08/08/2014 12:17 EDT | Updated 10/08/2014 05:59 EDT

When You Tell Me I'm Not "Ladylike," What Do You Mean?

Shutterstock / ollyy

I got called out the other day for not being "ladylike" because I was sprawled out on the bed, one leg bent and one arm behind my head.

I didn't get it. A rush of questions soared into my head: Why was I being called out? What wasn't "ladylike" about it? Why can one gender possess a certain body language and it be OK and not another? Where do we get these ideas from?

And then images from ads with women flowed through my head of all the ways they are posed in media -- child-like poses, always timid, mouth semi-open, smiling, sexualized in some way...

We let these images slip by -- or so we think -- but they don't slip by at all. They shape our expectations, our ideals, our thoughts of how we think a certain gender should act and pose. We judge people based on our expectations.

So what does "ladylike" mean? Personally, the term leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. There's a difference between being "ladylike" and having manners. "Ladylike" represents a list of expectations of how a woman should be or what a woman should stand for. I'm sorry (not sorry), but screw that shit (sorry, was that not ladylike?).

Stop telling me I have to smile. I don't have to cross my legs. I like flexing my arms in the mirror. I enjoy shoving food in my mouth at home when I'm super hungry. I also like letting out a satisfying burp when I'm done downing a beer (saying "excuse me" after of course, because you know, manners).

Let me go back to the smiling thing for a second. In the majority of ads with women, they're smiling (even period commercials. Straight up, I am definitely NOT smiling when I'm on my period). You don't see women going around telling men, "you should smile more." What if I had a bad day? What if my cat just died? What if I have resting bitchface? What if I really just don't feel like smiling? Or maybe the girl you're telling to smile, really isn't that happy to see you. Why do we have to look happy all the time? I never hear a girl tell another girl "hey, smile!" or a female telling a man to smile. Let that marinate for a second.

Don't get me wrong -- I do think we're slowly evolving, with women like Tina Fey and Lena Dunham trying to break the mold and redefine femininity. I want this whole notion of "ladylike" to be deciphered and revealed to be the confinement and imprisonment of what it really is, because I want to be able to sit, stand and lie down the way I please, without being judged that I'm not being a "lady."


Women Against Feminism