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It is no longer acceptable since Women’s Liberation to be called a lady. The term took on unacceptable connotations because it was viewed as a way that men kept women “in their places.” To be a lady meant you were theoretically put on a pedestal but were subliminally considered not quite up to par with a man.
Ladies were the people for whom men opened doors, who wore hats and gloves, who did not enter the workplace and expect equal pay for equal work, who never swore in public or elsewhere, who spent most of their time making themselves attractive for their husbands’ pleasure, who loved spending their lives cleaning and cooking and being the June Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or the mother on “Father Knows Best.”
Granted, some of these thought patterns were totally archaic. When World War II took over our country, “manning” the factories became women’s work. When the war was over, many women were no longer contented to return to scrubbing the kitchen and baking homemade bread instead of earning money of their own and having a career. When the bra-burning era erupted in the Sixties, women became outspoken in their contempt for many of their former roles and the expectations that society demanded of them.
Women still earn about 20 per cent less than men for similar work. To put this in perspective, think of a man who earns $40,000 a year; a woman would earn $32,000 a year, a considerable difference.
Women have made great gains in most fields and we expect to see women in positions of authority and prestige, but not all women have made it to that arena.
Society’s expectations of women have changed in many ways. With the economic situation in this country, most families have to have two working parents—if there is a two-parent family. More people eat out now than ever before, so women’s cooking and scrubbing days can be lessened.
Hats and gloves are relics of the Fifties although occasionally you do see women who have discovered how attractive they can look in a chic hat. Gloves are essential in winter, of course, but the days of wearing white gloves for tea or to church are somewhat forgotten.
I haven’t recovered completely from all the attributes ascribed to being a lady. I love it when a man opens the door for me. I don’t think of it as an insult the way some young women seem to. I like being recognized as being someone who deserves respect.
I even like it when a man stands up for me when I return to the dinner table. I’m certain my liberated daughter would be horrified to hear me say this. I’ve always thought it perfectly acceptable to celebrate the fact that men and women are really quite different, and as the French say, “Vive la difference!”
But about those hats men are wearing at dinner! I can hardly believe my eyes.
I am still horribly shocked to see men walking into a nice restaurant in a cap or cowboy hat and sitting down to eat with it on—and keeping it on throughout the meal! Somehow that just seems to be over the top in my old-fashioned sense of how to behave.
I’ve accepted that people no longer dress up for public appearances. Jeans are a sign of the casual lifestyle of most people—and that’s just how modern life has developed. Even jeans are now dressed up with embroidered butterflies, sequins, and other designer touches and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Change is the one thing we can all count on in life. Why should I get bent out of shape over men sitting in their hats when we have so many more important things to worry about—crime, war, family breakdowns, bird flu, treason, election fraud, drug traffic, terrorism!
I see middle school and even elementary school children speaking to each other in ways that would have sent my generation to the woodshed pronto. I hear language from them that they have heard from adults and from rap and from television and movies that would have been certain to get out the soap for your mouth when I was young. We would not have dared use some of these words, especially not in the hearing of any adult!
I sadly learned recently that the home of a teacher was vandalized on Halloween night by youngsters who broke parts of the house, smashed flower pots and even bent wrought iron railings. What is going on here!
Maybe that’s the point.
Women have always been the ones who set the tone for what is acceptable in the family and ultimately for behavior in society.
We women in gaining our liberation have now saddled ourselves with not only the major responsibility for home and children, but for business and work issues. We are almost overwhelmed at times with the thousand item “to do” list that never seems to lessen, but we still have to be the ones to realize that what we do and say and expect of our husbands and children is probably going to be reflected in the quality of our lives.
Many people feel that our society has lost a great deal of civility over the past century.
A backlash against the madness that sometimes appears (like during the evening news!) to be taking over is quite evident in the rise of tea rooms, classes on manners for kids, businesses that are investing in training their executives on how to behave in public, sports teams that are requiring certain standards from their athletes.
Perhaps it’s time to begin to reintroduce a few small kindnesses in our treatment of each other so that our days and nights can be more pleasant. It really doesn’t hurt anyone to be considerate of others. In fact, consideration can be a contagious event. It is much easier to smile at someone who has smiled at you first.
It really is not an insult to have someone show you a little courtesy. When a man tips his hat at a woman, he means he is respecting her “lady-ship” and recognizes that she is a special person.
The nicest men I know respect women and show it. None of them has any problem with the idea of “hats off to the ladies.”
And, in my humble opinion, neither should you.
Please, gentlemen, take off your hat when you enter the building and park it while you eat!
Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing.
She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter, Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University.
Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students.
Sue writes “Uncommon Sense,” a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of “Seven keys to a sucessful life”, which is available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.
Web Site: http://culverhouseart.com/
TopicsFashion, World War II, WWII
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