“Being powerful is like being a lady – if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
I have never quoted Margaret Thatcher before but I think she’s got a point with this one.
But is acting like a lady almost as out-dated as the word itself?
Are we over the expectation to be sugar and spice and all things nice?
We can’t be, when the country has claimed Cheryl Cole as the nation’s sweetheart. She can hardly put a foot wrong; beautiful, endearing and softly spoken, even when she is scantily clad she goes for sexy, not sleazy. Why has she so successfully hidden her smoking habit when the rest of her private life is strewn daily across the tabloids, if not to prevent detracting from an image not of wholesomeness – as being ladylike may have once implied – but at least of class?
But then we have also made a modern heroine of Jessie J, who in her own words sings: “I can do it like a brother, do it like a dude, grab my crotch, wear my hat low like you.” She can do the feminine look when she wants to, but she does the feisty character better – and millions love her for it.
In my mind, the debate about being ladylike is reflected in the pretty face of singer Adele; a young woman with an incredible, heart-breaking, show-stopping singing voice, and an accent to completely juxtapose it. Hearing her speak for the first time really took me aback, but when we ordinarily admire someone for sticking to exactly who they are with a take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude, why should this be any different?
Maybe we re-defined what being a lady meant around the same time that fashion mastered the androgynous look. And now we have to settle ourselves on a new kind of spectrum, based not only on how we define class but also how we judge somebody’s lack of it.
What we could be left with now are two types of girls; the ones that don’t need to tell you that they have class and the others, who will no doubt admit they aren’t going to give a shit what you think anyway.
The danger that the latter face is that a good name is always going to be worth far more than a good fortune and you can in no way trust your harshest critics to look beyond the surface before they begin to judge.
Not that it is a question of prejudice – obviously our impressions of people are most honestly based on how they act and appear to us.
But the lady-like line has been blurred significantly since old Maggie’s day when women wore sensible shoes and skirts of a respectable length.
I don’t know how Lady Thatcher would feel about it, but I think we need to be seen in the context of our own generation, where it is evident that appearing to be classy and actually being respectable do not necessarily have to be seen to co-exist.