The social revolution of the 1960s first saw the significance of ladylike manners and etiquette diminishing. Seen as a restriction of freedom of expression, society made it embarrassing to be proud of femininity.
In the 1980s, women’s acceptance into the realms of business sparked “power-dressing” which suggested authority and competence. The rejection of the ideology of acting like ladies in public peaked in the 1990s. Bizarrely, women adopted the behaviour of the men they claimed to be reacting against. An increase in financial independence among women was a clear contributor to the “Ladette” phenomenon.
Today, manners and etiquette are gaining popularity and fast becoming wielded as an effective social weapon. Femininity is no longer seen as a sign of weakness but as subversive, rebelling against feminism itself. In the current competitive job market, diplomatic protocol and social skills hold far more weight than a wardrobe or the ability to drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney.
The cultural return to embracing traditional values does not equal submission. The parallels of elegance and respect are complimentary. Debrett’s, the British arbiter of etiquette, have updated their guides to combine modern lifestyle and traditional values. 21st century chivalry should be mutual and not an affront to feminism; men should hold doors open for women, but women should reciprocate and hold the doors for men too. Is a conclusion to the age-old battle of the sexes in sight?