On The "Right" And "Wrong" Ways To Be A Lady

by Madeleine Aggeler

Being a woman comes with a lengthy, stringent set of rules. We are to be alluring, but not slutty; dainty, but not meek; made up, but not overdone. It also comes with an extensive shopping list: face cream, eyeliner, nail polish, waxes, shape wear, Soul Cycle classes. Trying to follow these rules costs an enormous amount of time, money, and energy, and (spoiler alert!) even if you do everything “right”, you’ll still be found lacking. So if the game is rigged against you, why even play? In a video released Friday, Teen Vogue thumbed their nose at the idea that there is such a thing as a “right” or “wrong” way to be a lady.

The dreamy, tongue-in-cheek video stars 23-year-old model Stav Strashko, who playfully and stylishly undermines a soft, robotic voice over’s instructions on how to “Be a Lady”. “A lady does not take up space,” the voice drones as Strashko poses lavishly on a blue velvet Jonathan Adler ottoman. “A lady packs only necessities,” it says, as Strashko sticks a cream cheese bagel in a $2,200 Fendi purse. “There is no telling how to be a lady,” it concludes, “Please and thank you.”

The video is fun and powerful, and its inclusion of Strashko, who is trans, further challenges society’s outdated gender norms. “I was born a boy and I consider myself a girl,” Strashko said in an interview. “I consider myself a girl only because of the world we live in. For example, if I wear a skinny jean, a crop top, and make up, people see me as a girl, so I feel obligated to say I am a girl. But I would rather live without definition."

The team at Teen Vogue was inspired to make the video in part by posters from a high school in Jacksonville, Florida, that depict what female students can and cannot wear to prom. “Going to Stanton Prom?” the posters ask. Under pictures of more conservative dresses, they say, “Yes you are. Good girl,” and under pictures of dresses with high slits or plunging necklines they say, “No you’re not.” The blatant slut-shaming and sexualization of the school’s young women prompted outrage on social media. The posters surfaced just a few days after United Airlines blocked two girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings.

“The bottom line is: Women have been policed for what they wear and how they behave in public since the beginning of modern society,” Teen Vogue’s Kaleigh Fasanella writes, “But if we’re going to continue to smash the patriarchy in 2017, then it’s up to us 'ladies' to not comply with the rules."

To watch the full video, see it on Teen Vogue here.