Salvo 01.21.2021 4 minutes

Act Like a Lady


The attack on femininity is destructive and drab. Do better.

We were chatting about what it means to be a lady. I had just mentioned to my mother that I encourage my subscribers to be ladylike. She was puzzled. “Don’t you think that sounds a little old-fashioned?” she asked. “Will people really want to hear about that?”

I was surprised, but pressed on. It became clear that my mother, who was a young woman in the ’70s, thought the word “lady” was simply out-of-touch. It wasn’t bad—just irrelevant. Passé. It did not occur to her that being a lady is actually controversial in 2021; today, telling women to act ladylike is often considered actively “harmful,” and embracing femininity “really” an act of “internalized misogyny.”

As the creator of Classically Abby, a brand that encourages women to “be classic,” I often receive this kind of criticism. It is very clear that young women today have been brainwashed to think of traditional femininity, manners, and dignity as oppressive concepts. Every time I write about acting like a lady, I trigger the Wokescolds to come out in force.

There’s a sizeable flock of 15-year-old junior-Wokeists who comment on my channel. These young women are out to make it abundantly clear that being a lady is not just wrong for them, but wrong for everyone. How could anyone actually believe that women should act in a certain way to please other people? How could anyone actually encourage women to put faith and family before a career? It’s frightening to imagine that the next generation of women might adopt this philosophy, with no idea of the misery it will bring on themselves and others.

The Woke cannot allow women to be ladies. They argue that being a lady is “giving in to the patriarchy”; that being respectful just allows men to dictate women’s behavior; and that caring about our appearance simply caters to the male gaze. Of course, these philosophies are built on the idea that women are victims of a broken society designed to withhold equal rights from them—which simply isn’t true. But what is true is that women who believe they are victims by definition look at the world as an enemy trying to keep them down—which only ever leads to unhappiness and then to malice.

But here’s the thing: being a lady is not bad, evil, or harmful. It’s a wonderful thing. Ladies are good and useful members of society. Societies are built on people who treat one another with respect, who are neighborly, trustworthy, and kind. When women are ladies, they embrace their all-important role of setting an example to those around them for what is acceptable behavior. It’s inspiring to recognize how much power women truly have. Women are the backbone of great civilizations—and when we throw away our responsibility to fulfill the best version of ourselves, it’s only a matter of time before everything else begins to crumble.

A great example of this is “wine mom” culture. Women everywhere have been told that it’s normal to drink to “cope” with parenting because having children is such a burden, so a “playful” turn to alcohol must be the solution. This breezy glorification of chaos and dissolution has led women to laughingly normalize heavy drinking—to the detriment of themselves, their children, and their husbands. At its peak, a group on Facebook called “Moms Who Need Wine” had over 700,000 members. This rise in alcoholism and misery hasn’t led to less actual judgment—just to judgment of anyone who would try to prevent this slow-rolling tragedy by encouraging a return to normal standards.

When women don’t act like ladies and encourage one another to cultivate their own feminine excellence, societies can fall. Strong mothers who might have learned to resolve a chaotic home life are instead drinking to handle the stress because, hey, who needs to be dignified?

Now, let’s say a woman doesn’t care about societal breakdown and doesn’t care that she has the power to change the behavior of those around her with simple, dignified actions. Then perhaps this will change her mind: if you want love and respect in your life, you must show love and respect to others. Women today believe that they can be the worst versions of themselves and still receive love and respect in return. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Being a lady encourages mutually fulfilling relationships rather than selfish ones because ladies respect others’ needs in addition to their own. The true path to happiness is one that allows for self-improvement and growth. When women are allowed to be ladies, happiness can truly blossom. And it gets women what they want! To ignore the fact that joy comes from interpersonal relationships is to ignore reality. Constantly putting our own needs first doesn’t give women the ability to find meaning and fulfillment where it’s really found: in our relationships with families, friends, and communities.

The word “lady” may be controversial in 2021, but it shouldn’t be. Women are powerful—and being a lady means harnessing that power to help society and women themselves be what they should be. Simply put, if being a lady is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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