Be a Lady, They Said

Words Gaby Smith

Sex and the City star, Cyn­thia Nixon, has been praised for fronting a pow­er­ful video about the intense soci­etal pres­sures women face every day.

The poignant video was pro­duced by Girls Girls Girls Mag­a­zine, with the tv star-turned politi­cian recit­ing a com­pelling poem by writ­ings of a furi­ous woman, Camille Rainville in 2017, ‘Be a Lady, They Said’. The video was laud­ed online for con­vey­ing the con­flict­ing demands women face. Many were touched by the dis­turbing­ly pow­er­ful mes­sage, with the video going viral glob­al­ly online —  amass­ing over 3 mil­lion views on Vimeo along with over near­ly 2 mil­lion likes/shares on social media.

The short­ened nar­ra­tion saw Nixon embody female rage, address­ing a litany of con­flict­ing mes­sages women are bom­bard­ed with every­day, cov­er­ing every­thing from the way women speak, dress and behave. The com­men­tary is com­ple­ment­ed by omi­nous, accel­er­at­ing music along with arrest­ing images from movies, tabloids, news broad­casts, adver­tise­ments and the magazine’s own pho­tog­ra­phy. 

Fol­low­ing the trag­ic pass­ing of British TV pre­sen­ter, Car­o­line Flack, the video touched the hearts of many. Shin­ing a light on the how the media prof­its and har­ness­es from the way women feel scru­ti­nised for not liv­ing up to society’s impos­si­ble stan­dards. With the major­i­ty of British press belong­ing to the Inde­pen­dent Press Stan­dards Organ­i­sa­tion (ISPO), or belong­ing to no reg­u­la­tor at all, many news pub­lish­ers self-reg­u­late both print and online press. News sto­ries, as we have noticed, are often pub­lished with­out any proven facts or first-hand quotes. As Caroline’s death put the media at the fore­front, is it time for the press to stand account­able? ‘Be a lady they said. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intim­i­dat­ing. Why are you so mis­er­able? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t over­act. Don’t be so emo­tion­al. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be pas­sive. Be obe­di­ent. Endure the pain.’

Post­ed in the wake of sex­u­al pre­detor and dis­graced movie mogual, Har­vey Weinstein’s guilty con­vic­tion for third degree rape and comit­ting a crim­i­nal sex act, the tim­ing was impact­ful for many of the women watch­ing the clip. Touch­ing on vic­tim-blam­ing cul­ture, Nixon’s tone grew pro­gres­sive­ly resent­ful as she described the pres­sures women face liv­ing for the ser­vice of men, blam­ing women for their own abuse. ‘Dress mod­est­ly. Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t con­trol them­selves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provoca­tive. You’re ask­ing for it.’ With Weinstein’s guilty ver­dict in NY, is his min­i­mum sen­tence of 5 years real­ly jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the many women affect­ed by his crimes?

With women from every walk of life often crit­i­cised and pun­ished for not per­form­ing wom­an­hood to society’s stan­dards, Nixon reads count­less con­tra­dic­tions empha­sis­ing the impos­si­ble nature women face to appease all. These mes­sages are sad­ly not uncom­mon for women to hear in their every­day lives. We are damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t. As many empathise with the stark and som­bre video, it is no sur­prise the orig­i­nal three-year old poem went viral. The poignant mes­sage deliv­ered by Cyn­thia Nixon has vast­ly reached a glob­al audi­ence.

Nixon her­self tweet­ed a link to the video on Tues­day, writ­ing: ‘Proud to be involved with this pow­er­ful film that has struck a chord with so many peo­ple around the world.’

Be a Lady They Said from Paul McLean on Vimeo.

Read the orig­i­nal poem by Camille Rainville here.

#bekind #metoo