W e’ve all heard it before – the gaspy whisper, coupled with a disapproving side-eye: ‘ That’s not very ladylike.’ But what does it even mean? Today, women are breaking the rules and taking a sledgehammer to societal and patriarchal ideas of how they’re supposed to be. We all feel the burden of expectation of femininity to some degree: to sit with our legs crossed, not to swear too much, not to talk about sex the way guys do, to cover up, to silently shrug off leery catcalls. We’re socialised to colour within the lines – to turn a blind eye, be pretty and wear pink.
But more and more of us are throwing off those expectations. We refuse to sit quietly and behave – we’re acting out and speaking up. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the music industry, with artists such as Sza singing sarcastic lyrics like, ‘I’m sorry I’m not more attractive; I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike; I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night.’ She reminds us all to push back against misogyny – and that men don’t get to police how we represent ourselves to the world. We make our own decisions for our bodies and our sexuality.
Being unladylike is a rejection of a role. It’s about owning what you want and shaping your own identity; it’s about saying no to a female stereotype. It’s by no means a new thing: women have been angry, ragey, pissy and salty since forever. We’ve seen women throughout history who don’t give a damn – but only now does it seem to be okay. Women are sick of playing nice, and of dressing up what they want to say in nice language.
One of those women is our cover star Cardi B, the stripper-turned-recording sensation who’s risen to fame with a brand of unfiltered real talk that’s rare. Bodak Yellow made her the first female solo rapper to top the Billboard 100 in 19 years (Lauryn Hill was the first) and we, along with her 21-million Instagram followers, love her for saying exactly what’s on her mind. Her embrace of what society would peg as unladylike is refreshing: she’s sexually free and not afraid to call BS when she sees it. She’s also fiercely ambitious, with a modern-day rags-to-riches fairy tale that saw her go from ‘practically homeless’ (she once told Time.com) to rap superstar. Cardi’s meteoric rise is bold, brash and inspirational AF.
In this issue – our ‘Beats’ issue – we’re all about empowering you to break the rules, define your own version of beauty (page 66), claim your voice and use it (like the kweens on page 48), stand up to f*ckboys on social media (page 90), buy your own home (page 101) and not judge the evolving way of having relationships (page 40). We’re encouraging you to live your own brand – the good, the bad and the downright unladylike.