Opinion: We Need to Stop Shaming Women for Not Being ‘Classy’

Just under a month ago, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj had a one-sided, shoe-flinging showdown at the Harper’s Bazaar Icon party during New York Fashion Week which raised a storm in the media and divided public opinion. Some came to Cardi B’s defence and some called Cardi B “unprofessional” and “ghetto” complaining that she was allowing the public’s perception of people of colour, especially black women, to return to regressive stereotypes.

But if someone powerful, who is your senior, is questioning your parenting abilities and who is attempting to stop you from earning your income, wouldn’t you be furious? Cardi B has spoken about her previous attempts to address the conflict instigated by Nicki Minaj which were of little to no avail. However, it is abundantly clear that Nicki Minaj had over-stepped Cardi B’s boundaries, and, therefore, Cardi B had every right to be angry and, yes, to throw her shoe at Nicki Minaj. And what exactly was wrong with Cardi B’s “ghetto” reaction when Cardi B is ghetto and Nicki Minaj is also aware of this? Question: what is even wrong with behaving “ghetto?” Why must we, both as women and as women of colour, be “classy” when we have every right to be angry?

Cardi B instagram
Cardi B’s Instagram

The term “classy” itself denotes sophistication and higher-class attitude and behaviour which would seem to point to the more upper middle-class members of society and, in general, to the class system. Who so often belongs to this category? White people. And who more often is expected to behave in a “classy” fashion? Women. There is a significant pressure to behave in accordance to the etiquettes of the upper middle-class faction and this pressure is heavily applied to women and doubly so to women of colour.

We must also question when the upper middle-class became synonymous with “civilised” behaviour? And why are we demanding people, especially women of colour, to behave in a “white” manner? When did the “white way” become the “right way?”

In recent news, America – and the world, have been eagerly staying up-to-date on the Kavanaugh hearing and whether his Supreme Court nomination will be confirmed by the Senate. Dr Christine Blasey Ford provided a cool, calm, collected yet vulnerable testimony during the hearing. Many have correctly commented that if her testimony was anything like Kavanaugh’s blathering, angry and loud performance she would have been labelled ‘hysterical’ without hesitation.

Dr Christine Blasey Ford
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (Elle)

Now, contrast Dr Ford’s testimony to Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in the elevator and passionately and urgently demanded: “Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me.” We cannot decidedly say that this was effective, but Jeff Flake called for an FBI investigation at the very least. But will this be enough? We don’t know, and many remain in doubt as to how much the FBI investigation will impact the results in Dr Ford’s, and for many women across the Wests’, favour. But what we can see here is that being angry, nay, being righteously angry, can create results or have the potential to. Although, how much can we say this for women who appear in court in similar circumstances to Dr. Ford? On-stage, women are expected to be so much more, to filter their rightful anger and restrain emotions no matter how fitting and appropriate they are.

Jeff Flake
Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila Confront Senator Jeff Flake in elevator (Bustle)

On the whole, we are implicitly targeting those who do not belong to the white upper middle-class to subscribe to behaviour that strips away their identity in a variety of ways, but the pressure is doubly applied to women who must go above and beyond in restraining rightful anger and filter any behaviour that may be deemed “ghetto.” So, I ask that we stop shaming women for not filtering and repressing our indignation when our rights are violated or our boundaries over-stepped. But, more so, we must also look at the micro-actions that are modified in our day-to-day life to suit elite white standards and instead allow for free expression that is not limited to a specific class.

By Sophia Ismaa, @sophia_ismaa

What are your thoughts on the Kavanaugh hearing and the feud between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B? Why do you think there is added pressure on women to behave in a classy manner and especially for women of colour? How has this affected you in your day-to-day life? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. My thoughts on the Kavanaugh hearing can best be summed up by this statement: Kavanaugh makes me ashamed to be a middle-aged white American male.

    As for Cardi B and Nicki Minaj: I couldn’t give two shits. I go out of my way to avoid celebrity gossip and news. All I care about celebrities is that they entertain me with good art. And it wouldn’t make one bit of difference to me if you were writing about Kanye West and Jay Z or Blake Shelton and Adam Levine etc., etc., etc. I recognize that celebrities are people too and entitled to their own very human failings, feuds, and fights, but I would just as soon not have to hear about it. Why? Because they have so much talent and money and influence that they can pretty much do whatever they want, and I’m out here struggling to make sure my family’s needs are met. If some loudmouth celebrity rival slanders them in a transparent effort to increase sales via the increased media visibility, they have the money to either escape to an island paradise and drown their sorrows in seclusion or sue for libel. I am disgusted past all reasonable emotional reservoirs of restraint with the overblown hype surrounding celebrities. Grrrrrr!

    Regarding your question about expectations of womens’ behavior: I don’t think anything about it. I know exactly why there is added pressure on women and especially women of color to behave in a classy manner. It’s just one more way that men exercise power and control over them. That’s what it’s all about. And what that boils down to is fear. Men do not want to relinquish the power we’ve held over women since before the first man made up the first story about it being the first woman’s fault for leading him astray.

    Unless you count all the emotional and psychological anguish I experience at all the abuse and injustice I see raging around me almost every day, as a white American male, most of this hasn’t affected me in my day-to-day life. But it damn sure affects my Mom, The Boss, and The Girl, and you’d better believe that makes it matter to me.

    Please forgive the rant, love, but I’m just so tired of it all.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Soph.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am so glad to hear that you aren’t happy with him but equally good that you are not like that at all. Keep representing the best of men. 🙂

      I understand where you’re coming from, it is sad that oftentimes hardworking people get overlooked in favour of celebrities but as they receive much more spotlight from the media, it is a natural consequence that they will receive more attention. I do feel, however, compelled to speak on the matter as it has entered a space which brings into the play the dynamics of women of colour and the extraneous demands placed on them which, naturally, as both a woman and a woman of colour, can easily be spotted in my daily life. Sometimes pop culture can be a great insight into human nature and highlight the realities of power politics.

