Being a Lady — by Dorothy Grant


Being a Lady — by Dorothy Grant

To be a gentleman, you first need to be a man. You need to have the power and ability, the knowledge of yourself, before it can be tempered by restraint and courtesy. Otherwise, the traits of a gentleman are ill-fitting, easily donned and just as easily forgotten on the hat rack.

For more thoughts on that, see this excellent article on The Art of Manliness:

And to be a lady? It’s the other side of the same coin. The virtues of femininity include (but are not limited to) modesty, chastity, nurturing, peacemaking, mercy, and grace.

Because women are very sexual creatures – the ability to restrain ourselves from temptation, and from tempting others, as in modesty and chastity, is therefore laudable. Because we are naturally quite vicious, mercy and peacemaking are hard-won restraints. And grace? That is not merely the ability to move smoothly, but to set yourself and others at ease, and help them feel welcomed and able to be gentlemen and ladies in their own right.

On the one hand, we have ladies who can patiently encourage their children to explore the world, and entertain witty repartee and terrible puns. Who not only can rock out a corset or dress themselves, but also work to make sure children feel safe, welcome, and able to shine on the stage, in school, and in life. Whether they are discussing dinosaurs or compiling lists of exciting adventure books to entice boys to read, or discussing the particulars of entymology and rocket science, or making sure their husbands get food and to the next panel, keep everything in budget, on time, and on an even keel.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have harpies screaming in mindless outrage in the streets while wearing little but their badly knit pink hats, expecting men to clean up after them and fawn over their flesh, while holding the ability to accuse anyone of rape if they change their minds a year after fornicating… and having spent thousands to gather for their mindless orgy of rage, complaining about how dead broke they are and how they depend on their patreons to keep them fed, because their books that include all the correct screeds and all the art that was properly made to shock, offend, or instruct the audience aren’t selling.

Small wonder that they displayed complete outrage at Mike Resnick discussing “lady editors” of the past: they’ve rejected all the virtues of femininity, and are highly offended that the standards they don’t meet are celebrated by others.

To all the ladies out there: thank you, and bless you for making the world a better place. Like a light on a hill, you provide an example of what women can aspire to. Even when you don’t feel like it… no, especially when you don’t feel like it.

140 thoughts on “Being a Lady — by Dorothy Grant

  1. Ah – okay. Nothing here about cross-dressing or the like. Bit of a relief, actually, in these days.

    Male or female, class, self-restraint, character counts, and how you comport yourself is an indication of respect for self and the public.

    1. “Character is how you behave when nobody’s looking.”

      (Note: as a theatre person, and one with a healthy dose of DGAF, I don’t care how you dress as long as it is appropriate for the situation. Though I really wish that certain fashion trends, such as strapless dresses without anything to break up the shoulder line or sockless formal wear for men, would be consigned to perdition.)

      1. I suspect the best thing to come out of the strapless evening gown (other than date if one has the fortune, I suppose…) is the book ‘A Stress Analysis of the Strapless Evening Gown and Other Essays for a Scientific Age’… and the title chapter was one of the more dull, as I recall.

        1. I just wish they’d return to wearing necklaces or other accessories with it. (There was one lady a couple of years back who had a spectacular fall of hair crossing her shoulder line, which I consider sufficient enough to change the wording from “necklaces” to “something.”)

          1. Few women (or men, for that matter) can elegantly carry off such a look as the strapless travesty you mention. Audrey Hepburn could carry it off, but Audrey Hepburn was sui generis.

            My own pet peeve is crew-neck T-shirts. V-neck, scoop-neck, even boat-neck but never the crew look. Absolutely hated the first season of ST:NG for those uniform necks.

            1. The older I get, the more I suspect that Audrey Hepburn was a elf. Look at that girl’s ears.

              1. I encountered online a painting of what I first thought was an elf in Victorian garb. After staring at it for a few moments, I realized the artwork actually depicted Audrey Hepburn in a her costume from My Fair Lady, with a few elements dragged in from some of her other movies.

      2. In my book, a lady does not permit any part of her underwear to be seen in public. Yes, I know I’m a countercultural Neanderthal. So?

    2. From my own experience you can love someone that doesn’t love themselves but they will never be able to return that love. In some cases that you care for them will actually be seen as a mark against you, that you can care for someone that ‘broken’.

      Much like someone that has no self-respect isn’t truly capable of respecting others. We can’t see or understand in others what we can’t see or understand in ourselves.

      I don’t understand ‘pacifism’, not on an emotional level or even intellectual level. The desire not to do harm, yes. To be passive in the face of a threat? No.

