A few weeks ago I was sitting in class quietly reading when the girl next to me asked if she could leave to use the restroom. A perfectly, simple human question. We happened to have a substitute that day, a pretentious man who prided himself on his inquisitive mind, and he proceeded to ask her whether she needed an escort, obvious sarcasm in his tone. Confused and honestly fed up with the conversation she said, “no, I just have to pee.” At which point the teacher looked taken aback and scoffed out “well, that’s classy.” Eventually, the poor girl did get to leave but I was left with a lot to think about. Why are women simply expected to be classy?
Had a boy come up and said the exact same thing there would have been no argument, the idea of class would not have crossed anyone’s mind because class is not inherently associated with men. It’s almost as if girls are born with a string of pearls around their necks or a gene to be manifested in sixteen years like Princess Aurora’s curse that they shall be classy. For girls, class is an expectation for boys it’s the cherry on top.
It seems in every aspect of our media boys are rewarded for being a “gentleman”. If a boy has the decency to be kind and respectful then suddenly he’s a catch and you should be lucky to have him, however, girls have to follow a myriad of rules that truly baffle the mind.
As I began to do research for this post I was struck by the absolute lack of material, what I did find was dozens of articles on “how to be classy.” Amongst the rules listed were:
- Not cracking your knuckles because it’s a “manly” habit
- Not cursing (they suggested cursing into a pillow or letting the faucet run while you curse so no one can hear)
- Not drinking
- Only talking about certain topics so as to sound worldly and intelligent
- Always smiling
- Always speaking quietly
Down to what a woman should wear in correspondence with her skin and eye color. Not only are these habits impossible to maintain in a realistic setting, they are only expected of women. I think what I found most astounding was the idea that class is somehow tethered to women, an automatic expectation. Society would never dream of telling men what to say or wear, class does not need to be learned or acquired for them because it is not an expectation. So we add another fold in the ever expanding double standard between men and women where even simple courtesy has oppressive rules and expectations, shrouded in the idea of the “classy girl.”