When I was child, I remember having a great deal of freedom. I don’t mean that just in the sense of being able to spend a lot of time reading or wandering through the woods across the road from our house. I also mean it in the sense that being a girl was only one minor aspect of my existence and experience rather than being the thing that defined me as an individual.
Somewhere along the line that changed. It started in last couple of years of grade school and on into junior high school as I became an adolescent. Suddenly there were things that girls did and didn’t do. Girls were always supposed to sit modestly with their legs together. Girls suddenly had a separate and more stringent dress code. Girls didn’t talk loudly or too forcefully. It wasn’t ladylike. To be fair, I know the boys had their own list of dos and don’ts. But we girls were being groomed culturally to take second place to men someday, to be the helpmates instead of the leaders. We were the ones automatically sent to home economics and typing classes in preparation for our homemaker roles with a nod to the secretarial work we might do prior to marriage.
All of this went along with the stereotypical notions of women as too emotional and irrational to be of any use in professional arenas. All of this went along with the notion that women should not have attitude because, well, unladylike. Attitude leads women to form strong opinions. Attitude leads women to think they are equal to men. Attitude makes women difficult to control because they begin to believe they can make their own decisions.
So this is my homage to attitude, to the art of the unladylike. May every woman out there grab hold of attitude and make it her own. Only in this way can we finally move away from a patriarchal society that diminishes women to one in which gender is no longer a driving force of the social order. Long may your attitudes thrive, ladies!
(Note to self: I need more bow ties. I kinda like them. And also – scope out more places to set up the self-portraits; that door as background has outlived its usefulness.)