Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama: The Sweetie-st Thing

Remember the old days when things were simpler? Remember the days when gas was a dollar a gallon, a good house was 75,000 dollars, and women weren't so uppity? Back then it was okay to call a female secretary or a female co-worker "Sweetie." Those were the days when men could make women feel naive, make them feel like they were less then equals and more like objects. Those were the old days.

What has made those the 'old days' is the progress we as a people have made since then. The old ways of the sexist paternalism that dominated every sphere of public life were abandoned and condemned as a result of the immense social change of the 1960s and 70s. They were disregarded and disreputed because of the lack of respect they bestowed upon our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters.

Today our society recognizes that calling women "sweetie" or "honey" or "baby" degrades them. Besides putting their sex at the forefront, such names take way from female professionalism and more importantly female equality.

Barack Obama recognizes this, yet he has continued to degrade women in this fashion.

On Wednesday May 14 when a female reporter asked Barack Obama a tough question, the front-runner in the Democratic nomination contest brushed it off and made an off-the-cuff remark that will without a doubt hurt him.

The Democratic Senator and most probable Presidential nominee Barack Obama toured a car manufacturing plant in Detroit on Wednesday. His visit was an attempt to appeal to blue-collar voters for the upcoming general election while addressing the failing economy, in particular the fledgling auto industry.

At the event Peggy Agar, a reporter at Detroit's WXYZ-TV, asked Obama: "Senator, how are you going to help the American autoworkers?"

Obama responded hastily with, "Hold on a second, sweetie. We'll hold a press avail." By 'avail' he meant an organized pseudo-press conferance, of which his campaign never held. The video of this exchange can be found here.

Now for those people who view his comment as not offensive, Barack Obama has fully admitted it was and to his credit has apologized for it, as followed up by WXYZ-TV and is posted on their website here. Some may argue that Obama merely apologized solely for the fact that people can be offended by it, but personally sees no harm in calling a female "sweetie." The problem with this argument is that it is common knowledge that such terms are in fact demeaning, not just in the logical implications but in the practical applications. Indeed no one would suggest it would be permissable to call a female employer or a co-worker "sweetie."

Since he has apologized some would then suggest that he made a mistake, he owned up to it, and people should move on, however this was not an isolated incident. For as reported by ABC News Barack Obama has a history of making such derogatory comments:

It apparently is a habit. In an earlier campaign stop, Obama said to a woman, "Sweetie, if I start with a picture I will never get out of here."

And then: "Sweetie if I start doing autographs I just won't be … I am really late."
Barack Obama in repeatedily leveling the term "sweetie" upon women, even in at least knowing some women take offense to it, illustrates he has continually espoused an outdated paternalistic bias and is quite frankly wrong in doing so.


The Grumpy Voter said...

Case of foot in mouth disease. He's still gonna win... I predict Hillary will be gone-con by June 3rd.

Anonymous said...

I think she will lose too. However I don't think she'll drop out around Jun 3rd. I think there's going to be a lot of meetings, one concerning the credentials committe, among others.

Anonymous said...

scott: your right that it is not appropriate to use the term sweetie with anyone other than partners or close friends and family. I would note that the press corps travels with the candidates and they can develop a rapport that can be informal at times. Not sure if this is the case with the sweetie comment but as a feminist I don't think it is worth more than a brief chastisement. I care more about policies than this kind of off-hand remarks.

Anonymous said...

this reenforces what the women have been saying all along, the establishment, the good old boys club, ...
any man but a woman, with the help of the press and its token females of course...

adrian2514 said...

I never knew Obama used sweetie in this context. I support him, and am taken back by his word choice. Thanks for the heads up...hopefully he won't be using this strategy when he's running against McCain. I was browsing through a bunch of political websites and blogs (mostly liberal ones) and I came across your blog and find it to be very interesting. There are a bunch of others I like too, like huff post, and other news sites like politico. Do you know of any that cover politics and the environment? I saw which has mostly environmental info but some politics. I took’s carbon calculator ( It was pretty easy to use (and it doesn’t make me feel guilty after I take it). Are there any other blogs you would recommend? Can you drop me a link to your favorites or any ones with green info?

Anonymous said...

making a big deal over nothing, you're an idiot Scott Ross!

Anonymous said...

Oh, get over it. Here in Texas, I don't get to go a day without being either called "mama" or "muchacha" by every level of service employee. I've also heard of women ranting about being called the more traditional "ma'am." Somebody's form of respect is another person's pet peeve.

(Coming from a girl who calls loved ones "Sweetie.")