I have a pet peeve that I didn’t even know I had. I noticed it about a year ago when someone referred to me and another group of women as “ladies.” It was said without malice or intentional derision but with an unintentional sprinkling of male privilege that makes the bile rise in my throat. Until then I hadn’t really encountered this particular brand of sexism, well… I hadn’t recognized it before. It wasn’t just the fact that it seemed to be filtered through the glass ceiling that really bothered me. In fact it took me a long time to tease the reason out since I don’t have that reaction when a woman uses the term. I figured out why that is, sisterhood, sameness. Another woman could say goodbye to a group I’m in by calling us “biatches” and it wouldn’t bother me. What it really comes down to is categorizing me by my gender as a separation from yours. I have only two points here.
First why do we do that? Seriously I’m curious. Why can’t a group of three women still be referred to by name? I don’t bid farewell to a group of males by referring to them as gentlemen but maybe I should just to see if the creep factor works both ways. I do use the term “guys” to refer a group of people even of mixed gender but for me that is gender neutral although I know strictly speaking it is not. Better yet I often just say goodbye or hello without any qualifying allusion to the make up of the group. I wave and make eye contact to include people, simple. Also why does it feel like the man saying it is suddenly my pimp? Maybe I should make it a practice to respond by calling the person “John” or “Punter” or “pimp Daddio.” It really puts me into the wild west brothel feeling, which is ok if you’re at a convention or event but not ideal for everyday life. The point is that even if it is said with the intent to be respectful it hits me in the same place as a cat call.
Most likely that is the result of having been heckled in the rain by a group of deadbeats that started out with “Ladies Ladies oh your shoes!” and ended with me bull-rushing a jeep. OK. There was quite a bit of escalation in between (don’t insult my sister!) but you can see the progression. Obviously there is a direct connection to my rage stimulus.
Second if you think “lady” either meant as a demure woman or “lady of the night” , is the correct moniker for me you do not know me at all. As a child I was a holy terror. As a teenager I was a ball crunching bitch and by the time I was thirty they named a hurricane after me. You still want to play this game? OK. As a kid I played goalie because the boys around me didn’t have the guts to have things shot at them and because my knuckle puck was terrifying. (someone out there has a knee cap that will never quite be the same) Did I mention I played without pads? Yeah I played goalie in legwarmers against real pucks. I had perpetual bruises on my knees. I took a tennis ball to the throat and didn’t complain. You still want to call me “lady”? hmmm do you? I never cross my ankles. I can’t walk in heels. I am a femme failure and that’s because I just don’t have the patience for it. I am the opposite of a lady. I swear like a trucker, live like a bachelor, and both write and watch pornography. On top of which I am a student of Malcolm Tucker* so my swearing is creative and my empty violent threats are in a league of their own. So if you’re calling me a lady it’s because you don’t know me well enough to know it doesn’t fit and I think that irks me more than anything.
In conclusion there will probably come a day when someone says “ladies” in my presence and I will loose it completely like I did that night in the rain and respond thus: “Lady?! You think I’m a lady? I am descended from Boudica! I am sister to the hounds of hell!” After which I will unhinge my jaw and sing the song that unravels his DNA.