Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sweetie and the Silly Season

So Sen. Obama off-handedly calls a reporter "sweetie" when telling her to wait a moment to answer a question, which he ended up not answering at all. To add to that, the senator has called other women sweetie at times. Now it doesn't appear as if the reporter in question is all that terribly upset, but the rest of the media is kicking the story around for some reason.
Honestly, I don't know why this momentary event required Sen. Obama to issue an apology. On one level there is a degree of sexism you can read into the comment. But on an entirely other level is the everyday mannerisms of a mid-western man showing his respect and acknowledgment of the reporter's gender. Now I've been known to call some of my female friends "dear" on occasion, particularly when I'm trying to get a point across. It's one part use of ethos and one part being from Dallas that directs me to the word "dear" versus "sweetie" but the intention is the same.
I don't believe that the comment was intended as any form of slander or to demean the reporter. If Sen. Obama wishes to apologize for it then that is his business. And if the reporter has taken offense to the comment then I can understand that as well. I one time called a female friend "dear" and was sharply rebuked for it, but only because she didn't get what I meant by the term. That reaction is a sort of knee-jerk feminism. However, it isn't the same as calling a black man "boy" or black people "those people". Terms such as those still carry with them the derision and racism of the past. So, while the furor over the comment is partially reasonable from certain perspectives, I don't think Sen. Obama was being anything but polite.