Every decade has their poster girl for femininity and lady-like demeanor. Sometimes she is composed, mysterious and demure. Other times she is wild, flirtatious and free to do as she chooses. At all times, she is criticized. Take for instance, the flapper of the 1920’s. Arguably, she is the most controversial archetype of the 20th century. She threw away the morals of the Gibson Girl type before her, and pooh-poohed the newly sought after role of the well-informed, emancipated New Woman of the 20th century. The flapper was frowned upon by many women during her time for her care-not attitude, but she sure looked like she had a lot of fun doing it!
Again in 1969 a different kind of protest was taking place against the cookie-cutter image of the Miss America pageant. Again, the battle between the independent woman and the fabricated womanly ideals of the mid-20th century were fierce and unrelenting. But women were still not any closer to identifying the ideal lady and her role within society.
Emily Post however, puts it very succinctly:
The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S’s: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy and Serenity.
In other words, ladies defy social class structures. A lady is created in the way that she composes herself both within the company of others and in her private life. She is sincere, honest and giving. She is simple in her desires and needs, and does not want for excess. She is sympathetic to the trials and tribulations of others, and she is calm even in the most dire of situations. Ladies have no eye for social class, and only an eye for the class act that they can be. So why is it that there are so few real ladies in the real world?
Could it be that we are so inundated with images of celebrities struggling with their own addictions and party lifestyle? Have mothers been too soft on their girls over the past decade and a half that we are left with loud, brash and condescending women who are all the wrong kind of sassy?
This is a call to all the ladies out there in hiding. Please, come out and show that Her Royal Highness Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Audrey Hepburn are not the only real ladies out there, and that we are planning on taking back and glorifying lady-hood, based on its origins of respect for others, and not for its modern interpretation of pointing out the faults of others, in the fashion of Margaret Atwood.
By no means am I encouraging people to riot against the male gender for oppressing femininity and encouraging impossibly high standards for women. Nor am I saying that women as a whole should work solely towards the advancement of themselves. That is absolutely not what being a lady is all about to me. It is all about finding the ideal balance between your public and private life and managing the relationships to be as genuinely yourself as possible.
So who is the 21st Century Lady? She is you. And you. And yes, even you, no matter your social background, your political background, whether you are were born male or female, or the image on your computer desktop background. With the right mindset, and a generous consideration for the social well-being of yourself and an even greater consideration for others, you are well on your way to becoming the Ideal Lady of Today.
Just don’t say that I told you it would be easy.