Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Is the word lady a demeaning way to refer to non-men? I say it is, and note that out in the real world a non-man is a woman, unless she's (a) The Virgin Mary (usually used with Our) (b) some sort of British bluestocking or (c) a customer at a rural gas station: what can I getcha little lady?

Some of the more-bearded and less-enlightnened members of my commuinity continue to use the word and expressions like "lady's shiur" and "lady's section." I cringe. But if the non-men who read DovBear don't mind, I won't either.


Jack's Shack said...

I am not a woman, which is good because I would make one ugly woman, but I don't see why lady would be a demeaning term. It is rather innocuous, unless you add some kind of accent or subtext to it.

Like you are one hell of a lady of the night, now that might be considered demeaning. Calling someone a "Fat Lady" is not nice, but it wouldn't sting less if you referred to her as a "Fat Woman."

The same can be said for the word ugly.

Anonymous said...

The people you refer to don't exactly speak the King's English in the first place.

It only sounds demeaning because the people who use this archaic sounding formulation have all kinds of attitudes that go along with the package. The lady's shiur is not going to be an intellectually stimulating event, let's just say (even by comparison to the shalosh suedos shiur!)

JMO. I'm female.

Anonymous said...

Lady is better than Chick (and its variations- chicka, chickie,etc...), Babe, Bitch, or Womyn

Esther Kustanowitz said...

"Once, twice, three times a lady" is a compliment...or at least someone thought so once...

My objection to "lady" is that it makes me feel old. Also, it could be pejorative if you're like, "Look lady, don't be an idiot..." (so the tone matters, is what I'm saying). I think you could use the term "women" without too much trouble.

Also, I need to point out that "lady's shiur" or "lady's room" is not correct unless it's only for one woman. And that choice of words should be decried for grammatical reasons.

TRW said...

It's funny, cause I consider "woman" to mean old. I think of "lady" in the Medieval sense-high class, noble. Words become demeaning based on the intention of the speaker, so I don't think the difference is that strong.

Cara said...

I'm admittedly a woman (and a fairly old-fashioned one at that), and I see no problem here. Like almost any other word you can think of, 'lady' is only demeaning if it's intended to be. For example:

"Hey, Bob, why don't you go away and play softball with the ladies?"

This is not a nice use of the word, whereas "Hello, ladies. How may I help you?" is perfectly acceptable.

Sarah said...

I agree it's the intention that counts, but I prefer "women" to "ladies." Somehow, the "women's shiur" sounds like it will be more intellectually satisfying than the "ladies' shiur." (Note the grammatically correct spelling and placement of the apostrophe.)

Similarly, I would rather that a male salesclerk say "Good morning. How may I help you?" than "hello, ladies, how may I help you?" A salesclerk who calls us "ladies" when we walk in is liable to insert the word "sweetheart" into the conversation later. It puts me on edge.

But even there it depends. There is a difference between the used car salesman who says "ladies, how can I help you?" and the gay lingerie-store owner who says "Ladies, how can I help you?" So maybe, after all, it really is about the intention.

It's just that sometimes men are being condescending without even realizing it.

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