Why We Need To Stop Referring To Women As ‘Classy’

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “classy” is defined as the following:

a: elegant, stylish
b: having or reflecting high standards of personal behavior
c: admirably skillful and graceful

“Classy” is usually meant to be a compliment. When people refer to a person as classy, it usually means they’re wearing something fashionable and look conservatively nice, or that they have some form of high moral standards. Sometimes, it’s regarding a particular outfit–for example, “the dress she wore to the gala made her look classy.” Other times, it’s regarding a situation, such as “he dealt with his poker loss in a classy way without complaint or aggravation.” Often, people use it to refer to people they find socially acceptable in both behavior and appearance, wherein lies my problem with the word.

And then comes the idea of being “not classy” or “classless.” When you’re labeled not classy, it means that you’re somehow not of a high moral standard or you are, as Urban Dictionary puts it, “crude or misgusting [sic] or dirty or depressing.” So, according to the consensus of the Internet users of UD, being classy involves avoiding things other people find disgusting, unclean or saddening. Whether it’s to describe a particular action, such as getting trashed at a party, or the way a person is dressed, like wearing short shorts to a funeral, the adjective often used is “classless.”

Considering something or somebody to be classy is putting a definitive label on what society has deemed good versus bad. Whether it’s to describe a particular action, such as getting trashed at a party, or the way a person is dressed, like wearing short shorts to a funeral, the word often used for something inappropriate. However, it’s used most of the time for one particular group of people: women.

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    • JennyWren

      I’m not a fan of “sexy fill in the blank” Halloween costumes myself, because I think they’re a bit boring and reinforce the idea that a woman is only as valuable as her ability to conform to mainstream beauty ideals. HOWEVER, I certainly wouldn’t judge someone for wanting to go that way, especially since the vast majority of pre-made costumes for women sort of back up the Mean Girls ideology of Halloween being the one night of the year you can dress as skimpily as you like and not get called a slut.
      Also, when did “fat boobs” become a thing? Aren’t all boobs fat boobs in that they are essentially lumps of fat topped with a nipple for interest?
      Also also, how does one dress as Audrey Hepburn? Do they mean Holly Golightly, who was essentially a good-time girl? Dressing like Katherine Hepburn, now that I could see…

      • Samantha_Escobar

        I DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE “FAT BOOB” THING EITHER. I had to hold my tongue. It was difficult because I don’t even go here anymore and would never see either of them again, but I did…. primarily because I knew I’d yell and I was in a library. But seriously, I don’t even know exactly what “fat boobs” might constitute.

        I assume they meant Holly Golightly because literally everyone I’ve ever met dressed as Audrey Hepburn goes as Holly Golightly just like everyone who dresses as Marilyn Monroe does the Seven Year Itch thang.

      • ktree

        IMHO, people seem to consider women with smaller boobs who show them off to be sexy and sophisticated, while women with bigger boobs who show them off are trashy. I tried to think of a different way to state this but that’s pretty much what it boiled down to. This is just my experience though. Also I am trying to think of an opposite of fat boobs. Skinny boobs? I bet no one wants those.

      • JennyWren

        I think that’s probably true. I did read an interesting article a while ago (can’t source it right now) that suggested we think of smaller boobs as being “upper class” while larger breasts are “working class.” And of course, we seem to have decided as a society that the worst thing you can possibly is “fat,” so there’s probably a bit of that going on too.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        You know, it’s definitely true that it’s seen as sexy or cool or ever-so-slightly risque when women with smaller breasts don’t wear bras or have low cut tops, but larger breasted women (ahem) are seen as trashy or “slutty,” which is totally unfair.

      • Emily

        this is great news! cause I have small boobs from running and in my opinion i just look like a curve less 13 year old. Now I know i’m more of an “upper class boob-less 13 year old”

      • Ara


      • Samantha_Escobar

        I swear, I find every (EVERY) excuse possible to use that quote. <3

      • Lo

        As an alumna of the same university and former sorority girl, my best guesses for the “fat boobs” thing are:
        -The girl has recently gained weight and therefore now has bigger boobs she is showing off (i.e. her “Fat boobs” vs. her “skinny boobs,” like fat pants and skinny pants?)
        -She is overweight (or they think she is) and also has giant boobs, which they somehow deem to be gross.

        Either way, they suck and I apologize to you on behalf of sorority kind.

    • http://twitter.com/JenAshleyWright Jennifer Wright

      I would very much like someone to request a freak in the streets and a lady in bed. I would like to meet that person.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Literally every time I go back to this post, I read this comment and laugh way too hard. Way. Too. Hard.

