Last week Senator and Presidential hopeful Barack Obama called one of our local reporters Peggy Agar “sweetie”. Here’s a look at what happened…
While some have dismissed this comment as playful (one woman on a local radio show thought it was cool), others have found it a bit offensive. I for one was a little surprised to hear such a familiar tone taken with a complete stranger. I found it condescending.
Let me be clear this is by NO MEANS a political commentary. (So all you Obama-bots and Hillary-heads step off.) I am focusing on the sexist comments of a man to a woman. I’m sure that Mr. Obama was without mal intent. But that doesn’t excuse it.
As a woman whose previous life was in the a very conservative and male dominated corporate world of commercial insurance, I dealt with this sort of language all the time. I had my boss hit on me and a co-worker tell me that he had a sex dream about me. In response to such behavior, women face a tricky situation. You grin and bear it, otherwise, some women feel that they will be labeled a “feminazi” or not a team player, or you firmly let the offender know that his banter or behavior is inappropriate.
I had a conversation on a similar topic with my girlfriends a couple of weeks ago, and one friend is struggling with a man new to supervisory duties, who treats her like a “woman”. By that I mean, he opens doors for her (including the car door at one point) and talks to her differently than his male reports.
I’m really interested to know your experiences and how you dealt with them. What do you think about using familiar language (honey, sweetie, babe) in a formal or business situation? Have you ever been reprimanded for using these sort of endearments with male inferiors in business? What is the line?