Who are You Calling “Ladylike?”

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin says his Senate opponent Claire McCaskill was much more “ladylike” last time she ran for office.

A Mitt Romney supporter recently told NPR that Michelle Obama isn’t a good First Lady because she’s not “ladylike” enough.

The last time someone told me I wasn’t being ladylike, it was one of my parents reminding me as a pre-teen that if you’re wearing a skirt, you can’t sit like you’re wearing shorts — ’cause that’s not “ladylike.”

Some synonyms for “ladylike” are motherly, cultured, genteel. When someone uses the word in a political context, they’re usually suggesting that there is something wrong with that woman’s behavior. But why should we be surprised in this political climate that there are those throwing around that kind of “Leave it to Beaver” language? It’s totally in keeping Akin’s “legitimate rape” world view that hearkens back to the 1950s, both in style and substance.

But those who are threatened by women who don’t adhere to a “popular girls devote themselves to pleasant conversation” era would get an earful from some of my favorite “ladies” on Facebook:

“That term makes me cringe. ‘Act more ladylike’ was a popular criticism thrown at those of us growing up in the 60s and 70s.”

“Patriarchal ‘stay in your place’ bullshit.”

“This makes me want to act very unladylike and smack someone.”

“If standing up for women makes me less ladylike, then so be it.”

“Michelle Obama is a beautiful, intelligent and extremely ladylike first lady. What silliness.”

So while I cross my legs at the ankle and sip my tea with my pinky fingers perfectly poised, I’m reminded that these comments by Akin and a Romney supporter aren’t isolate episodes of a couple of people stuck in a bygone era. Much of the underlying tone about women in this election year smacks of sending us back to a June Cleaver-like time, where women “knew their place.” And that political attitude isn’t going to change until we vote people with that mindset out of office and elect those who accept that fact that women are full participants in 21st century life, not apron-wearing, baby-carrying , embroidered handkerchief-carrying helpmates who nod politely when their husbands speak.

Akin also claimed that McCaskill is more of a “wild cat” these days. I shudder to think about what he’d call Sarah Silverman.

 Image via iStockPhoto/Shawn Gearhart

Black Lives Matter Oscars Social Justice
Social Justice Warrior Battle Fatigue: When Blacksplaining is Too Much
Barbie Fashionistas, photo courtesy of Mattel
The Casual Feminist: How Do You Take Your Barbie? Curvy, Tall or Petite?
#wheresrey, rey star wars, hasbro
#WheresRey: Finally, Here’s Where You’ll Find Your Jedi Princess
400.a-gift-id-like-to-return
Let’s Make a Deal!
bernie sanders feminists, hillary clinton feminists, women voters and feminism
“Young” Feminists, Don’t Toss Out the “Old” Ones. We’re Really on Your Side
24414814619_ff75538970_z
A Hillary Smear in the Making Brought to Us By MSNBC: TRANSCRIPTS!
Black History Month, reparations
For Black History Month, Let’s Talk Reparations
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, real change in politics
Do You Really Want A Revolution, or Just Talk About One?
Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, real change in politics
Do You Really Want A Revolution, or Just Talk About One?
America Ferrera at MAKERS
For America, It’s a No Brainer Between Hillary and Cruz
Hillary Clinton in Iowa, Hillary Clinton criticized for style, media criticism of Hillary Clinton style
Bernie and Donald Can Shout. Hillary, Not So Much if You Believe the Media
Hillary Clinton Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders is More of the Same
bernie sanders feminists, hillary clinton feminists, women voters and feminism
“Young” Feminists, Don’t Toss Out the “Old” Ones. We’re Really on Your Side
Barbie Fashionistas, photo courtesy of Mattel
The Casual Feminist: How Do You Take Your Barbie? Curvy, Tall or Petite?
Senate_Women_2013
Women Senators Aren’t Afraid of the Snowpocalypse, But Their Male Counterparts Are
15812860637_0c333790ea_z
Candidates, Captions in Political Ads Please!
Paris attacks, Paris terrorism
Is Paris Burning?
Chinese government and women's reproductive rights, adopting Chinese girls, international adoption
Dear Xi Jinping, I Am Writing to You as an American Mom of a 19-Year-Old Chinese Daughter
First Lady Hillary Clinton in Inda in 1995
The Vital Voice of Hillary Clinton: Part 1
American tourists help Syrian refugees in Hungary
One Woman Making a Difference to Syrian Refugees
369.the-eyes-have-it1
The Eyes Have It!
Ashley Madison, Jared Fogle, sex, rape, sexual affairs
Ashley Madison vs. Jared Fogle: Rape, Sex and Hacking in America
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be
breast cancer, save the boobies, save second base, why is breast cancer awareness about sex
Campaigns to Save the “Boobies” and “Tatas” Do Women No Favors

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread