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Gender equality as well as women’s empowerment are fundamentals for both a just world and sustainable development yet admonitions like “Act like a lady” often are not only dangerous but also limiting. Similarly, according to Paul Theroux, there is a male version of this female affliction, which is grounded on the idea of “manhood”. Concerning this, the expression “Be a man” is not only abusive, insulting, crippling, but also destructive; as it is both socially harmful and emotionally damaging (Theorex 1). Although men and women are more alike as opposed to being different, in terms of cognitive ability, personality, as well as leadership among other areas, gender norms and roles as well as social contexts tend to determine or rather shape peoples’ actions (American Psychological Association). As a result, things such as media depiction of both women and men end up portraying them both as fundamentally different which in, turn, perpetuates misconceptions and ultimately results in both prejudicial beliefs, as well discriminatory actions mainly targeted against women and girls. Such prejudicial beliefs end up creating a great division among the sexes (Quindlen).
Behaviors demanded by the Admonition “Act like a Lady”
As attitudes, dressing styles as well as manners change overtime particularly during the last few decades, so has the conventional understanding of what being a lady entails. Though the expression “act like a lady” may seem outdated, there exists certain aspects of what can be termed as ladylike behavior that are underlying. Concerning this, according to Judy Brady in the article “Why I want a Wife”, some of the behaviors that the statement or rather the expression “Act like a lady”, which is usually directed as women or girls, seems to be associated with the include acting in a caring and nurturing manner whereby, women are expected to be naturally caring and nurturing especially when it comes to their children and spouses and when relating with other people. As an example, research studies in workplaces indicate that women who go against the nurturing and caring stereotypes end up paying dearly for it during the evaluation or hiring processes (American Psychological Association).
Lady-like behaviors demand limited heterosexual sexual contacts for women, concerning this, unlike men who receive praises, women are derogated for engaging in many sexual contacts resulting in what is termed as sexual double standards (Ward). The expression “act like a lady” also seems to demand behaviors involving cleanliness and organization. When it comes to cleanliness unlike men women are expected to maintain the highest levels of cleanliness regarding their houses, environment, children, and most especially when it comes to their personal hygiene. “Acting like a lady” also prohibits use of profanity and excessive drinking, as a result, being ladylike primarily requires self-controlled and will powered behaviors that do not involve overindulgence. Therefore, engaging in excessive drinking and behaving inappropriately is undesirable for women; hence, such behaviors would ultimately result in the Admonitions “Act like a Lady”.
American Psychological Association. “Men and Women: No Big Difference”. American Psychological Association, 2005. http://www.apa.org/research/action/difference.aspx.
Brady, J. Why I Want a Wife. Ms. Magazine, 1972, pp. 6.
Paul Theroux. Sunrise with Seamonsters. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1985, pp. 3.
Ward, A. F. “Men and Women Can't Be "Just Friends". Scientific American, 2012. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/men-and-women-cant-be-just-friends/
Quindlen, A. “Between the Sexes, a Great Divide” from Life in the 30s column. The New York Times Magazine, 1988.
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