Sweetie

When I find out men I admire politically are, well, a bit sexist, it’s alienating. Quite a few are, it turns out, and in my book it lessens them.

It happened once that I approached a respected writer after a talk, he turned to me – a stranger – and said “What, sweety” and I felt diminished enough to under-react. For some politicians and some commentators, feminism and/or women are simply absent and there’s no outreach.

Part of my particular problem is almost certainly my presumed youth. Earlier today I was asked my age when buying beer for the second time in a month. I mean, it was bitter – what under-21 (or is it under-18?) drinks bitter? Maybe I was getting it for my dad… Again, I was so flummoxed I got my own age wrong (not wildly wrong but for some reason I docked two years) and the nearest thing to an age-specific ID I had on me was an old AUT membership card which got me nowhere (these shop assistants are so ignorant – with bitter and an AUT card how young could I be?) A supervisor arrived, peered into my face in front of the watching queue and announced “Yeah, she’s alright”. I gathered my beers and trudged home. It’s not even that I really look young, I just have, what? – a juvenile demeanour.

Presumed youth – you might think it was welcome but it isn’t. Presumed youth creates all kinds of expectations in the presumer. It’s a recipe for being patronised and verbally patted on the head, followed by disillusionment.

So, short of changing the way I look, which I’m not about to do, at my advanced age and retarded gravitas all that’s left is to look for positive role models, women of any age. Eve Garrard is a good one. Up with the pin-ups for Eve. And I’ve started to really enjoy Barbara Ellen’s column in The Observer – it was Barbara Ellen who triggered this post when she wrote (The Observer, News, Opinion, p11, 18th May 2008 )

“Oh, Barack – you can call me sweetie any time.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the clip of Barack Obama saying to a female reporter – “Hold on a second, sweetie.” Interesting. We’ve all been so busy musing on race, we forgot to give Obama a grilling about women. Now, just listen to that ‘sweety’ – could it be that beneath that beautiful skin beats the heart of a casual sexist?

Obama apologised later but it was too late; some of us already had an image of him going home, patting his wife’s behind, and growling: “Where’s my dinner, woman?” which has to be a good thing, especially in the US – it makes him look like a bit of a jock instead of a bloodless liberal. Not to mention an even bigger hit with the ladies.”

Nuh-uh. It doesn’t, in fact. Makes me cringe.

Update: today I received an email from a newish acquaintance who addressed me as a “nice and smat [sic] girl”. Fuck this shit!


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2 thoughts on “Sweetie

  1. It’s not a post-modernist trap. It’s saying that when a prospective president calls a reporter sweetie, it’s arresting. And the reason it’s arresting is because it’s inappropriate. It’s inappropriate because it’s patronising a stranger who is a woman, and because we know that he would never talk to a man like that.

    So, Barak Obama unpleasantly surprised me (and Barbara). Does that mean we’re not going to vote for him? (Yes, because we’re UK citizens).

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