I recently watched the now viral video of Cynthia Nixon reading a poem from Camille Rainville “Be A Lady They Said”.
For me, and for many women, it struck the perfect chord about the impossible and ever-changing standards that women face. Society it seems, some men in particular, seem to have no idea not only what they want from women; but also what label to put on us. Something that they desperately want to do. Why are labels so important? Because labels put you in a box. It is an element of control. The 21st century’s version of the Scold’s Bridle.Only a few decades ago, in the Western world, it was easy to put women in a box. Child, wife, mother, spinster, fallen woman, whore. Fallen woman, what does that even mean? A search on Wikipedia tells us that a fallen woman is someone who has lost her “innocence”. What is never mentioned, is who took it.
In countries like Saudia Arabia, Iran and Iraq, women are still firmly in the boxes men want them to be. A woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s. If a woman is raped, it takes two male witnesses for her to be believed.
Male rights activists love to point out to feminists that women have it so much worse in those countries and of course, this is true. They say that we should be grateful. Such a strange word, grateful. What it is, is a silent threat. “We did it to you once, be grateful that we don’t do this now”.
Yet, in the case of Harvey Weinstein, it took over 100 women for just 2 to be believed. With every single woman who went public being called a whore in the press, someone who gained from the “casting couch”, a gold digger. An attention seeker. Same with the conviction of Bill Cosby.
CPS figures in September last year (UK) showed that only 3.3% of all reported rapes ended in a conviction. Therefore, according to the stats published, out of 57882 rapes reported, only 1910 were believed and their rapists convicted. According to the readers of the Daily Mail, that makes nearly 56000 women liars. Whores. The highest rated comment was “too many false claims by bitter women”.
That so many think that women would put themselves through so much, going to the police, being examined, reliving and retelling the rape over and over, giving evidence in front of their rapist in Court for supposed “financial gain” or “bitterness” speaks volumes of what women are thought of in society.
A society that still lets a woman’s underwear be paraded in open Court as an example of her intention to have sex that night.
Be a lady they said. But what does that even mean any more?
“A lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets” was something I started to hear in the 1990s. The best of both worlds it was called. A “good girl” in public and your whore in the bedroom. This was in my teenage years and was treated as a joke in the most part. Teenage boys did not in general expect sex. Now, thanks to porn culture, the expectation on teenage girls is far different.
The case of the girl in Cyprus, who accused a group of up to 12 men of raping her is a prime example. Time and time again I saw the same things said. She wanted it. It was regret sex. Women are whores. See the word that is used time and again?
What made men and boys think that a woman would ever want, court and enjoy a gang bang? Porn.
So what is wanted from women today? Simultaneously a virgin and a slut. Enjoy sex, but not too much you slag. Be more adventurous, but where did you learn that from you whore? Don’t be promiscuous, but don’t be frigid. Be a good girl, but do anal. You know you want it.
So how do women respond to this? How do we combat this? We fight back. We band together, as so many women did in support of the girl in Cyprus. We say our truth. We call out the cultures and generational beliefs that men have the right to give us the labels they choose. We don’t stay silent.
We be the lady, or not, that we CHOOSE to be. We reject the labels. We ridicule those that would label us. We teach our daughters that our self worth is nothing that can be given or taken away from us. We teach them that our bodies belong to ourselves.
We reject the labels and choose our own. Or reject all labels. We are women. Our choices are our own and the ONLY person who can judge us for our choices.
Be whatever you want to be and do not let anyone influence that or change that. This is how we fight.
They cannot change those that refuse to change. They cannot label those who refuse to be labelled.