What defines a lady? Is it her shiny long hair, her ability to cook and run a home or how she applies etiquette and speaks no louder than a mouse? Oh wait, sorry, I’m describing the outdated concept of ‘the perfect lady’ from a male’s perspective six decades ago…
As we're aware, and many of us promote on a daily basis, women come in all beautiful shapes, sizes and shades, and our voices are slowly but surely being heard both theoretically in the raised awareness of women’s issues, and literally in the streets, on social media, and at work.
There have been many stories in the very recent past about how a woman should act and dress at work, including the ridiculous rules about wearing stilettos in the office, despite outcries from these poor women and their chiropractors. Women are expected to be ‘seen’ as ready and waiting for their commands from their male bosses. Unless we've time travelled and are stuck in the '50s, why is this still happening?
Luckily, an overheard conversation with two Senior Managers at my workplace let me exhale a sigh of relief that we are, in fact, still in 2017 (even if it's been a pretty shitty year). It went a little something like this:
[A colleague walks past our bank of desks. She is always dressed in lovely clothes.]
Manager 1: Awwwh, I love Suzie’s dress today, I always love what she wears.
Manager 2: I’d love to say that I love dressing up, but in actuality I can’t be fucked. I much prefer my trousers and a comfy top, and fuck wearing any sort of heels. I’ll stick to my ballet pumps, thank you very much!
Manager 1: No I’m sure you’d look lovely in a dress, all ladylike.
Manager 2: Is there anything that screams ladylike to you when you see or hear me, I swear and drink better than my father, much to his detriment. And don’t get me started on my mother spending my teens trying to force skirts on me…
Don’t get me wrong, both these managers are intelligent women regardless of their individual beauty as well. But many women here, like Manager 2, do not fit the stereotypical mould of the cut out ideal of a ‘ladylike’ lady. And I fucking love it! They have short hair, long hair, every colour of hair you can imagine - including bright magenta - they are short, they are over six foot tall, they are thin, they are fat, they drink beer, they eat huge burgers and speak about ‘fatty’ foods (the tasty food!), they speak loudly and fast, they show emotion, they speak their mind, they share their ideas. And these women are in managerial positions. And they swear. A lot.
Do these images fit the bill of a high-up manager? They didn’t used to, but many do now. These are the representations of ‘ladies’ that we want to see alongside the image of working women that society sees regularly. You can be a ‘ladylike’ woman, or you can be an ‘unladylike’ woman too, both are equally badass. Whichever you identify with should never stop you achieving the job role that you're trying to attain or the career you're trying to achieve.
From what I've experienced, it's the ‘unladylike’ ladies who are paving the way because they're acting and looking this way (and being true to themselves) that's helped to show that not only are women varied in their personalities and ideals of beauty, but that we can damn sure-as-hell run things as good as (or better than) our male counterparts. And the term ‘ladylike’ has taken on a new definition, because let’s face it — us women have all taken on ‘unladylike’ traits that men from the '50s would be horrified by. We can like make up and cooking and wearing nice clothes, but we can also rock a pair of trousers, a make-up-less face and deliver value at work.
It was the pride on Manager 2’s face that really spoke to me as she exclaimed her stance to Manager 1. So I urge you, go forth my fellow ‘unladylike’ badasses and show everyone that we are ladies too.