    • Lastango

      “Why We Need To Stop Referring To Women As ‘Classy’”

      Actually, we need more women we CAN refer to as classy — and more women willing to refer to another woman as classy, instead of tearing her down.


      • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

        I agree with your sentiment that women need to stop tearing one-another apart, but like Sam stated in the article, it’s these labels in general that are creating the problem. We need to accept that “classy” or “trashy” or however a woman chooses to represent herself are all legitimate choices and stop judging one-another for those choices. Classy is such a loaded word, and I think doing away with it generally is probably better than calling for more women to reach for more arbitrary standards that may not reflect how they actually want to live their lives.

    • Larissa

      I once heard that sophisticated people don’t use the terms “fancy”, “rich”, or “classy.” Because they’re rather gauche labels. I have no idea where I heard this. I may have been drunk. Apparently i’m not very classy.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Y’know, I recently heard that from somebody! Believe me: as somebody who just spent her birthday in Vegas, I can say for certain that I am not “classy” lady, madam.

    • Sarah Pezzat

      I for one love sexy halloween costumes, especially if they don’t make sense. The only thing marring my vision of sexy zebra is my assumption that that girl is really boring.

      Classy is such an interesting word. Can you imagine if you were teaching English language courses, and someone asked you how to use that word? What would you say? “Well, if you’re a snob, then you only use it sarcastically. If you use it sincerely, it can only be used to describe something that a snobbier person would look at with contempt. See: white zinfandel.”

    • Lo

      That last sentence is similar to how I’d been using the word. I think of ‘classy’ the same way as ‘in a class of his/her own’; someone who stands out from the crowd in a way I’d want to emulate. I use that to refer to men as much as women. But then, I guess it’s an easy word for classists and misogynists to hijack. Sad. Just don’t take ‘spiffing’ from me, world.

    • LisaDisqus

      This is one of the dumbest things I’ve read in a long time. We shouldn’t compliment a women in a way that conforms to societal norms and wouldn’t be used the same way to describe a man. That would be a ridiculously long list of words to add to the already unnecessarily long PC list of words that could offend someone, somewhere at sometime.

    • Maria K

      I think it’s okay to compliment someone when their behavior is admirable. If you’re so insecure about your life choices, don’t take it out on people who want to appear…well, classy. Don’t feel bad about yourself because you didn’t get complimented. However, I also refer to men as “classy” and say they “lack class” more so than women. So maybe I’m a weirdo.

      • JennyWren

        Ah yes, because the only reason someone might object to the systemic judgement of women’s life choices (particularly life choices that don’t impact on anyone’s lives other than their own) is “insecurity.”

    • Cephas

      I don’t know *any* classy men. Oh, maybe my dad. But that’d be it.

      However, at least people know what is meant by calling a lady ‘classy’. Usually…

      I’d be really interested to know how that compares with the recent ‘slutty’ movement. It’s certainly generated a lot more discussion than pretty much anything else I’ve noticed. Even my angel wife had a hernia (opposite to a hisnia) when she watched that particular bit of ‘news’! I can’t think of anything more diametrically opposite, but then I’m just a bloke.

    • Henry

      Ladies, you will remain second class citizens so long as there are evolutionary psychological mechanisms in your brains that make you get turned on by strong, dominant men. Its actually that simple. If you think I’m wrong, you’d better be able to tell me why you think I’m wrong.

      • Karen

        I’m guessing the words “classy” and “women” in the tittle are what set you off because you obviously didn’t read the actual post.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        You’re wrong.

    • Emily

      so glad you wrote this! I’ve been hearing that word a lot too and it’s been driving me nuts! It’s become some kind of catch phrase. Why are women judging each other so damn much, anyway? I’m glad that there are women who do lift each other up out there! We got to stick together on the positivity train!

    • disqus_5I359yAyPb

      Personally, I am of the opinion that those who use the term classy are anything but. It makes me cringe whenever I see or hear it used. I vote that it simply be removed from usage altogether.

    • Zoran Taylor

      Any compliment, by its very nature, excludes anyone who is not in the process of recieving it at a given time. The thing about classiness is that it actually is a real thing, acieved by real people who, if you’re reading this, are probably not you. And your puny, petty defiance in the face of society’s collective recognition of this just makes you look like an idiot. If that bothers you, guess what? No one cares.

    • rocco71

      The reason you have a “problem with the word” is because you’re either a middle-class douche or a proletarian hack.

    • Desirey Killjoy Howard

      …… but i do have high moral standards…….