Yesterday at the Central Park Zoo, a mom was wearing a t-shirt that said: "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History." It made me wonder: How do you get your children socialized while wearing a shirt with the opposite message?
And also, do you really have to misbehave to get shit done? This is a concept I have been thinking about since I read a New York Times article about Madelyn Pugh, pictured at left in that awesome chair, on which "Girl Writer" is printed under her name. (I want one like it, even though I'm not a girl anymore.) Madelyn Pugh was a writer for I Love Lucy. According to the author of the article, she was an excellent writer, and she know how to make the show's scripts realistic because she was a woman. She even went beyond her strict job description, trying out stunts to make sure they'd be ok for Lucy to do. It was said that she always behaved like a perfect lady.
Of course, at that time, it was not socially acceptable for women to be anything but ladies. Ladies had to be polite, sugarcoat their overly forceful opinions, and never appear in public without stockings. So Pugh was maybe smart to get her ideas across while conforming to the norms of her time. (On the flip side, this broad at left, lyricist Fran Landesman, was anything but a lady, and she seemed to have a great time, according to her recent obit.)
My mother raised me to behave like a lady, and I usually did. But when I discovered feminism and Ms. Magazine in high school, I decided that being a feminist meant rejecting those restrictions. Sometimes I equated being rude with strength, and I admired icons who seemed to personify that: Badasses, broads, foul-mouthed rules breakers.
That all seems very adolescent to me today, three weeks before I turn 50. In our increasingly vitriolic culture, what I aspire to is a strength that is also civil and respectful. Note: I said aspire to. My husband always says that I am not to be trifled with. Truly, I can be a bitch if the situation calls for it. But I usually regret it.
I hope that my daughter will become some combination of a lady and a badass. I am raising her to stand up for what she believes in. But she can get the point across, and maybe make history, without behaving poorly. At least that's what I wish for her.