Hannah: “Okay. But here’s my question: Who are ‘The Ladies?'”
Shoshanna: “Obvi, we’re The Ladies.”
Jessa: “I’m not The Ladies.”
Like Girls’ Jessa, NYC writer Sarah Nicole Prickett is also not comfortable with being The Ladies, as evidenced by her sprawling, angry piece for VICE which landed in my inbox over the weekend. Headline: Where Are All The Women?
The piece has its problems — while the phrases ‘real woman’ or ‘real feminist’ are never used, they might as well be (alternate headline: WOMEN, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG). Still, I found myself nodding along in agreement with Prickett’s central thesis: where ARE all the women?
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We do indeed live in a girl era; there’s even a whole hit HBO show about it. But while it’s tempting to ascribe this phenomenon, this proliferation of girls, to Generation Y — or Generation Meh as grandpa columnists like to cleverly refer to us — and our protracted adolescence, I’d argue that our discomfort with identifying ourselves as women is rooted in the fact we have long lived in a society that infantilizes women while, at the same time, fetishizes youth. (Which is why the Riot Grrl movement, in all of its Kinderwhore glory, was so subversive.) Our culture has conditioned us to believe that ‘woman’ is a title that has to be either feared or somehow earned while, at the same, time punishes those who dare to grow old. So we have more ownership over ‘girl’ than we do ‘woman,’ because ‘woman’ = ‘old’ and, in our society, ‘old’ = ‘obsolete.’ (There’s a reason it’s It-GIRL not It-woman.) It’s little wonder, then, that you get 30-year-old fashion bloggers referring to themselves as girls.
Or ladies. Prickett quotes The New Republic’s Ann Friedman as writing, “The word “lady” is a way to stylishly signal your gender-awareness, without the stone-faced trappings of the second-wave. It’s a casual synonym for ‘woman,’ a female counterpart to ‘guy,’commonly used in winking conversation between one in-the-know woman and another.’”
I agree with Prickett that the above is a pretty barftastic definition, but I don’t really have a problem with ‘lady’ being a comfortable middle ground between ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ (CUE BRITNEY). In society in which it’s more subversive to call oneself a woman than it is to call oneself a cunt, ‘lady,’ to my mind, is a baby step towards normalizing ‘woman.’ So, you know, victory pile.
Don’t get me wrong: I would love if more grown-ass women called themselves women. Still, I don’t think a 30-year-old who self-identifies as a girl and has a fondness for Peter Pan collars is somehow less of a woman — or a feminist, for that matter. Rather than write othering, us-vs.-them, women-vs.-ladies, divisive op-ed pieces — is ‘lady-shaming’ a thing now? — let’s acknowledge that ALL of us, ladies, girls, bitches and cunts included, are very much women. Real women. Whether we call ourselves that or not.
Jen Zoratti is a Spectator Tribune columnist, freelance music scribe and 27-year-old woman who pays property taxes and gets regular pap smears. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.