Be A Lady They Said

Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t show your underwear. Don’t show your shoulders. Cover up. Leave something to the imagination. Dress modestly. Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. You’re asking for it. Wear black. Wear heels. You’re too dressed up. You’re too dressed down. Don’t wear those sweatpants; you look like you’ve let yourself go.

Be a lady they said. Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too large. Don’t be too small. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat carbs. Skip dessert. You need to lose weight. Fit into that dress. Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don’t you just eat? You look emaciated. You look sick. Eat a burger. Men like women with some meat on their bones. Be small. Be light. Be little. Be petite. Be feminine. Be a size zero. Be a double zero. Be nothing. Be less than nothing.

Be a lady they said. Remove your body hair. Shave your legs. Shave your armpits. Shave your bikini line. Wax your face. Wax your arms. Wax your eyebrows. Get rid of your mustache. Bleach this. Bleach that. Lighten your skin. Tan your skin. Eradicate your scars. Cover your stretch marks. Tighten your abs. Plump your lips. Botox your wrinkles. Lift your face. Tuck your tummy. Thin your thighs. Tone your calves. Perk up your boobs. Look natural. Be yourself. Be genuine. Be confident. You’re trying too hard. You look overdone. Men don’t like girls who try too hard.

Be a lady they said. Wear makeup. Prime your face. Conceal your blemishes. Contour your nose. Highlight your cheekbones. Line your lids. Fill in your brows. Lengthen your lashes. Color your lips. Powder, blush, bronze, highlight. Your hair is too short. Your hair is too long. Your ends are split. Highlight your hair. Your roots are showing. Dye your hair. Not blue, that looks unnatural. You’re going grey. You look so old. Look young. Look youthful. Look ageless. Don’t get old. Women don’t get old. Old is ugly. Men don’t like ugly.

Be a lady they said. Save yourself. Be pure. Be virginal. Don’t talk about sex. Don’t flirt. Don’t be a skank. Don’t be a whore. Don’t sleep around. Don’t lose your dignity. Don’t have sex with too many men. Don’t give yourself away. Men don’t like sluts. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be so up tight. Have a little fun. Smile more. Pleasure men. Be experienced. Be sexual. Be innocent. Be dirty. Be virginal. Be sexy. Be the cool girl. Don’t be like the other girls.

Be a lady they said. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t overact. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don’t complain. Let him down easy. Boost his ego. Make him fall for you. Men want what they can’t have. Don’t give yourself away. Make him work for it. Men love the chase. Fold his clothes. Cook his dinner. Keep him happy. That’s a woman’s job. You’ll make a good wife some day. Take his last name. You hyphenated your name? Crazy feminist. Give him children. You don’t want children? You will some day. You’ll change your mind.

Be a lady they said. Don’t get raped. Protect yourself. Don’t drink too much. Don’t walk alone. Don’t go out too late. Don’t dress like that. Don’t show too much. Don’t get drunk. Don’t leave your drink. Have a buddy. Walk where it is well lit. Stay in the safe neighborhoods. Tell someone where you’re going. Bring pepper spray. Buy a rape whistle. Hold your keys like a weapon. Take a self-defense course. Check your trunk. Lock your doors. Don’t go out alone. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t bat your eyelashes. Don’t look easy. Don’t attract attention. Don’t work late. Don’t crack dirty jokes. Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t go out at night. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t say yes. Don’t say no.

Just “be a lady” they said.

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48 thoughts on “Be A Lady They Said

  1. An eye opener ! Thank you for sharing this Camille. This is the world majority of females live in regardless of age. I am from the Slavic culture , in my 40th – still hear this stuff from my mom in 2017…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 👍🏼👏👏👏 You covered it all. God, how many of these contradictions did I hear at home? I remember my father, when the style for women at work was to wear a suit with a blouse buttoned to the neck and a floppy bow tie, saying to me, “How do you expect to get a man? You need to show a little vleavage.”’😝

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This captures it, the perpetual sense of defeat. Those messages are sometimes subtle and sometimes not, but in the command form with constant contradictions, it has power to help both women and men empathize with the female predicament in society: absurd and demoralizing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for writing this eloquent rant. I am sad to say I have heard every one of those things, and sadder to say that I have parroted some of them to my own daughter. I am still working to be a better role model and hope she forgives me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I ADORE this- because despite where we live, age or nationality it can be understood and felt by ALL women. You write our inner truths. You are brilliant ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great piece or writing. It was nearly painful to travel back in time and relieve it. One recurring statement from my mother was, “save yourself for the man you marry”. I am now 77 and don’t give a fig any longer! …~=)

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  7. Camille, your writing, “Be A Lady They Said” is a universal, collective and enfuriating dilemma that 50 percent plus or minus of the almost eternal population of humankind has experienced. Thank you for litanizing many of the combinations of words and phrases and their completely contradicting statements. This is the first time in my long life I’ve seen parts of my life summed up so succinctly. This is the “fire in the belly.”

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  8. Hi Camille, I am Zin from Myanmar. I am certain that this is directly reflect most of the ladies’ experiences. Let me translated it into Burmese and post on my Facebook’s timeline. I will credit you when I shared it and also include this link. Thank you!

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  9. Great Job, yes you truly called the role on, “Be A Lady They Said”! I am sure that most of us heard most of these statements, that sounds like a broken record, growing up! But by the Grace of God, I can say with confidence, I am now free to be me!!!! I Praise God for developing me into A Lady with character! I don’t have to march to the dictates of others! Trying to be a people pleaser will make you lose your mind! Just be yourself!
    Thank you, Camille!

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  10. A friend sent this to me and I enjoyed reading it. I’ve been there done that so many times that I have felt like a baseball…back and forth, back and forth. My mother’s favorite expression when she became frustrated with me was “just who do you think you are!” I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure it out but I’m still going back and forth at age 77…only difference is, I don’t care so much any more.

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  11. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Today, I am forwarding a blog that succinctly recaps what women experience since birth until they die. It is creative, short, and speaks for itself. Thank you, Camille Rainville, for writing it! Enjoy.

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  12. Thank you ! I have been thinking this way since around 1968 but now we can say and the whole planet can see how furious us great girls and ladies really feel. Thank you thank you.

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  13. Wow this the sad truth. Just yesterday I took my son to a new barber shop to get his hair cut, it was all men working and all men customers. They were talking about tinder, about the girls they met that were so “rough” looking and should have never even TRIED to meet them. I felt myself trying to fold my body into the smallest position possible; attempting complete invisibility. Normally I don’t care what others think of me, I’m 30 years old and well over my give a damn years. For some reason being surrounded by all men, talking about women as if they are here look pleasing to them, made me want to evaporate in into thin air. I felt “to large” and uncomfortable in my own skin, not worthy of being in their presence. I don’t want to feel this way again, I don’t want any female to feel insignificant.

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  14. Fabulous piece. Making sure it’s saved for my granddaughter to read when she’s a little older.
    Please tell me about the fabulous painting of the nude that you used in the post.

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    1. Hi Sallie! Thank you for your kind words. The image is a recreation of a graphic I had fallen in love with a few years ago (I will have to search for the original). I drew the image a few years back using the graphic as inspiration. I thought her posing was incredibly powerful and relevant to my chosen subject matter.

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