and half the nation on her side. Later on, my boyfriend cooked me dinner and let me be a Jedi on the X-Box. Perhaps being 'normal' is the new feminism after all.
© Aby Davis - November 2007

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