The email subject line had so many things wrong with it that I just had to investigate further.
“Advertising to ladies is easier then (sic) you thought.”
The offer was for an email list (I think—the email itself was so poorly designed it was hard to tell) but the term “ladies” felt offensive somehow. Perhaps the problem was in my head. A previous employer had always approached any group of women gathered in one place and would slowly say, “Well… hello.. ladies…” in such a derogatory tone, that we would all cringe.
Or perhaps the problem is that my fairly strict British/Canadian upbringing always led me to think of the term “ladies” as a throwback to the 18th Century.
The email continued its pitch for the availability of lists of individuals “… awaiting offers related to ladies, men, zoomers, students, sports …”—and there was that term “ladies” again. Is it just me who finds that term offensive?
I checked out the definition at freeonlinedictionary.com, and it seems my negative reaction may be well justified. While there were 15 different descriptions, the first was that a lady is, “a well-mannered and considerate woman with high standards of proper behavior.”
While not offensive, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t describe the available target audience because that would be a pretty small list circ. But wait … there’s more …
Perhaps this particular marketer felt they had a list of women who met one of the other definitions of lady:
- A woman regarded as proper and virtuous.
- A well-behaved young girl.
- A woman who is the head of a household.
- A woman, especially when spoken of or to in a polite way.
- A woman to whom a man is romantically attached.
- A wife.
- A general feminine title of nobility and other rank
- The Virgin Mary. Usually used with Our.
No, I’m fairly confident that none of these applied (unless it was lucky No. 3)—but the most interesting insight was in the Usage note: The attributive use of lady, as in lady doctor, is offensive and outdated. When the sex of the person is relevant, the preferred modifier is woman or female.
Whew … so it wasn’t just in my head!
As marketers, we need to choose our words carefully. Make sure they adequately and accurately express our intended meaning and, most importantly, don’t offend anyone.
Especially us ladies …