A Letter to the Woman on the Bus (who told my Daughter to sit like a Lady).

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Dear Lady who followed my 16-year-old daughter off the city bus yesterday to tell her she should sit like a lady,

Guess what?

I didn’t raise my daughter to sit like a lady.
I raised her to sit like herself.
I raised her to be herself.
To know her own voice.
And to take up as much space as she wants and needs to take up.
Whether she is sitting or standing or dancing or walking through the world.

I didn’t raise her to blindly respect authority, or to dress appropriately, or to shrink in the face of differing opinions. I certainly didn’t raise her to believe that acting like a lady is in any way protective of self or body or being.

And that wasn’t an easy call, dear bus lady, let me tell you.

It’s not the simplest or quietest or most straightforward way to raise kids.
But raising a well-behaved lady was never my goal.

And so my daughter isn’t afraid to question her teachers for unfair dress code rules, or to ask about differing treatment between girls and boys, or to speak her truth at school on behalf of the marginalized students who share space with her there.

She isn’t afraid to know and name injustice—in her sphere and in the world around her.

She isn’t shy about grappling with her own bias and expanding her mind in every and all directions, even those that challenge her own view of the world.

And she isn’t afraid to call me on my own hypocritical bullsh*t (because trust me, I’ve got plenty of it—hidden yet ingrained misogyny, and outmoded patriarchal brainwashing too).

And yes, bus lady, I need to be called on that sh*t.

We all need to be called on that sh*t.

So, no, I didn’t teach her to sit demurely, with legs crossed and head down.
And I sure has hell didn’t teach her that wearing certain clothes was asking for it.
I certainly didn’t teach her to only speak when spoken to, or to follow the crowd, or to be afraid of her own power.

I taught her that she is mighty, that her body is her domain, that she has a sovereign right to her own being on her own terms.

And so when she sat down on the bus with you yesterday, she wasn’t thinking that she needed to cross her legs and fold herself inward to suit any definition of what she should be.

She sat the way she is most comfortable. She took up the space that was available. She sat in that seat not like a good little lady, but like a human comfortable in her own skin.

And perhaps that bothered you because you were raised without that kind of freedom and confidence.

And perhaps it bothered you because you believe that girls should act or sit or be a certain way.

Thank god my daughter knows better.

~

Author: Jeanette LeBlanc
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron

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Jeanette LeBlanc

Single mama to two ridiculously unruly daughters, Jeanette LeBlanc believes in the smooth honey burn of whiskey, the crashing of mama ocean, pencil skirts, vintage band tees and fringed boots, the kinship of the wild wolf, walking for miles in unfamiliar cities, the power of dark red lipstick and the necessity of putting out for the muse on the regular. Oh yeah, and that sometimes our stories are the only things that can save us. Connect with Jeanette on her website and Instagram. You can pre-order her book here.

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Kristin Caproni Oct 6, 2018 10:33am

Eiren Thomas Your comment wasn't snarky as she posted-even if I disagreed with it(though I didn't) I took it as expressing a differing opinion from the author.

Evans Shades Oct 5, 2018 4:11pm

I’m just sad to read not a single word of compassion in this post or it’s responses. Not one good deed. No opportunity to respect our elders from another time (as we will be, too), to raise our youths to do good for others and be of benefit in the world. I read till the end in hopes of an inspiring ending like articles on EJ are known for, instead I got the middle finger from a 16 year old, endorsed by her mom. Oh well, plenty more inspiration elsewhere in the world 🙏🏻

Karen Albright Oct 4, 2018 7:39pm

Manners and repect for yourself and others would be nice to see from women and men, I'm sure the lady on the bus was implying the young girl could use some manners

Gisele Marie Jun 6, 2018 2:29pm

Erica Wheadon EXACTLY! THIS! Suddenly not being "ladylike" (whatever that is... I mean, who defines that? and who defines it for others?) means a crotch shot? Please. Wtf does this leap come from??! All article says is she didn't cross her legs, and someone took it upon themselves to publicaly REPRIMAND this young girl for not living up to that person's strict standards of being a lady and what is proper for young women. (Which truly makes me so angry, but I'm trying to calmly respond!)... There is nothing suggesting any inappropriate behavior, and I even hesistate to use those words, because I don't understand how one elderly person on the bus got to be judge and jury of this young girl. This entire article from a mother defending her daughter shows not only that we need women to stand up for each other and to support strong women, but wow, looking at some of the responses, it shows exactly WHY this defense is needed. I loo forward to a day where a young girl doesn't have to justify her being by how she sits on a bus. To the author: Go on and defend and preach, mama. Luchy daughter that you have her back!