      Thank you for that great insight, I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective that it is a way to control women and what it seems “keep us in place.” A man can be hysterical and get away with it, but a woman? No. And the expectation for us to behave “classily” is a form of imitating upper and middle-class people and again showing us that we cannot even be comfortable with our own identities.

      I’m so glad to hear that our experiences matters to you and I’m sure your mother, wife and daughter have found much solace in your character which makes you a great son, husband and father.

      And there is nothing to be forgiven, I’m so glad to see how passionately you speak on this, it gives me much confidence and I’m sure you are passing on these values to The Boy. Your consideration will pay off in the long-run for not just women but for all of us. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hate the word “classy”. Mostly because it reminds me of one of my college roommates that I later had a falling out with. She used that word so many times to describe herself. Even reading it makes me cringe.

    Kavanaugh is getting the nomination. I have no doubt about that. It’s disheartening but it’s reality. These elected officials don’t give a shit. Maybe if they got voted out of office it would send a clear message. But they haven’t so here we are.

    I remember Eminem had beef with some guy that mentioned his daughter a long time ago. Or something like that. Eminem went off on the guy. Just leave kids out of it. They have nothing to do with your issues with someone. Besides, taking a dig at someone’s parenting skills knowing full well it’s going to get a rise out of the parent (presumably the person you’re fighting with) is actually pretty despicable. Because what parent is going to sit back and allow that to happen?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, gosh, repeatedly describing yourself as “classy” is more along the lines of lady doth protest too much… and it sounds like she was implying that you are not, it’s just condescending really and it takes it to a really personal level that isn’t needed. I take it you are no longer friends with her. 😔

      You were right. 😔 I held a glimmer of hope, but like you said, it’ll give many people the extra motivation to go out and vote… that would show them what we think about them and the consequences of their actions.

      Exactly!! Who in their right mind, with love in their heart for their children, would sit back and take it? And take it calmly at that. No way would something like that elicit a “classy” response. All bets are off when you comment on someone’s child *sigh* But, then again, I guess Nicki doesn’t really care much about children since she worked with a paedophile. What annoyed me was the response to Kelly Rowland saying that there are “bigger issues” like Cardi’s child is not a big issue for Cardi, and everyone was lauding her for it for being “classy.” Girl, you’re not classy, you’re just trying to stay out of it but by acting superior and condescending.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We stopped being friends a long time ago. For many reasons. And now the word “classy” always makes me cringe.

        Ugh, I had a bit of hope. But damn, it all unfortunately went as expected. I am beyond disgusted.

        Yeah, I saw Kelly’s comments. It had nothing to do with her and yet she put her two cents in. Completely unnecessary. Cardi was defending herself and her child. I see nothing wrong with that. Plus that photo of her holding her head up as she’s escorted out is GOLD.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good riddance, she sounds like a nightmare lol.

          Republicans outweighs democrats, so I guess what could we expect? But come nov 6, lets see what happens. There is hope yet. 🙂

          For Kelly to say there’s bigger things like a persons child and self isn’t important… just plain dumb. 🤦‍♀️ PAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHA OMG. IT WAS EPIC. And the memes… “believe in something even if it means sacrificing your shoe,” and “bitch, come here. Just throw it.” Nike meme-age level to the skies.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate your words and I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed reading it. ☺️ Exactly, commonplace words like ‘classy’ come from a deep rooted origin and once we assess such words we come to soon realise that they’re not quite what they mean. It’s so strange how one word can hold so much power.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a significant pressure to behave in accordance to the etiquettes of the upper middle-class faction and this pressure is heavily applied to women and doubly so to women of colour. <- YES. YES. YES.

    I have so many things to say about your post, but it's all going to come out wrong and you phrased everything perfectly already.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To be honest I’m the world’s worst when it comes to understanding people’s issues with one another sometimes. But from what I’ve just read I feel like this isn’t about bad blood it’s really just about who can annoy who more! Idk if I’ve read it wrong but people really need to stop judging people according to what they think they should be and try to get to know that person! Great post btw and honestly I didn’t even know there was something going on between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Shows you how much I know about celebs haha (my friends would be ashamed 😂😂😂)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t worry about it, I was in the same boat as you, but as you age, you almost have to try and understand others points of view… you’ll see. ☺️

      Yes, you’re completely right! I feel like we all come from different cultures and places, so we all speak and behave differently. We can’t just impose our own standards on to other people who live completely differently especially if it’s something they don’t need to change anyway. 🙂

      Paha, that’s alright, never mind about the celebs, but I hope you have some time to check out the news on the #metoo movement, we’re starting to test how much we’ve progressed. *fingers crossed*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 I will try to check out the #Meetoo movement as soon as I can! It sound pretty interesting and I hope you have made lots of progress 🙂 xo

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel this pressure towards my aunt and my grandmother. They ask why I can’t dress classy or elegant yet they act they are perfect and they know everything and they have done everything right also my grandmother is always criticizing her sister but she does the same things. My aunt and my grandmother are old-fashion. But to be honest with you since I know there are women like my aunt and grandmother I don’t feel like hanging out with women like them. They are the worst.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like if everyone minded their business about what others are wearing (unless it harmed others), what is considered appropriate in a more individual sense than a societal sense, we would be better off. It’s such a shame. There’s nothing wrong with how you or they dress, and they’ve been raised to think like that. Classy is a fancy sounding made up word to control women.


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