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Ladylike: Being Remarkable…Like a Lady

By Julia Bluhm

There was a time when women had to wear corsets and huge gowns. There was a time when women were expected to keep their opinions to themselves, when they were expected to lift their pinkies while they were drinking tea. They were expected to be ladylike in a time when that meant women were expected to keep quiet and look pretty.

That time is over.

Women don’t want to be “ladylike” anymore. That’s not what gains the most respect. People respect women who have ideas, and are bold and daring. When we think of a “ladylike” person, we think of the corsets and the ball gowns. We picture someone who’s contained and silent, and who lets her husband do the talking.  Women have always been remarkable, and today, in the 21st century we are allowed to embrace it. So we do. We don’t want to be referred to as “ladylike” anymore. We are worth so much more.

So you could understand why I took offense when some boy at school started calling me “ladylike.” I felt like he was telling me that I was weak. I know he probably said it because I wear dresses and tights and lace. Or because I do ballet, or because I’m polite.

You could probably understand that when he noticed that I took offense, he kept on going, because he took some kind of pride in the fact that he could make me a little irritated (I usually don’t put up with annoying people like him). “Your giggle is so ladylike,” “Julia, you’re so proper,” “You’re so polite, you wouldn’t hurt a fly.” It went on and on.

It’s true. I like dresses, I do ballet, I’m polite, I’m not mean, and I giggle like a little mouse. But there is so much more to me.

Here’s how I see it. I dress different then most people at my school, right? Most wear Aeropostale sweatshirts and jeans. I wear chiffon skirts, tights, suede boots and blouses, but I don’t look at that as being weak or girly. I look at that as being brave and daring. I’m brave enough to wear something that no one else wears, because that’s who I am! If that’s what you mean by “ladylike” then yes. I am ladylike. I’m a confident, strong, independent, lady. I wear whatever I want to wear, despite the trends.

I’m polite and kind because those are my morals. That’s what I believe. I’m still funny, and sarcastic, and weird, but in a different way. I don’t let pop culture dictate my morals. I don’t say rude things, or possibly offensive things because everybody else is, or all the cool kids are saying them. I’m strong enough to stand up for what I believe in, even if some people disagree. If that’s what you mean when you say that I’m so “polite and proper” then you’re right. I am. I’m proud of it.

So, boy in my Social Studies class, the next time you tell me I’m ladylike this is what I’ll tell you:

“I’m a remarkable lady. If that’s what you mean by ladylike, then by golly, you’re right. But if “ladylike” means that I’m a weak, frilly, princess, then go find another adjective. There is so much more to me then that.”

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14 Responses to “Ladylike: Being Remarkable…Like a Lady”

  1. Estelle Morley says:

    Brava, Sister! Keep up the good fight, and continue being the intelligent, critical thinking, and empowered young woman you are. We need more young “ladies” like yourself committing themselves to sustaining the equal rights of women everywhere, and to be seen as more than symbols of sex, or vapid arm accessories for the men with power. We only have as much power as we’re willing to work for. You are working harder than most everyone I know. Kudos to you and your campaign against 17 Magazine!

  2. John DeAngelis says:

    Kudos to you, Julia, for all the great work you’re doing. I’m in favor of real beauty, both outside AND inside, not the phony “perfect” imaginary beauty that television and magazines peddle because it helps them sell stuff to their readers.

  3. Martina says:

    It’s great that you separate some of the good aspects of being ladylike, like nice manners and pretty clothes, with the umbrella term, which has certainly always made me feel small.

  4. Julia,

    I’m in awe of you. Thank you for continuing to inspire women from all around the world. I couldn’t agree with you more. Good for you for speaking your mind. When I was your age, (I’m 31) I also dressed different. It means you are being true to yourself. You can be polite, and also be strong, and confident.

    I also blog about these topics. I would love to hear what you think and if you’re interested to write a guest blog. :)

    Lots of love and light from NYC :).. Thank you for what you did with Seventeen magazine. I’m going to write about you on my blog.

    Hope to connect soon.
    My email is


  5. Isabelle says:

    I have read with great interest what you write and how you feel about being called “ladylike”. I am very impressed with your will to make things clear about who you are and what you refuse to be. I am 39 years old, and it took a long time to figure out how I felt about being a woman, to sort out the confusion. I can say now that I love being a woman, that I don’t mind feeling like a lady, that being delicate, fragile and, yes, ladylike, is part of being human, which is something to be proud of. And none of these adjectives exclude

  6. Isabelle says:

    I just meant to add that none of these adjectives exclude being strong and bold and courageous. You can be very proud of all you have already achieved! I hope my daughters will take example!

  7. Insightful and powerful piece Julia! And kudos to you for standing up for yourself. Words have powerful meanings and we shouldn’t let them put us in a box.

  8. RedHead says:

    You get ALL the high fives.

  9. RedHead says:

    Plus, you got serious style.

  10. Eva Sajoo says:

    Wonderful to read your very articulate blog, Julia. Keep it up and take no flak from anyone. Redefining what it means to be a “lady” is what it’s all about! Here is another article on the same subject:

  11. Jae_C says:

    Hallelujah!!! Im sharing this with my 12 year old niece.

  12. Colin G. says:

    As a boy scout and a peer I am truly sorry he treated you that way. Your writing is wonderful and I have so much more respect for women who are ‘bold and daring’. So thanks for the wonderful blogging.

  13. jeremiah says:

    Good job towards the 17 campaign my teacher is giving us a project about you and all you have accomplished

    keep at it and stop our sexist ways!

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