Lady? Don’t call me lady!

Friday, 9 August, 2013
Cathy Marston
When I first came to this country, there were quite a few things that befuddled my poor English brain and took a lot of getting-used to.
The first thing was the distinct difference between ‘now’, ‘just now’ and ‘now now’ (people used to promise to call me back ‘now’ and I’d be sat by the phone waiting. And waiting. And……) and the second thing was that a robot is not a life-sized mechanical man waiting at the crossroads to direct the traffic. And then the next thing that puzzled me at the time – and still puzzles me – is the idea of ascribing a gender to a piece of meat.

Who on earth came up with the idea of a “Ladies’ Steak”? Not only does it tax every single grammar Nazi who ever read a menu (Lady’s? Ladies? Ladies’s? Aw, forget it, I’ll have a burger) but I can’t understand why a restaurant would want to make their female customers feel either greedy or butch when they order a proper-sized meal at the same time causing their male customers to suffer sniggers of embarrassment at their inability to deal with a 300g piece of beef. It’s not as if there aren’t words to describe the size of the meal – there are loads of ways to say ‘big’ and ‘small’ so why confuse and heap a whole load of gender-based nonsense, stereotypes and attitudes onto your plate when really, there should only be onion rings and fries?

It’s the same with wine as well. I’m always slightly bemused when I read about a ‘feminine wine’. Does it smell of a woman and if so, does it come with a free date with Al Pacino at the weekend, because in which case, I’m more than happy to give it a try. But really – don’t you think ‘feminine’ is far too personal a word to be of any use to anyone else as a descriptor? Your ‘feminine’ might be my mothballs or freesias or even (god forbid) my mother’s repulsive pickled red cabbage and apple. It could be feminine as in Charlize Theron with all her claims to beauty, charm and grace or a slightly more frizzy-haired and frumpy version such as Susan Boyle, the ‘SuBo’ herself. What it comes down to, is laziness, an implicit acceptance of stereotypes and, overall, a lack of imagination to come up with anything more sensible, relevant and helpful. Come on folks – is this really the best you can do?

I hope you don’t see this as a feminist rant because I’m sure there are quite a few men out there who would rather be known for their caring, sensitive side as opposed to rippling muscles and ability to bite the necks off bottles, and if a wine can’t be feminine, it shouldn’t be masculine either (although if I was going to mount a sexist soapbox about anything, may I just say here that woe-betide any more waiters who keep presenting the bottle of wine to my husband when it was ME who ordered it in the first place!).  It’s just too difficult to convey exactly what you want to say – and if you think that I’m wrong and describing a wine as ‘feminine’ makes your meaning crystal clear, then how about this? Happy Women’s Month to all you lazy sexists out there and may your tipples be lively and zesty like Joan Rivers, fresh and fruity like Dawn French, have plenty of backbone and character like Aung San Suu Kyi and enjoy an endless and lengthy finish like the Queen Mum! Point made, I feel. Now who’s up for a steak?