CA Senator Barbara Boxer scolded Gen. Michael Walsh for calling her “ma’am”, and insisted that he call her “Senator” because she worked hard for the job and she earned the title.
Is this similar to when everyone in the military was called “sir,” regardless of gender? Like looking for a gender-neutral pronoun, like referring to everyone as Plaintiff or It? “Sir” was the military’s attempt to show female officers respect. The obvious problem though was that the address disrespected everyone by referring to half the soldiers incorrectly. Sir? It would be like having someone call you “Kathy” every day. Maybe it’s more formal than “Kat,” but it’s still simply wrong. I understand having worked hard to earn respect. “Ma’am” is a respectful, position-neutral title. Even with doctors, polite reference might include both Dr. Jones, and ma’am.
I’ve been totally obsessed with gender lately, but this kind of thing, combined w/ the Letterman-Palin fiasco and the email I received from a feminist site addressing “why men don’t call,” has really…jumped the feminist shark. We have bigger fish to fry. The Lilly Ledbetters of the world might simply start negotiating salary. Otherwise, turning everything into a “gender issue” invites references to Freud’s anti-hysteria device. Get a grip, ladies, and focus in a feminine way on those issues that supersede gender. Problems with Iran may, for instance, touch on girlie issues (at least inasmuch as how Iranian men treat women), but rather than cry feminism we should just bring a womanly touch to foreign policy. Not in the Hilary Clinton “I married a man whose favor you should curry” way, but in a “let’s look at the long-term possibility of a sustainable relationship” way.
Artificially making everything a “women’s issue” simply perpetuates a sort of non-rigorous sex version of the critical race theory. Indiscriminate issue-making doesn’t solve anything, it only makes separatists of us all. Fry the bigger fish! Send back the catches not worth reeling in! Focus on the disrespectful media, and do it wearing a well-cut blouse, not relying on coquettishness to charm the anchor. But please don’t waste women’s time by asking “why he won’t call.”
Finally, I’ve written before about how annoyed I get when women act in an archetypical way and then fret about being treated in accordance w/ the decade (or century) whose archetype they’ve chosen to embody. Perhaps I’m projecting, because I’ve lately fallen into an intellectually lazy trap of blaming gender for being occasionally shy or reluctant to – as my Crim Law prof says – Speak Up! I’m torn among two unattractive options: Is it lazier for a woman to blame her gender, i.e., I just like color, black clothes are boring, I will wear what I want and objectifying men can go to hell? OR is it worse to take the Iranian standpoint: Men are animals, and they can’t help themselves – if I don’t cover my arms and legs and hair then I’ve effectively invited any “impure” thoughts about me he may have. The latter reminds me of the Salem Witch Trials – You had impure thoughts about a woman not your wife? The object of those thoughts must be…a witch! Burn her!
Which option is less attractive? To be called “ma’am” and remember that you’re different from those called “sir,” or to be called “Senator” and denounce all of those major benefits accrued by having those qualities affiliated w/ “ma’am”? This is a great lot of neo-feminist gibberish I realize, but I really don’t know which option represents the fry pan and which the fire.
See also this fantastic article: Sexism Against Conservative Women Is Still Sexism.