I knew the other day that I needed to post on the "Sweetie" issue because the use of simple everyday words that diminish and oppress women is something I'm quite passionate about. While I enjoy being called Sweetie by my grandfather, and other loved ones, I do not enjoy being called Sweetie, or Beautiful, or Honey by the guy making my sandwich at Subway, or the Metro North train conductor, or especially, an old school exec at Time Warner.
You can argue that words are words, and especially in the case of the old school Time Warner guy that the generational gap here is definitely in play. I might not be as upset if a waitress called me Sweetie when she dropped my check at my table, or the older guy at the corner store where I buy cigarettes and beer when it's been a rough night.
When a term of endearment is used to create an environment of familiarity when that intimacy isn't there, it's wrong. I don't mind my cigarette guy calling me Sweetie, because we talk about baseball, and the weather and my son whenever I stop in. I'm cool with it because I feel a sense of community with him, and similarly with the waitress at the diner down the street. I have definitely been that uppity woman who has said, I'm not your sweetie to random shopkeepers, because I'm not YOUR sweetie. In that moment, that intimacy that is built up over time in a real relationship, or through familial bonds, or through gradual friendship is being forced.
It's also quite dismissive. It's a passive way of unruffling feathers when there's a crisis at hand, such as a mistake in an order, or when a cashier is talking on their cell phone instead of taking your order. To assume that to compliment a woman on her beauty or demeanor will keep her in a submissive state is foolish. I'd also like to point out that Sweetie and Honey are diminishing terms, they don't help edify ones of self, they attempt to stun it into a state of submission and that's bullshit.
While I won't deny that I've witnessed my male friends being called Sweetie at restaurants, I'd like to also point out that that instance occurs so rarely to them that it may in fact not register as something that over time, compounded with the daily weight of walking down sidewalks knowing that most males view you as merely a sex object, could get a little tiring. And remember, when men are labeled with temporary intimate labels they are called EDIFYING terms, like Champ, Chief, Big Guy, and Tough Guy….
I guarantee you, if that had been a male reporter, Obama would not have called her sweetie. He would have stopped to learn his name, which I'm NOT saying he should have done or most likely, adressed the man with an unfamiliar label of respect, probably "sir"…..and you have to agree that the difference between sweetie and sir is pretty extensive.
At the end of the day, being called Sweetie is not the biggest issue I will face as a feminist, but just because there are bigger issues, and this particular one does not mean everything, does not mean that it does not mean anything.