Monday, 1 January 2001

Don't call me Sweetheart

by Arlene, Blondie Boy's Grandma

The power of words – well for starters there are few more devastating weapons or ones more capable of inflicting lasting damage.

As a feminist – however aging! – it makes my blood boil to hear language used as a mechanism to objectify and denigrate women. My particular quibble is with the pejorative use of terms of endearment. How often are the words “love” and “sweetheart” accompanied by a sarcastic tone to indicate that a woman’s viewpoint is irrelevant. Call me “love” if you mean it and what’s more, don’t call me “love” or “darling “ if you don’t know me.

On the positive side and with my mum’s hat on, I like to think of words as way of empowering children, of making them know they are loved, capable, valuable human beings. I hate to be in a supermarket and overhear a parent telling a child not to be so stupid. The very least our children deserve from us are kind and positive words; words of reassurance which build their confidence and let them know they can achieve anything.

If my own children are able to say that they know they are loved then I am right about the power of words. However, reading this, they might say, “For God’s sake, Mum!” Did I mention the power of words to embarrass?


Melaina25 said...

I *so* completely agree. It really annoys me when people call me "hen."

I know it can be a term of endearment, but it can be so condescending especially when the person doesn't know you.

It especially annoys me when a man uses such a term in a professional setting. Do you ever hear a man call another man "doll" or "sweetheart" in a business meeting?

Anonymous said...

Hah! I just KNEW she would mention 'hen'. I hate being called 'the American Swallowing Wifey'. I want, as you do, to hear more words being used to build rather than pull down, destroy, denigrate...

Allyson said...

I get a lot of "honey" and "babe" at work....a couple of times I have told the old men that I didn't know them well enough for such a term of endearment.

Kate said...

As feeble as it sounds, I am perfectly prepared to let an older generation (read my uncles, aunts because they do it too, great uncles and whatever - even my sister in laws parents!) call me sweetie, doll or even hen. I think of it as a respect thing on my part and a love thing on theirs. There's moments when I just deal.

However, if ANYONE did that to me at work, or in a situation when I had some authority or control - like looking after my god-kids or Blondie Boy - I'd have an issue. Yes I get that some people do it with affection but seriously. I am a grown-up. And in some cases I'm better than you. Not often, but I am somebody's superior, client and advisor. I work in an industry that's 85% male dominated just for the record. Therefore, I want the respect you would show anyone else (read a male).

Long-winded and slightly apologetic but it's what I think.

P.S. You win Mum. We know how much you love us (Rye included) and you couldn't have done a better job man, woman or hen.

Jewels said...

Well said, Moms! My husband tends to use nicknames like these with women who work for him. He gets it from his dad, but I've tried to tell him it is annoying. *sigh*

On another note, I agree about being careful with our words around kids. I hear myself say things sometimes, and I think "Was that necessary?" Blech.

Thanks for sharing with us!