    1. One can be a monster and still be a gentle-being.

      At least until the gloves need to come off.

  2. Old line from a movie.

    “I don’t hit ladies but you’re no lady”. 👿

    If I remember the correct movie, the woman was being an asshole and counting on “men don’t hit ladies”. 😈

    1. Actually heard a man utter that after hitting a female with a steering wheel. But then, she had come up behind him and knocked him in the head with a beer can, unopened, and his backhand seeing was more reflex action than intentionally hitting a woman. Snarling up behind a fellow and bashing him in the head when he is holding a removable steering wheel isn’t a smart action. He at least was able to twist his wrist so the padded center hit her.

    2. The “You’re no lady” was at least as early as Gone With The Wind, though there is no hitting there. Maybe most recently with Deadpool.

      1. Love that scene in Deadpool- note that as he agonizes if it’s sexist to hit, or more sexist to not hit, he’s also getting the pistol ready.

  3. There is an ODD thing. In the SCA they try and teach the young men to be gentlemen. The toughest part of this is training the Women to be Ladies and ACCEPT THE HELP. This never was easy and I don’t believe it has become easier over the years.

    Turning young boys into young men and then into gentlemen is NOT easy. Without the help of OLD Gentlemen and young ladies it is almost impossible.

    1. And there is the curiosity of politeness.. or age-ism if you must, in amateur (ham) radio… all men are OM (“Old Man”) and women are YL (“Young Lady”) though the married do have the term ‘XYL’… which has driven some wives to get licensed so they’d have a callsign and no longer be called “the ex-YL.”

      1. My wife was a ham and would drag me off to local and regional hamfests. (Once I went to my first and saw all of the tables of old electronic equipment there were to sift through I never objected.)
        At some point in each hamfest, we would end up surrounded by a gang of OM who wanted to know how I had gotten my wife interested in amateur radio. The looks of frustration on their faces when they learned that SHE was the ham and was dragging along her non-ham husband was always amazing.

      2. I will say that hams are generally VERY polite to women. I hold a General license (no, my husband is not involved), and I’m kind of the mascot in my club – like a kid sister.

        1. Boys are generally very surprised and delighted to find a girl who shares an interest in their mania hobbies. As they have zero grasp on the topics that they commonly observe girls obsess over, such as clothing, hair-styling, makeup and other elements of fashion, nor the inner lives of various pop stars and personalities, it is reassuring for them to find that some girls are “not stupids” and they respond with all due courtesy.

          1. Indeed – when I was a teenager-verging-on-twentysomething, I charmed many young lads (usually though not often of the age between 8 and 13) through my interest in model WWII aircraft, and my command of fascinating facts regarding that conflict. OK – so I had brothers, and it seemed like in high school, I was always in the Honors and AE classes which were mostly male at that point.

    2. I’ve always been an independent cuss, especially when young, so accepting help is hard (my parents tell me some of my first words were “I want to do it myself.”) But lately, I get doors held open for me all the time, particularly by young men, and I’ve learned to recognize it as a gesture of respect, which I find quite pleasing. I always return with a smile and a Thank you, which seems to be well-received.

      (BTW, this is Laurie, but I have a WordPress account now, and it won’t let me change the name).

      1. I learned to my chagrin that grey hair does that for one in certain areas of the US – I had a young man stop his buddies from going through a door, hold it for me and say “After you, Sir” at a little gas station just over the Utah-Arizona border when we were driving down to Monument Valley.

        That never happens in Silicon Valley.

          1. Yeah, from ethnicity queues of the young man, obviously there’s solid instruction in “honor any elders” out on the res, producing youngsters way more civilized than the young barbarians out here.

            1. ^^ethnicity cues^^

              Autocorrect seems like it’s getting better lately, but that was a good one…

            1. *grin* Got my first letter from (famous retirement association for old farts) on my thirtieth birthday. Yes, addressed to me, personally, not “occupant.”

              I still hold doors and pull out chairs for ladies, though. That duty doesn’t hav a sunset.

                1. They showed that last night on TV – I caught the last 45 minutes or so. Surprisingly apt for today’s world.

            2. The Bald Pate look has avoided those for me. The ‘stache is grey as grey gets, but only recently has anyone guess my age at first try.
              When I lived in NOLA, folks guessed high because of thinning hair. Then I shaved it all and everyone guesses low, but for some reason everyone expects me to have been/am married and have several kids.

        1. You’re mostly right about Silicon Valley (I saw the occasional young man act that way, including my son and some of his friends), but it happens a lot here in the partially-frozen north. Another point in its favor.