Rae Graham Jun 4, 2018 11:56am

"...raising a well-behaved lady was never my goal." Preach, sister. This wild woman and her three wildling daughters will stand and howl with you and yours any day.

Erica Wheadon Jun 4, 2018 8:50am

"The elderly lady who was raised in the time of Emily Post (and a bit more class) probably did not want a crotch shot view of what color lace panties she is wearing." That's a pretty fucking presumptuous statement.

Colleen McGuire Jun 3, 2018 7:34pm

Just what we need, more entitled mannerless kids. There is a time and place for everything, and good manners were created for a reason. The elderly lady who was raised in the time of Emily Post (and a bit more class) probably did not want a crotch shot view of what color lace panties she is wearing. A public bus is hardly the place to sit with your legs spread. A woman can take up space and appear confident and strong, and still sit like a lady. Or at least wear pants while spreading your legs, lol. If someone felt the need to say it, it probably needed to be said. If she didn't learn manners and grace at home, at least perhaps she will learn it out in the world when she applies for jobs, goes to college and tries to date. You can be in your feminine power and still be a lady, in fact a strong woman in her feminine energy is the most powerful thing there is.

Eiren Thomas Jun 2, 2018 10:22pm

Candice, you have made an unfortunate assumption. Yes, i do and have made similar comments to males. My job is to help young people to be able to function and have their own success within our society. That means speaking up about things but also ensuring that we do not take away other peoples rights in our actions. Would you belch, fart or spit anywhere or any time you felt the urge? Would you accept someone else doing that in your space? It's about being considerate, there is great strength in gentleness, no matter your gender. I grew up in t hat world where females were restricted, i currently participate in a very male dominated sport, do i yell and tout my prowess? No, I just do what I do and let the results beat the crap from males who expect me to perform like a girl......... I dont need to 'take up space' or be angry and seffish to show my worth.

Candice Eaton Jun 2, 2018 3:33pm

Eiren would you make the same snarky comment for a male who belched loudly? Do you expect men to shrink and take up as little space a possible in order to ensure that they do not for any reason make anyone else uncomfortable? Based upon your statement it seems as though the answer to those questions would be, no. Why? because boys will be boys? because males are entitled to take up all of thier space and half of yours too, since you're so keen to give it away? This woman has raised her daughter not to bend to societal standards that would have her shrink to make herself less than, because that is what is expected of women. She has raised her that the whole space in which she stands/sits is her to take up, she doesnt need to cross her legs and arms and curl into a imperceptable ball to make her presence more platable. She doesnt need to make room for man-spreading or wrap herself in a sheet so as others wont feel a need to be offended by her skin. She has raised her daughter the way that most people raise thier sons, (hopefully minus the toxic masculinity crap) and that bothers people. To the point of considering a self-actuacted, self-confident, strong woman who takes up her own space in a world that would prefer she disappear a "lazy self-centered bitch" or a "self-centered, entitled individual." Does she scare you? Are you jealous? Does she make you feel like less of a man? Im talking to you Mr Jonsson. There is nothing wrong with this girl or how her mother raised her. The world would be a better place if more women are self-actuated like that. If more women could walk in public with thier head high expecting as much respect as anyone else. Then this wouldn't be a big deal, it wouldnt even be worthy of writing about. But the fact is the world still expects women to be silent and invisible, because women being obvious, being strong, being a force, being immoveable,being loud is seen as an impediment to others. Good on you Jeanette for making a woman who will make the world uncomfortable.

Borgþór Jónsson Jun 1, 2018 12:02pm

According to your description you are raising her as a lazy self centered bitch. Lets hope she has a strong character an can recover from this upbringing when she grows up. You are not doing her any favour.

Eiren Thomas May 31, 2018 9:50pm

I grew up in a space that also told me those things, 'sit like a lady' 'girls cant/don't do that ' aanndd I rebelled against it, still do. But on the other hand, I learned to be gentle and that my being and doing has no right to impede the being and doing of others. I will continue to be me and do as a woman will but I also understand that lady's position and can empathise with her. A great trait rather than ranting. I caught myself recently commenting 'such a lady' to a young girl who belched loudly. She pulled me up on it but in such a way that positioned her as some self-centered entitled individual. So rather than considering the rights of others to workn in peace she took up her space as she wished without a care for anyone but herself. I don't want our children to be like that, the world is harsh enough.......