As a known, strong and continued Obama supporter, I would just like to say:
[The video on the linked page is no longer available. This one should work fine.]
First of all, good for the reporter for calling out Obama’s totally inappropriate and disrespectful word choice.
Secondly: WTF Barry?
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been called some sort of “cute” feminine pet name by a man. As someone who spent a long time in customer service, including 10 months at a hardware store, it happened a lot. Customers, coworkers, bosses and totally random guys have all done it. Sweetie, Honey, Darling, Dear. Over and over again. Often, in the same tone that Obama used — totally absentminded, as though they didn’t even realize they were doing it.
But I noticed. The reporter here noticed. The fact that he (maybe) didn’t notice doesn’t make it okay, nor does it make it any less sexist or condescending.
I’d like to prevent this from going where I think it’s going to go: someone calls Obama a sexist pig and says that this is proof of why Clinton should be the nominee, someone else then calls Clinton a racist and says that her racist campaigning is proof of why Obama should be our nominee, and then we all end up yelling, getting our feelings hurt, hating each other and looking like assholes. I’m not posting this so that we can do that — I’m posting it because I think that we can and should criticize candidates who we otherwise support, and that this criticism is what forces them to be better.
And personally, I think there’s more than enough to discuss here without going down that road. I also know that I’m also being incredibly optimistic in suggesting that. But here’s something else to talk about:
When in this situation, what do you do?
I always cringe. Not knowing what else to do, I used to smile tensely. Then, I started refusing to make eye contact with them. Once, a guy — who was about my age, btw — called me “doll.” Since it was an overtly feminine word and one that he couldn’t mistake for actually being affectionate towards him, I decided to see how he liked it and called him “doll” right back (he didn’t like it). I don’t work in customer service anymore (or at least not currently), but towards the end of my last stint, I would just stare them blankly in the face. I figured that if they were going to make me uncomfortable, I could do it right back. Staring and waiting for them to break eye contact first is a great trick . . . I don’t know if they necessarily always got why I was displeased, but I do know that they rarely fucked with me again. I think that once or twice I pointed to my name tag and said “My name is Cara, you can call me that.” If I’m on equal footing with the person — in a social situation, not a boss or customer, and so on — I will simply tell them flat out that they are to call me by my name and nothing else.
I can’t say that I’m incredibly certain about the effectiveness of any of these tactics. So, what do you do? Do you have a trick (or know someone else who does)? And have you ever had a man in your life who referred to women in this way, and found a way to effectively get him to stop?
As for Senator Obama, I obviously really, really hope that it doesn’t happen again. But I won’t hesitate to call him out if it does. I did already use his website to write a very polite note of concern. I’m sure that it can’t hurt for you to do the same.