      2. my parents tell me some of my first words were “I want to do it myself.”

        Several generations of my mom’s family, at about two years old:
        “ME GOT! ME GOT! NO!!!! ME GOT!

        And they’ll remind you of it every time it’s taking a century to leave the picnic, because the two year old wants to do it for herself.

    3. Accepting help gracefully and graciously is an art. One that seems to be pooh-poohed these days, and I am as guilty of it as others. (I have to move the furniture in my classroom on occasion, and I have to do it myself because I don’t have liability insurance if a student gets hurt. Graciously refusing attempts to help when I have to get multiple heavy tables moved around in ninety seconds does not come easily.)

      1. “I have to move the furniture in my classroom on occasion, and I have to do it myself because I don’t have liability insurance if a student gets hurt.”
        There used to be a day when you didn’t HAVE to have insurance for this; if someone got hurt they took responsibility for doing it to themselves.
        Although, if you could pay for the healing, you took care of it.
        Now the government has to be involved in everything, because the guy who hurt himself will sue you.

        1. When an authority orders you to move the desks, and then ditches responsibility when the under-aged moron they made you work with does his best to kill you because that is a way to get out of working, liability insurance is a must.

          It’s like warning signs: they’re usually because someone was a moron.

    4. The toughest part of this is training the Women to be Ladies and ACCEPT THE HELP.

      Too many years of the world letting us know it usually comes with hooks– really, really nasty ones.

  4. *graciously curtsys in DG’s direction*
    Thank you, dear.
    I do, as a matter of fact, rock a corset. And all the other appropriate period accessories.

    1. I have a sneaking suspicion that steampunk’s popularity has as much to do with providing straightforward, formal manners and an excuse to act as gentlemen and ladies, as well as to flaunt the loveliness of formal wear, as it does with the particular aesthetic.

      I am hoping to reduce my waist size sufficient unto rocking a new and different corset at LibertyCon this year – isn’t it fun to be formal in a sea of jeans and t-shirts?

      1. I was speaking with a model at Wild Wild West Con this past weekend after her panel, and we were having a discussion about when it is appropriate for a photographer to touch a model. Then answer is rarely, and always ask first.

        This led to a running gag of asking her a question, followed by the response of “Why, Yes, Thank You For Asking.”

      2. Steampunk…but also just about any retro-Victorian activity. Cowboy Action Shooting. Even the North-South Skirmish Association.

  5. A lady should be capable of contained ferocity. A Gentleman’s ferocity should be partly on display, as it discourages certain kinds of idiocy. A woman’s should be hidden. She will likely not be as strong as an attacker, so when his eyeballs and testicles burst, he should be wondering ‘where did THAT come from?’.

    1. Restrained ferocity. Because mercy is a virtue afforded by strength (it doesn’t count as “mercy” if you are too weak to be dangerous), men learn restraint. Women have their own strengths, which *also* need restraint. After all, men have to sleep sometime. And that’s just the obvious one.

    2. I always thought it was the opposite. Female of the Species, as Kipling said.

      Cause if an enemy has gotten past the men and is going after the children, then the female is the last line of defense.

  6. To all the ladies out there: thank you, and bless you for making the world a better place.
    Amen, sister!

  7. I’ve been reading a book on manners for goths, and one of the points the Lady of Manners makes over, and over, and over, is that being polite will shock the ‘danes far more than morose surliness does. Which is a sad commentary on the state of the world in general, all else aside.

    Gentlemen strengthen ladies, ladies encourage gentlemen and support them. You need both to really have a happy, stable society, in my opinion.

    1. There are people who don’t want a healthy stable society for any number of reasons.

      1. True, and an even large number who don’t know that as dysfunctional as society was pre-whatever, it was apparently a more healthy, stable society than what we have now.

    2. Now, it has been years since I dressed as goth. But I will note with some amusement that eye contact, a smile, and a small curtsey while saying “Thank you, sir!” when a gentleman holds open a door for me rarely fails to make the gent smile.

      …And makes certain harpies who hate civilization very upset, because the interaction is there and gone too quickly for them to get properly worked up into taking offense, pointing, and shrieking.

      Which one I value more may depend on my mood that day, but both are quite wonderful.

      1. Indeed, it is the formalized opportunities to practice (and appreciate) courtesy that make it so wonderful to find someone who has the other half of the script, as it were.

        Ladies, you will find that gentlemen will nearly always give a pound of effort for an ounce of appreciation and courtesy. I do wonder at the number of folks of *both* sexes these days that seemingly *didn’t* get that script taught them in word and deed from the time they were potty trained. *shakes head*

          1. Classes? No, it needs to be a core element of curriculum, taught and reinforced throughout the school day.

            Because that would require teachers to demonstrate it there’s no way it will happen.

