Ladies and Gentlemen: Survey & Report

June 8, 2021

The Main Characteristics of A Well-Rounded Person – luomo universal

In his book The Courtier, Baldassare Castiglione speaks of the qualities of both a lady and a gentleman as per the renaissance period. This book was written in the 1500s thus implying that the characters expressed defined what being a lady or a gentleman meant back then. These traits are discussed below staring with those of a gentleman.

According to Baldassare Castiglione, a gentleman must have quite a large number of traits both with regards to his breeding and demeanor. These include:

  1. Well born, from a good stock implying good parentage;
  2. Lean structure, implying well built with broad shoulders and thick muscles to show his physical advantage;
  3. Well spoken, in that they can manipulate words to impress a crowd;
  4. Good reasoning, implying wise in all matters from politics to science and anything else;
  5. Successful in whatever they do, implying perfection at all times;
  6. Physically fit, in that they are able to exert themselves into all kinds of sporting activities with ease and manage to look effortless;
  7. Handsome and well groomed at all times;
  8. Honest, and yet polite as well as gentle and modest when interacting with women;
  9. Well versed with all the liberal arts in that they can paint, play a musical instrument, sing and dance with ease;
  10. Should be able to hunt, run and be a good horseman;
  11. With regards to the lady, Castiglione shows the same level of expectation by stating that the expected traits include;
  12. Well born, from a good house implying a good upbringing
  13. Shapely and attractive for her man;
  14. Well spoken, in that they speak sweetly and have a good utterance;
  15. Good reasoning, implying wise in all matters from politics to science and anything else;
  16. Physically fit, in that they are able to exert themselves into all kinds of sporting activities with ease and manage to look effortless;
  17. Beautiful and well groomed at all times;
  18. Honest, and yet polite as well as respectful when addressing men;
  19. Well versed with all the liberal arts in that they can paint, play a musical instrument, sing and dance with ease;
  20. Should be able to take care of a home with a man and children;
  21. Discrete and graceful in all that she does;

The Survey

The survey was aimed at establishing which of the identified characteristics are relevant for a gentleman or lady of today. The participants were required to check the relevant traits out of a list of all the characteristics depending on their expectations of a lady or a gentleman today.

Table of Results

1. For the Gentleman
CharacteristicsApprovals out of the 10 polled
Well born, from a good stock implying good parentage2
Lean structure, implying well built with broad shoulders and thick muscles to show his physical advantage4
Well spoken, in that they can manipulate words to impress a crowd6
Good reasoning, implying wise in all matters from politics to science and anything else7
Successful in whatever they do, implying perfection at all times5
Physically fit, in that they are able to exert themselves into all kinds of sporting activities with ease and manage to look effortless5
Handsome and well groomed at all times8
Honest, and yet polite as well as gentle and modest when interacting with women8
Well versed with all the liberal arts in that they can paint, play a musical instrument, sing and dance with ease4
Should be able to hunt, run and be a good horseman1

These results show that the definition of a gentleman has not changed by much except that one does not have to come from a good family or be of good parentage, neither do they have to hunt, run or be good horsemen. Otherwise there still is a steep expectation for one to qualify as a gentleman in todays society, just as could have been said back then (Sayre, 2012). These traits may not affect the quality of ones life as they did back then but they certainly affect their ratings especially amongst their peers.

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2. For the Lady
CharacteristicsApprovals out of the 10 polled
Well born, from a good house implying a good upbringing4
Shapely and attractive for her man7
Well spoken, in that they speak sweetly and have a good utterance5
Good reasoning, implying wise in all matters from politics to science and anything else8
Physically fit, in that they are able to exert themselves into all kinds of sporting activities with ease and manage to look effortless7
Beautiful and well groomed at all times8
Honest, and yet polite as well as respectful when addressing men4
Well versed with all the liberal arts in that they can paint, play a musical instrument, sing and dance with ease5
Should be able to take care of a home with a man and children4
Discrete and graceful in all that she does2

The social constructions of a lady also seem to have stood the test of time. So many centuries later, women are still being judged by the way they talk to the men and how they look too. While there is not as much pressure to be a lady today as there was back then, the appreciation that one gets for qualifying as a lady implies that it is an aspiration that most mothers would still pass on to their daughters. Many other things have taken precedence over being a lady, like professions for example. These have not however eliminated the insatiable need for the womenfolk to gain the approval of their male counterparts. It is after all still a mans world just as it was in the 1500s.

Findings

Out of the ten individuals polled for this survey, there were five men and five women. With regards to their age, all of these individuals were above the age of 21 and were all working in various professional fields. Most of the traits as put forward by Castiglione were approved by the participants except for the issue of good parentage, hunting, running and good horsemanship for a gentleman and discretion and gracefulness for the lady (Cohen, 2008). This is surprising in that although there was not a complete consensus that all these traits are relevant today, the fact that a sizeable portion of the sampled persons agreed to a larger extent may imply that the definition of a lady or a gentleman has not changed much.

Discussion

Being a lady or a gentleman for that matter depends on the social constructions of the idealized gender roles within a given society (McKenzie, 2000). During Castigliones time, gender roles were quite clear. The men were the leaders, with women taking the back seat and only laboring behind the scenes to support their husbands, brothers and fathers. This is why they were brought up to look pretty, take care of the home and speak in a way that entertained not only her spouse but also his friends. A man was not only judged by his ability to accumulate wealth and political affluence but also by his ability to find a beautiful and yet functional wife (Sayre, 2012). Their traits are thus tailored towards earning the respect of their colleagues and not the women, unlike the women, whose traits are geared towards impressing the men and their company.

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The society at this time can be said to have been unfair, by limiting the women to the role of subordinates and more of objects for the entertainment of the men. This is a very reductionist perception that I strongly disagree with. Over 500 years later, the perceptions do not seem to have changed much even as we boast of a society in which gender equality may be a reality (Plazy, 2001). Without intending to, the society is still stuck at the gender roles construction phase of gender equality. Having four out of ten people judging a lady by their ability to take care of a home with a man and children speaks volumes in terms of what a woman represents even in todays society with all the talks and literature on gender roles and equality.

When defining ladies and gentlemen from a 1500s perspective, Castiglione may have drawn his inspiration from the historical era within which he lived. This means that the traits listed in The Courtier were expected of both the gentlemen and the ladies at the time. Today, one may not be expected to have all those traits, but they are likely to be more appreciated if they possess them. That makes most, if not all of these characteristics relevant to todays ladies and gentlemen. There are of course the obvious alterations such as men no longer have to be good horsemen and women do not really need to exhibit as much discretion and gracefulness as they did back then. But mostly, the lady remains defined by how she speaks and carries herself with respect to the men in her life while a gentleman is one who impresses his masculine companions with his wit and physique as well as his success.