Friday, June 1, 2018

"Let me call you sweetheart, dammit!"... when men mansplain...

You tell 'em, Tootsie!

A few months ago, I ran across a very interesting article on Psychology Today's Web site.  The piece, written by a freelance writer named Susan Hooper, is entitled "Please Don't Call Me 'Hon'!".  If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you may already know how I feel about being called cutesy pet names.  "Hon" and "sweetie" are two pet names I especially dislike.  I find it really disrespectful and condescending when someone, particularly a person I either don't know or am trying to do business with, decides to call me that.

I enjoyed Ms. Hooper's article on many levels.  She and I have a few things in common.  She's multi-degreed, like I am.  She is a writer, like I am.  And she's also a singer, like I am.  Just like me, she's struggled to have other people take her seriously.  Many people in my family treat me like a child.  It's gotten somewhat better since I moved out of the country and hit my forties, but for a long time, people close to me both expected me to take care of myself and treated me with disrespect, even when I rose to the occasion.

Even though I grew up in the South, I don't generally find cutesy pet names endearing or friendly.  No matter how many times people tell me I'm oversensitive or need to get over it, I can't.  In fact, telling me to "get over it" is a sure way to piss me off even more.  To me, it's rude for someone to call me by a name other than the one I use when I introduce myself.  Of course, Bill gets a pass, since we're married.  He calls me "darlin'" and I love it.  But I also love him.  He could call me an asshole and I probably wouldn't mind.  Conversely, I don't have warm and fuzzy feelings toward some stranger on the street who calls me "darlin'".  In fact, I think that would be creepy.

Anyway, I have ranted about this subject plenty of times, so there's no need to rehash it now.  What I do want to discuss are the comments on Ms. Hooper's article.  I found them fascinating.  

 This morning, I got notified that some new comments had been posted on Ms. Hooper's post.  I wasn't going to read them, since I had a feeling they would piss me off.  I had long forgotten about the article, anyway.  But then I decided I might as well check them out, since I have nothing better to do today.  To my surprise, the comments that appeared this morning were supportive.  Other comments that were left after I left my response were much more hostile and dismissive.  I noticed a lot of people were engaging in personal attacks toward those who object to being called "hon".  

Tip of the iceberg... 

Above, you can see one comment I posted, along with a hostile retort from a man named Nick Pagano.  He says I'm "insecure", but doesn't elaborate as to how he came to that conclusion.  "Mr. Nick", as I will call him because I think he's a dickhead, left similarly shitty responses to all of the other people who agreed with Ms. Hooper that calling people you don't know "Hon" is a highly objectionable habit.  I'm sure Mr. Nick's intent was to troll.  I doubt someone with his lack of intellect could thoughtfully consider a viewpoint that rivals his.

I couldn't resist responding to Mr. Nick one more time, though...

What was more concerning to me were the longer comments left by men.  They were almost all left for women who don't like being called cutesy pet names, and quite a few of them ventured into "mansplaining" territory.  You know the term "mansplain", right?  If you're a woman, you've probably been "mansplained" to a at least a couple of times.  For those who don't know the term, "mansplain" is defined thusly:

This is actually a fairly new word.  It was added to Merriam-Webster's Web site in March of this year.

In one heated comment thread, a woman named Samantha thoughtfully explained why she related to Ms. Hooper's article.  She got a response from a man named Spencer, who promptly "mansplained" to her.  As I was reading Spencer's comments, I was even thinking to myself that he was "mansplaining" and psychoanalyzing this person he didn't know.  In her next comment, Samantha called out Spencer for "mansplaining", which seemed to hurt his feelings somewhat.

Sorry, this is long... but I think Spencer's comments are a perfect representation of mansplaining.  Samantha thoughtfully explains her views and Spencer decides she needs to be schooled.

But I will admit that I was a little prejudiced against Spencer, because he responded in a similarly condescending way to another female poster.  See below.

While I understand that it's very tempting to psychoanalyze people-- I do it myself sometimes-- I'm not sure how Mr. Wendt can ascertain with such conviction what the first poster meant or what her comment was "about".  He sounds a bit defensive.  Perhaps he's a chief offender.

I don't understand why it's so upsetting to some people that others don't like being called by pet names.  Why would you criticize someone for being annoyed about being called "hon" or "sweetie"?  Why is it any skin off your back to simply resolve to address people by the name they prefer?  To me, it makes little sense to call a stranger by a pet name. How do you even know they're "sweet"?  For all you know, that woman you're calling "hon" might be the world's biggest fishwife.

Let me put it this way.  "Hon" and "sweetie" and their ilk are usually "terms of endearment".  They are supposed to be comforting.  But if you would call a perfect stranger "sweetie" or "hon", you'd call anyone that.  So really, as a term of endearment, "hon" and "sweetie" mean nothing if they are used for anyone and everyone.  There's nothing comforting about being called a pet name by an unfamiliar person.  In fact, it's pretty rude, at least in my opinion.  I see, from this article, that I'm not the only one who feels this way.  That doesn't make me or anyone else self-absorbed, narcissistic, or insecure.  In fact, I think people who feel entitled enough to bestow unwanted pet names on other people are self-absorbed and narcissistic.  

It's about having basic respect for others.  If you have it for other people, you care about not being offensive to them, especially when they tell you you're being offensive.  It's as simple as that.  No mansplaining required.  


  1. I think nearly all women in the medical profession deal with the issues you've described. I'm highly offended by it and usually speak up about it under most circumstances.

    I occasionally have the issue of dealing with supervising attending physicians here who have known me since I was born. One of them, in fact, though he didn't personally deliver me (my dad took me out, but the attending OBGYN was the lead surgeon for the Caesarean section procedure when we were born) was my mom's OBGYN. Sometimes these particular men and even one of the ladies who was my neonatologist when I was born refer to me as "Sweetie" or "Honey. " It's not blatant in my opinion in the cases of the older physicians who have known me since it legitimately was appropriate for them to refer to me with those terms. Sometimes the men apologize if they realize they've addressed me in that way. (The female neonatologist has never corrected herself or apologized.) Most of the time, however, they seem unaware that they've done it.

    This is really a situation that I will only have to worry about here, where I'm somewhat surrounded by physicians who have known me since birth. I've chosen to let it slide when it's the doctors who knew me as a baby or young child. The dickhead resident who fractured my malleolus with his laptop charger mistakenly thought that because the older physicians who were longtime friends of my father sometimes called me "Sweetie" or "Honey," it was perfectly acceptable for him to do the same. A few other male residents and even medical students made the same mistake.

    Some would say I shouldn't even have tolerated the form of address from my father's friends. I decided that it wasn't a particular war I wanted to wage. I wasn't putting up with it from near-contemporaries, though.

    Most of them backed off with the first suggestion that I was offended. Few people want to be on the receiving end of a sexual harassment charge. The dickhead had to have it spelled out for him.

  2. I think it would especially annoy me if I were in your shoes.


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