            1. *shudder* Oh, HELL no, we shouldn’t have schools teaching multiple classes on home-making, shop or decorum!

              These guys screw up MATH, and you want something that takes JUDGEMENT?!?

              For heaven’s sake, they’ll insist on being called by their first name, and calling the kids by nicknames, then go power tripping on demanding a high formality such as using “may” rather than “can” for permission. (How formal is it? The examples tend to be in the form of “if it pleases the court, may I introduce…”)

      2. Would you consider a workshop on table manners or manners in general at a LibertyCon in the future?

        1. I had to think about this for a while, in order to give an honest reply instead of a reflexive one. I don’t believe so, because I’ve found that the more panels I do, the less I enjoy the con. This isn’t true for many authors, but I start with a limited pool of energy, and the more public appearances that are mandated in those 3-4 days, the faster I burn through what energy I have.

          Running out of energy and ability to be social before the end of the con results in both having a not-so-wonderful time and not being able to uphold my duty to be a pleasant, cheerful face who represents my husband well. I’d hoped that 8 months of weightlifting would give me more energy and ability – but the trial run at LTUE was rather fouled by altitude sickness, so it ended up being my worst con yet. (The convention and people were lovely, mind you; that judgement is reserved solely for my ability to handle crowds, be social, enjoy the event and learn things.)

          If this Libertycon proves that I’m getting more healthy and able overall, then it’s a possibility in a few years of continued improvement – but right now, I’m going to work on honoring the commitments I have before I add new ones.

      3. Eye contact and a smile with as much thank -you as the situation allows tends to get a smile, too.
        (I’ve got my horde, so sometime the full thank you gets lost!)

        1. For some reason your statement brought to mind a lady with her own mini-army in tow I saw at the grocery store a few months ago. While she did an admirable job of keeping the young barbarians (mostly) in check, they ended up being referred to as her ‘chaos posse’ in my head.

        1. How does a guy do Goth without coming off looking like an Edward Scissorshands reject?

          1. Lean Victorian or industrial, not mallgoth or cybergoth. I met a few industrial types who, less the eye makeup and colored hair, could have been a construction supervisor or tech dude. Black shirt, black slacks, black boots, black jacket, minimum of silver trim on accessories. For club wear, eh, get a little wilder.

          2. Depends on the kind of Goth you are going for. In my case, black cargo pants, black long sleeve shirt, polished army tanker boots, and a black trenchcoat (it was 19 outside)

        1. This is why they rage to tear down all standards, that they might not be measured by their failure to meet them.

      1. Neither, I think. An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms, such as “Jumbo Shrimp” or “Honest Politician.” A redundancy would consist of two words or phrases meaning essentially the same thing, rendering one gratuitous or superfluous. In the context of terrible puns the phrase would be not redundant because a) not all things terrible are puns and b) not all puns are terrible; some are worse.

        1. If all puns are a minimum of terrible, can it not be assumed that if it is a pun, it is terrible and that if it is an exception it will be modified in an appropriate manner? This would then render ‘terrible’ a redundancy since ‘terrible’ is the default position for puns.

        2. An oxymoron is indeed a contradiction in terms; since Ox is definitely NOT a moron.

              1. So… imbecile then?
                He does respond to questions, it seems, and is thus not an idiot, by that particular definition. (ANY response suffices.)

    1. Similar to the question of whether dogs domesticated humans, or we domesticated dogs. It was a mutual effort. And no, I’m not implying that the fairer sex are dogs (even if some examples not present do their best to prove otherwise.)

  8. I’ve been having a great deal of fun with a character of mine, who although she is an AI has assumed the outward persona of a well-bred lady of the Victorian upper class. The opportunity for clashing against and showing up our modern, militantly -casual- culture turned out to be amazing. She is truly the civilizing influence in my group of happy barbarians.

    I take no credit, incidentally. She just is that way. Always has been, since she sprang fully formed into my soggy brain one day. Funny how when I get out of the way, the stories write themselves.

      1. Still working toward publishing, so those interested will get to meet Miss Smith.

        A side note, I finally begin to understand the Victorians a little better. The early Victorian era in Britain was one of furious industry, where there was a lot going on because of the Industrial Revolution. The Revolution was at full power then, leaping forward every year. The other thing was, it was a time of widespread drug and alcohol addiction. Opium, gin, cocaine, all kinds of harmful and addictive things were available without any restrictions on sale or use.

