I’m now writing this for a second time. Which is annoying, but anyway. If you know me, or are one of the five people who read this blog, I’m really only game for the occasional feminist rant. I would much rather be spending my time trying to convince you to watch certain TV shows I particularly like (seriously, The Vampire Diaries is way better than it has any right to be. Go check it out – watch a few eps – come back and thank me). But something happened today (well, yesterday at this point) that, over the course of the evening, morphed into something I realized I felt pretty strongly about.
It all started with a Facebook post I made yesterday afternoon:
I fully admit I was being 75% glib when I posted this. I saw the quote, reacted and was trying to be clever on Facebook. Frankly, I’m surprised this behavior doesn’t get me into more ridiculous arguments. One of my Facebook friends commented with “Why? That’s just being friendly.” Now, I’ll interject here that I don’t actually know this guy. We interacted via phone in our previous work lives and interact virtually in our present lives. For all of my interactions with him, he’s a swell guy, so none of this is intended to malign his character. That being said, it took me a while to decide if he was kidding or not. Once I made up my mind that he was most likely serious, I responded by saying that outside of a romantic relationship, I’ve always found being called sweetheart to be more than a little condescending, but that I was willing to recognize that context is a factor and that if the reason Allen called this woman sweetheart truly was just because he was raised in Virginia, then it was possibly a generational difference and/or something Allen and I would have to agree to disagree on (because that’s a conversation a four-star general and I are ever gonna have).
That would have been that, had he not responded with: “It’s common. The Pres called an audience member sweetheart once and he’s not from the south. I’ve been called that from females. Not a big deal.”
Well, it wasn’t, but now it kinda is. At this point, I’m uncoupling this issue from the whole Allen/Patraeus fiasco and choosing to address this statement and what I think it is, on its own. What I think it is, is an illustration of what someone calling me sweetheart is – condescending. First, just because it’s common doesn’t make it ok. Second, just because the President says it, doesn’t mean I agree/think it’s ok (and I voted for the guy…Crimmins/Carney family, please direct all of your comments below). Third, there is a significant difference between a man being called sweetheart by a (non familial/non significant other) woman and a woman being called sweetheart by a man. It’s patronizing and a throwback to an era when women were relegated to the typing pool and fetching coffee. You may as well also start calling me “little lady.” I’m willing to grant that it may not always be intentional, and depending on who it is (mostly sweet little old men), I’m willing to put up with it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t grate.
BUT, what really got me spun up was the last comment – “Not a big deal.” Again, it wasn’t, but now it is. It’s a big deal, that this person is seemingly chalking up what I thought was a fairly civil conversation to feminist hysteria. He’s essentially telling me that I need to calm down – when I wasn’t even really that worked up to begin with. More than either of those things, it invalidates my opinion, and really, that’s what all of this boils down to – opinion. If you like being called sweetheart, then that’s great! Just let me know and I’ll try to work it into the conversation, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and I reserve the right to say so (although I’ve only ever told one person to stop calling me sweetheart and that was because he also annoyed me in general). Ultimately, calling me sweetheart is not a big deal. It’s definitely not a hill I’m willing to die on, but that’s a decision I reserve the right to make on my own.
All of this to say – please don’t call me sweetheart (unless you’re an adorable old man or family). Also, you really really should check out the ridiculousness that is The Vampire Diaries. THAT really is a big, awesome deal.