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Doris Day’s most important quote is still hugely relevant today

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Sarah Shaffi
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Doris Day

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Doris Day was best known for her music and her “girl-next-door” roles in films such as Calamity Jane and Pillow Talk.

Day, who has died this week at the age of 97, spent 20 years acting in films opposite actors like Rock Hudson, Clark Gable and James Stewart, before starring for five years in her own sitcom, The Doris Day Show.

But behind the singer and actress was a steely-eyed feminist, one whose words are still relevant today.

And one of Day’s most famous quotes neatly sums up the way men and women are seen.

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“If a man does something silly, people say, ‘isn’t he silly?’” Day said. “If a woman does something silly, people say, ‘aren’t women silly?’”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Despite the steps taken towards gender parity in recent years - from Scotland’s radical gender equality plans to a study that shows attitudes to gender equality are improving - there is still a lot to do.

And one of the things that needs to change is for the actions of one individual woman to stop being seen as representative of all women. 

Doris Day on the set of Please Don't Eat the Daisies in 1960.
Doris Day on the set of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies in 1960. 

This can be clearly be seen somewhere like Hollywood, where female film directors have historically rarely been given big-budget films to direct, and when they are the stakes are high.

That was the case with Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins. Jenkins took over the job from Michelle MacLaren, who stepped down due to “creative differences” with Warner Bros. Speaking to MTV about MacLaren, film director Lexi Alexander said that there was “no room for failure granted for women”.

If Wonder Woman had failed - and thank goodness it didn’t - we likely wouldn’t have seen a woman direct a superhero film for at least the next decade. Imagine a man being held to the same standards. That’s right, you can’t, because he wouldn’t.

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We can also see something similar in politics, particularly in the UK. Margaret Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister in the UK, was one of the most controversial leaders we’ve had, and her legacy is still widely debated today. Thatcher disliked feminism and is (rightly) criticised for her contribution to the growing social unrest that characterised the Eighties.

Some argue that Thatcher is the reason the UK took so long to vote in another female prime minister (Theresa May in 2017, although she became prime minister without a vote in 2016). Yet we’ve continued to vote men into power, in spite of their faults - Tony Blair led us into a war which has since been described as unjustified, yet male leaders were voted in after him, and we doubt David Cameron’s presiding over the Brexit vote will mean we don’t see another male prime minister for 30 years.

It’s a classic case of “if a man does something silly”, just on a much bigger scale. Day was really onto something.

Images: Getty, Hulton Archive/Getty

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Sarah Shaffi

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