        The answer of moral people at that time was to lead by example. That was the source of the straight-backed propriety and serious minded sobriety the Left loves so much to mock these days. People of means and good heart sought to set an example for their neighbors. It was needful because there was a whorehouse or an opium den within five minutes walk of anywhere in London. Human wreckage slouched around everywhere, male and female alike. The term “upright” was coined to describe a person that didn’t stumble around fried on coke and opium all the time. Hence the ladylike virtues of the time.

        Somewhere in the late 19th Century the social zeitgeist decided that leading by example was too much work, and MAKING people behave was the way to go. Government regulation of -everything- was the answer. Thereafter came the Age of Big Brother, which we are at the tail end of now. I say the tail end, because we can all see that the thing isn’t working and isn’t going to. You can’t -make- people behave. They chose to, or not.

        1. … the social zeitgeist decided that leading by example was too much work

          More like, meant “missing out on the fun.” As Dan Quayle famously noted, the Poor cannot afford the indulgences of the Wealthy, but that’s no reason for the Wealthy to forego their pleasures.

        2. The critics of Victorian sensibilities sometimes have a point, but they fail to realize that those sensibilities didn’t spring up in a vacuum.

          Which makes me wonder what motivated the AI to take on this role?

  9. I know the post is a day old by now, but it made me think of that movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, and how it could have been a really great movie if the filmmakers had had more creativity and courage to follow through.

    Get rid of the queen’s psycho brother character and instead make the Huntsman the queen’s brother, and completely loyal to her even as he mourns what she’s become, but still completely loyal until he’s commanded to kill Snow White, and she reminds him of the queen before she fell under the mirror’s influence, so he looks after her in a non-romantic way (leaving the prince to take a genuinely romantic role).

    Then the mirror begins to tempt Snow White (appearing in pools, reflections, etc) appealing to vanity and promising power over others, wanting her to take the queen’s place.

    And find a more inventive final fight for her than just sticking her in armor and giving her a sword for the cliché fantasy battle scene.

    It’d have been much more interesting, addressing a traditional female character’s journey and temptations in a fantasy setting, and giving her genuine temptations and flaws to overcome.

    1. Another thought occurs to me: a movie with a great example of a female character’s hero’s journey was Labrynth by Jim Henson. The heroine progresses by maturing, building relationships with others, confronting temptations, and protects and rescues her baby brother.

      She also resists the temptation of falling for the sexy buy toxic bad boy Goblin King, played to perfection by David Bowie.

      1. Speaking of Jim Henson films, I got to see The Dark Crystal in theaters, they did a limited rerelease of the 4k remaster.

      2. Also by mastering artistic integrity. Her silly story at the beginning is marred by the need to make herself out as the pure and innocent victim.

    2. And another great example of a heroine who goes from a flawed protagonist to a ‘lady’: Lilly from Ridley Scott’s Legend.

    3. I have the sneaking suspicious we won’t be seeing heroines ala Labrynth or Legend again. Not in the near future anyway. And not from Hollywood.

    4. And find a more inventive final fight for her than just sticking her in armor and giving her a sword for the cliché fantasy battle scene.

      Get pulled into the mirror world! Escape by cracking it open!

      1. Or her soul gets pulled into the mirror world while her body is comatose and apparently dead. It would give her stuff to do in the final act, while adhering to the original story when she’s supposed to be asleep.

        1. Hmmm. . . on reflection, you may want to figure out some way to connect the kiss to her victory.

          1. My first thought was to save the kiss/wake up for the end, after the Queen’s and Mirror’s defeat.

            1. It occurs to mention that the kiss was something Disney introduced. In the Grimm version, a piece of the apple was stuck in her throat, and had to be jarred loose.

              1. Split the difference, seeing as how I started with the notion of what Snow White and the Huntsman could have been, making it an adaption of an adaption of an adaption. If the story were exactly like the original it would have to end with hot iron shoes.

                On a side-note, that particular element featured in that miniseries, The Tenth Kingdom, which stuck extremely close to the source material of a lot of fairy tales.

    5. Many fairy tales are a good source for feminine heroines. Even when Love Interests, sometimes. True there are princesses who do nothing except marry the hero — and princes who do nothing except marry the heroine — but there are love interests who do more. From the Mad Scientist’s Ogre’s Beautiful Daughter, who knows how to defeat the ogre, to the heroine who identifies the hero in the end, and may use what he brought back to defend herself in the meantime.

      1. -and princes who do nothing but marry the heroine-

        Ironically, another problem to address with Snow White. Even more ironically, there’s enough in the source material to have the Huntsman as as significant a character as the prince.

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