This article recently popped up in my newsfeed on Facebook.
I’ve had mixed feelings about it ever since.
Believe me, I know “ladies” is problematic. I know I’m not a “lady,’ strictly speaking. Technically, I think “ladies” are those people who play nice with the patriarchy – who don’t stir up too much trouble, who keep (all) their lips shut, who go with the flow.
I’m not a lady in that sense, and don’t want to be.
But I feel like this article is calling for people to act as if we live in a post-gender society, the way some people think we live in a post-racial society.
As much as I would like for that to be true, it isn’t.
The patriarchy is alive and well.
I can’t go a day without hearing about some new misogynistic legislation in some state or another.
I think working in a feminist bookstore has re-attuned me more than ever to these matters.
While I may not be a “lady” per-se, I cringe whenever someone says, “Hey, guys,” to a group of women or a group of mixed gender individuals. I am not a “guy.” I get none of the social benefits “guys” do, so don’t lump me in with the rest of “mankind” because we’re still not all equal, thankyouverymuch.
“Folks” seems to have a Southern tinge to me, which is the word the article suggests. I can’t imagine people in Boston using it, for example.
I’m not sure we really have a good gender-neutral term to use. “Hey, people.” “Hey, individuals.” “Hey, human beings.”
All of those hit the ear oddly.
But beyond that, as a woman, I am gendered ALL the time. “Lady” is probably the nicest gendered word anyone could use to name me. If someone says, “Hey, ladies,” I see it as an attempt to be respectful, even if somewhat antiquated and backward-thinking. I find that the people who say “ladies” are trying to be polite – not condescending.
It makes me feel good to be gendered in this positive way, because it happens so infrequently.
It’s too easy to be ignored as a woman, or worse to be cat-called or subjected to sexualized verbal harassment by strangers on the street.
“Ladies” is perhaps the only positive way for me to be gendered by strangers, and I have mixed feelings about losing it.
It feels good for a stranger to say, “Hey, ladies” because the subtext of that reads to me as, “I can see you’re female-bodied but I don’t find that to be a bad thing.”
It is unfortunate for transmen to be subjected to mis-gendering in this way. But instead of trying to pretend we live in a post-gender society, why don’t we all work together to eradicate misogyny?
It seems to me that is the real root of this problem, anyway.
When being a “lady” isn’t a bad thing anymore, when strangers no longer make assumptions about others who appear to be female-bodied, when everyone is treated equally no matter their sex or gender presentation, I think this issue will go away.
Because if it is going to continue to be as difficult as it is now to be female-bodied in this country, in this world, I am sure as hell going to own it. Erasing my gender doesn’t solve the problems of gender-equality. It just sweeps them under the rug.
Right now, “Hey, ladies” is one of the few times when it feels nice and easy and positive to be female-bodied – when I feel seen and celebrated.
And I don’t think giving that up is going to solve the larger issues at work here.