20 May 2008

Yes, Sweetie is a Medium Deal

I've been mulling the whole "sweetie" incident over the past few days and I've come to the conclusion it's kind of a big deal. Not a feeding frenzy Big Deal or a campaign-derailing Big Deal, but a good teaching moment. I think Broadsheet nailed it:

Someone could call a professional woman "sweetie" and mean it in an avuncular, affectionate, non-harming way -- the way Barack Obama no doubt meant to deploy it. But just because a word is not meant as an offense, does not mean that it isn't diminishing, paternalistic and disrespectful.

I have no doubt that Obama will do good things for working families and the working poor (who are disproportionately women), and this in no way diminishes that. Policies and ideology are more important, in terms of choosing a candidate, than personal quirks and imperfections. But, just like I correct anyone who says, "That's gay," in my presence, the point should be made that perpetuating even unconscious sexism ought to be avoided.