Bubble Language School

Be A Lady They Said

By Camille Rainville, 2017

Camille Rainville, 2017

Be a lady they said.

Your skirt is too short.

Your shirt is too low.

Your pants are too tight.

Don’t show so much skin.

Don’t show your thighs.

Don’t show your breasts.

Don’t show your midriff.

Don’t show your cleavage.

Don’t show your underwear.

Don’t show your shoulders.

Cover up.

Leave something to the imagination.

Dress modestly.

Don’t be a temptress.

Men can’t control themselves.

Men have needs.

You look frumpy.

Loosen up.

Show some skin.

Look sexy.

Look hot.

Don’t be so provocative.

You’re asking for it.

Wear black.

Wear heels.

You’re too dressed up.

You’re too dressed down.

Don’t wear those sweatpants; you look like you’ve let yourself go.

Be a lady they said.

Don’t be too fat.

Don’t be too thin.

Don’t be too large.

Don’t be too small.

Eat up.

Slim down.

Stop eating so much.

Don’t eat too fast.

Order a salad.

Don’t eat carbs.

Skip dessert.

You need to lose weight.

Fit into that dress.

Go on a diet.

Watch what you eat.

Eat celery.

Chew gum.

Drink lots of water.

You have to fit into those jeans.

God, you look like a skeleton.

Why don’t you just eat?

You look emaciated.

You look sick.

Eat a burger.

Men like women with some meat on their bones.

Be small.

Be light.

Be little.

Be petite.

Be feminine.

Be a size zero.

Be a double zero.

Be nothing.

Be less than nothing.

Be a lady they said.

Remove your body hair.

Shave your legs.

Shave your armpits.

Shave your bikini line.

Wax your face.

Wax your arms.

Wax your eyebrows.

Get rid of your mustache.

Bleach this.

Bleach that.

Lighten your skin.

Tan your skin.

Eradicate your scars.

Cover your stretch marks.

Tighten your abs.

Plump your lips.

Botox your wrinkles.

Lift your face.

Tuck your tummy.

Thin your thighs.

Tone your calves.

Perk up your boobs.

Look natural.

Be yourself.

Be genuine.

Be confident.

You’re trying too hard.

You look overdone.

Men don’t like girls who try too hard.

Be a lady they said.

Wear makeup.

Prime your face.

Conceal your blemishes.

Contour your nose.

Line your lids.

Highlight your cheekbones.

Fill in your brows.

Lengthen your lashes.

Color your lips.

Powder, blush, bronze, highlight.

Your hair is too short.

Your hair is too long.

Your ends are split.

Highlight your hair.

Your roots are showing.

Dye your hair.

Not blue, that looks unnatural.

You’re going grey.

You look so old.

Look young.

Look youthful.

Look ageless.

Don’t get old.

Women don’t get old.

Old is ugly.

Men don’t like ugly.

Be a lady they said.

Save yourself.

Be pure.

Be virginal.

Don’t talk about sex.

Don’t flirt.

Don’t be a skank.

Don’t be a whore.

Don’t sleep around.

Don’t lose your dignity.

Don’t have sex with too many men.

Don’t give yourself away.

Men don’t like sluts.

Don’t be a prude.

Don’t be so uptight.

Have a little fun.

Smile more.

Pleasure men.

Be experienced.

Be sexual.

Be innocent.

Be dirty.

Be virginal.

Be sexy.

Be the cool girl.

Don’t be like the other girls.

Be a lady they said.

Don’t talk too loud.

Don’t talk too much.

Don’t take up space.

Don’t sit like that.

Don’t stand like that.

Don’t be intimidating.

Why are you so miserable?

Don’t be so bossy.

Don’t be a bitch.

Don’t be assertive.

Don’t overact.

Don’t be so emotional.

Don’t cry.

Don’t yell.

Don’t swear.

Be passive.

Be obedient.

Endure the pain.

Be pleasing.

Don’t complain.

Let him down easy.

Boost his ego.

Make him fall for you.

Men want what they can’t have.

Don’t give yourself away.

Make him work for it.

Men love the chase.

Fold his clothes.

Cook his dinner.

Keep him happy.

That’s a woman’s job.

You’ll make a good wife someday.

Take his last name.

You hyphenated your name?

Crazy feminist.

Give him children.

You don’t want children?

You will someday.

You’ll change your mind.

Be a lady they said.

Don’t get raped.

Protect yourself.

Don’t drink too much.

Don’t walk alone.

Don’t go out too late.

Don’t dress like that.

Don’t show too much.

Don’t get drunk.

Don’t leave your drink.

Have a buddy.

Walk where it is well lit.

Stay in safe neighborhoods.

Tell someone where you’re going.

Bring pepper spray.

Buy a rape whistle.

Hold your keys like a weapon.

Take a self-defense course.

Check your trunk.

Lock your doors.

Don’t go out alone.

Don’t make eye contact.

Don’t bat your eyelashes.

Don’t look easy.

Don’t attract attention.

Don’t work late.

Don’t crack dirty jokes.

Don’t smile at strangers.

Don’t go out at night.

Don’t trust anyone.

Don’t say yes.

Don’t say no.

Just “be a lady” they said.

The poem “Be a lady they said” by Camille Rainville is a powerful commentary on the unrealistic expectations placed on women by society. The poem highlights the double standards and contradictions that women face in terms of their appearance, behavior, and sexuality. The poem speaks to the pressure women feel to conform to an impossible standard of femininity, one that requires them to be both sexy and modest, confident and submissive, youthful and mature.

The poem points out how women are expected to dress and look in a way that is both alluring and conservative. Women are told to cover up and leave something to the imagination while also being expected to look sexy and hot. Society places expectations on women to have a certain body shape and size, and the poem highlights the contradictions in these expectations, with women being told to eat up and slim down at the same time.

The poem also touches on how women are expected to maintain a certain level of hygiene, with an emphasis on removing body hair and achieving a flawless appearance. The expectation that women should always wear makeup and look youthful is contrasted with the message that women should not try too hard, be themselves, and be confident. The poem also touches on the unrealistic expectations around sex and how women are expected to be both virginal and experienced, innocent and dirty, and not too sexual but also pleasing to men.

Lastly, the poem highlights how women are expected to behave in a certain way, including being passive, obedient, and pleasing to men. Women are also told to endure pain, not complain, and put their needs last. The poem ends on a poignant note, highlighting the expectations on women to avoid being raped and to take precautions to protect themselves, rather than placing the responsibility on society to stop perpetuating rape culture.

The poem “Be a lady they said” has resonated with many women, who have shared it widely on social media. It highlights the pervasive and damaging impact of society’s expectations on women and encourages women to reject these standards and be themselves.

A Note:

What do I say

Since I am not a woman, it’s difficult to comprehend the expectations placed upon the subject of this poem.

It’s all about paradigms I think.

My perspective of women is not this.

It is difficult to arrive on an “agree or disagree” basis.

I don’t think that it’s something that can be agreed upon. I believe that as my experience is limited, the first thing I can say is that I don’t share many of these expectations as a man. 

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