Re: Ladies and Gentlemen

by Danelle on March 9, 2011 · 2 comments

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My post last week brought some intelligent discourse in the comments section, and I would like to address a point a few of my readers brought up.

The point was about the term “ladies and gentlemen.” If we lived in the early 20th century or before, it would be easy to think of upper class women in flashy dresses and extravagant hats and men in tailcoats and top hats when talking about ladies and gentlemen. However, one of my goals when using the terms is to make their definitions much more than mere appearance, if appearance at all. This modernization of the terms helps bring the definition into the current century and throw away the traditional and very close-minded definition.

It is for this reason that I believe (if I did not make this clear in my previous post) being a lady or gentleman is based on personality, i.e., how a person treats others—similar to a synonym for a considerate person. I think I speak for most people who use the term “ladies and gentlemen–” that we use it in reference to a person’s conduct, not a person’s class, social standing, race, sexuality, etc.

Some, when faced with the terms “ladies and gentlemen,” will immediately assume the worst by using the outdated definitions of fancy hat ladies. Some will also dig for reasons to label those who use “ladies and gentlemen” today as bigoted. Why do they do this? To put a stop to the conservative movement. In labeling us this way, these people do not facilitate any sort of progress for the terms or for any sort of unity for women, but inhibit it.

We live in the 21st century where we ought to not judge people by the color of their skin, their class, gender, or sexuality, but with all of this, there are still groups who refuse to take off their blinders.

In part, I take blame. I assumed that people today would understand we live in the 21st century and know that I would never limit the words “ladies and gentlemen” to upper class society as some did in the 20th century and before. I wish my assumption would have been correct.

I hope all my readers embrace the updated definition of “ladies and gentlemen,” and that those with blinders thank NeW for bringing them into the 21st century.

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anon March 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I’m interested in how “ladies and gentleman” does not exclude non-heterosexual persons. They are words deeply rooted in the concept of gender roles, and non-heterosexul relationships (not to mention most modern day heterosexual relationships) break completely from the “roles” once delineated. This group itself is comprised of college educated women, presumably some with political aspirations, that just recently in history gained the right to vote and hold careers by breaking out of these roles. Proclaiming modernization of a concept does not modernize it, it simply ignores its entrenchment in our “gender role,” determined by those who were not us.

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Danelle March 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Thanks for the comment.
I do say in my post to use “ladies and gentlemen” as a synonym for a considerate person. I never said “everyone who is considerate should be called a lady or gentleman and that’s it.” Those are two very different things. Not every word fits every person – I realize this. However, should we stop using words simply because they do not represent everyone at once? Words usually are not like that. Do we also eliminate male or female? Girl or boy? Sure, there are words for people other than male or female, but that doesn’t mean we eliminate using the words all together.

I think “ladies and gentlemen” keep their traditional gender roles only if you let them. Proclaiming the modernization of a word does indeed help throw away the old definition, but only if embraced. NeW is embracing this new usage.

One example off the top of my head of a word changing is the word “nurse” which was always associated as a woman’s role, but now we’ve updated the definition, making it the profession and not the gender. Another example is not a word, but an action that’s personal to me: I’m very into target shooting, and had Annie Oakley or other women not stepped up as successful female shooters, the door would not have opened for women to be shooters competitively. Shooting used to have a male stereotype attached to it, and Annie shattered that stereotype and embraced the fact that she was a female shooter. Again, it takes one person or one group for change like this.

I think you should try embracing these types of changes.

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