Thursday, February 28, 2013

The "Honey/Sweetie" Debate

I read this Dear Prudence chat on Monday. One of the letters is about a woman who's peeved since her husband, who hails from the South, calls longtime friends, co-workers, other men's wives & waitresses "sweetheart" or "sweetie." Too many people commenting on there apparently consider calling them such things in the workplace (outside of retail or the food service industry) tantamount to lighting dog poop on fire or shoving a thousand TPS reports in someone's face.

Looks like some people need a serious education. First off, the South. In the South, it is a term of politeness & kindness to use "sweetie," "honey," and the like. Oftentimes, it's gender neutral but sometimes it's directly applied to women. This is part of what is known as "Southern hospitality" and "being a polite Southern gentleman."

People live in many different places. Southerners move to the North and Northerners move to the South. Culture clashes are inevitable.

Second, the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is more informal. All sorts of names fly in my business. I've heard "babe," "honey," "sweetheart," "girl," "dear," and probably more I can't think of right now. Personal space is very different; you'd better like being hugged, especially if you're a woman, or you're going to be looked at funny if you go to an industry event, mingle and then get belligerent if someone hugs you to say "hello." Usually that's with people you already met but sometimes that happens with people you're meeting for the first time. Some people are huggers; my family wasn't shy about such things so it's never been an issue with me. Nor did I read nefarious intent into such things.

Before I say what I'm going to say, let me make clear that I don't condone acting like Dabney Coleman's character in Nine to Five in such an address. There is a context issue involved here. These people DO understand tone of voice, situational context, and so forth, right?

Seeing that letter just triggered a response & here it is: lighten up!!!

Do me a serious favor; if you are the sort of person who gets into a faux feminist outrage because someone referred to you as "sweetheart" in the workplace, stay the hell out of the entertainment industry. You will spend all of your time being offended and never get anything done. In fact, you're probably going to be viewed as a PC obsessed maniac everyone has to walk on tip-toes around. Entertainment people have too much stress and too many things to do to worry about not offending some PC obsessed maniac who's going to correct everyone's language, use the word "ableist" (a term I absolutely hate & think the creator should be punished for creating), and be a real life stick in the mud with zero sense of humor just looking for something to be offended over.

The entertainment business is not for sticks in the mud who have no sense of humor. None of us want to be around that; I sure don't, anyway. Especially people who just look for things to be offended over instead of actually improving themselves.

When reading all these responses to that letter, I agreed with one person who said that if it offends you YOU need to say "Please call me [your preferred term of address]." Acting like "sweetie/honey/dear" is the equivalent of "bitch" is not going to win you points at work. Crying about it & not speaking to the offender directly sure doesn't impress me or make me have sympathy for you.

Perhaps my opinion is a function of working in my industry. It probably is. I'm much harder to offend. I've been called "dear" but that pisses my husband off more than me. If you're not referring to me by a racial slur or as "Red," (it's a pejorative term to natural redheads, thank you; "Ginger" will be fine since then I'll figure you're referencing the Gilligan's Island character & I'll take it as a compliment--I'd have been fine with that over "carrot top" & "red") we aren't going to have problems. I'm the sort of person who prefers "Paleface" to "White: Non-Hispanic." Generally, I mark "Other/Prefer Not to Respond" when asked about race.

Tone is also a concern. Offend me with your tone & you'll have to call me "Counselor" or use the "Esquire" after my last name.

We also refer to people in the South as Mr./Ms. [their first name]. This usually comes with women like Miss Jessica or Ms. Maggie. The women aren't always older or school teachers; my sorority sisters & I even referred to each other as Miss [woman's first name] sometimes.

My feelings can be summed up by the words of one commenter: this person said righteous indignation should be saved for serious issues, not trifling mess like this.

If you ask me, making a big production because your boss called you "sweetie" at work when he does that to everyone undermines the progress of women & their credibility at work. You make all women look unhinged and you make it into a far bigger issue than it should be. If it offends you, deal with the offender right away. Keep correcting the person & if they do it in a nasty tone, don't take it.

But...if there's no malice, lewdness or sanctimony behind it, you make it impossible for women to get ahead. You get us labeled as oversensitive crybabies who can't handle pressure or responsibility. I don't need the overly sensitive PC crybabies coloring other people's perceptions of me. You make life more complicated than it has to be and it can ruin the functionality of business.

Imagine a film set where one of these types is working. Would you want your film crew or your director censoring themselves over a 12+ hour day to guard the fragile sensibilities of this sort of special snowflake?

Oh, and for the people who say "You don't live in the South NOW; adapt to us!" would you mind telling that to all the foreign language speakers who refuse to learn English? I know the average NYC liberal wouldn't get that connection but maybe you shouldn't be telling Southerners to change their mannerisms if you aren't telling illegals to learn English or get out of this country. Same difference.

If you can't handle your own issues, don't expect the world to kowtow to you. You're an idiot if you think that's going to happen in this lifetime. Either deal with them or shut up & please leave the PC obsessiveness at home.

Personally, I like "sweetie darling" from Absolutely Fabulous. At one point, my mother was calling us "sweetie darling." I feel like it's gender neutral & the context of it was funny in the show. Edina asks her daughter when it started & Saffon says "It started because you couldn't remember my name for the first 2 years."

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