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Posted at 5:15 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Let the men handle it! Ron Franklin, Antonin Scalia, and sweetcakes

By Alexandra Petri

ron franklin.jpg

Ron Franklin, the ESPN commentator who famously addressed Jeanne Edwards as "sweetcakes," (or "sweet baby," depending on your source) has been fired.

(Image via ESPN)

The exchange was an interesting one. Discussing politics -- the wife of announcer Rod Gilmore had just been elected mayor of Alameda, California -- Franklin responded to a comment from Edwards with, "Why don't you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes?" Edwards told Franklin not to call her sweetcakes. He replied: "OK, then, a**hole.""

What intrigued me most about this episode was how overt it was. In the 21st century, people don't wander around calling women "sweetcakes" and "sweetheart," unless they're in some sort of contractual relationship.

Pastry-based terms of demeaning endearment are very much out of vogue. Cupcake? Muffin? Sweetie Pie? Not for decades.

So when Ron Franklin actually used one of those terms, it seemed almost as though he had leaped out of a time machine from the 1950s.

Nowadays, overt sexism is a relic. You don't say, "Oh, the little woman can't handle it." Instead you say, "Women are more emotional than men."

You don't say, "Why don't you leave this to the boys, sweetcakes?" Instead you say, "America isn't ready for a female president."

But what has changed between now and then? The sentiment, or just the expression?

On the whole, women are doing well. We have more jobs than men. We attain higher levels of education. When given the choice of male or female offspring, people at fertility clinics overwhelmingly choose females.

But the shadow lurks. Just this week, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that there is no constitutional protection -- in his view -- against discrimination on the basis of gender. And, in other news, Ron Franklin called Jeannine Edwards "sweetcakes," then "a**hole."

Is this really what exists beneath the surface?

Is "sweetcakes" or "a**hole" the binary? If you look at the portrayal of women in the news over the past few years, maybe it is. As that SNL sketch made clear, Sarah Palin? Sweet baby. Hillary Clinton? A**hole.

One of the most striking things about Sarah Palin is that even the people who take her seriously don't seem to take her seriously. When I wrote about her dessert war with Michelle Obama, multiple commenters responded with some variant of "yes, but Sarah's pretty." Sweetcakes. It's the kind of apparent praise that demeans. And if a woman won't submit to it -- well, there's a seven-letter word for that.

But obnoxious as this kind of remark may be, it's at least open. At least in these remarks it's clear that Ron Franklin was personally saying something demeaning about women. Increasingly, this sort of work is delegated elsewhere -- to the vast and impersonal "America." "America" doesn't care about women's sports. America is not ready for a woman president. America doesn't think sexism is a problem in the workforce. If someone calls us "sweetcakes" or "sweetheart," we get up in arms immediately. But when Justice Scalia says there is no protection against gender discrimination in the Constitution, it's harder to object. When Scalia implies that it might just be all men who are created equal, he doesn't add, "leave this to the boys, sweetcakes."

But it's there.

By Alexandra Petri  | January 5, 2011; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Epic Failures, Petri, That's awkward  | Tags:  Sarah Palin, muffins, sex, supreme court  
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Newsflash, Scalia is correct. There is no protection against gender discrimination in the U.S. Constitution. Remember the Equal Right Amendment push that failed. That was an attempt to "amend" the U.S. constitution. So, before you take an unwarranted swipe at Scalia, you might want to do your homework. Most state constitutions and federal LAW prohibit discrimination based upon gender. So, you are only in danger of getting fired if practice shotty partisan journalism.

Posted by: caseynaperville | January 5, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Newsflash: the US Supreme Court has forever been an institution which has interpreted the constitution in unpredictable ways, starting with judicial review powers, all the way up to free speech and civil rights issues in recent decades. To say "Scalia is correct" would make any legal scholar shudder, because it begs the question: is the Supreme Court decided on the role of the constitution in gender discrimination issues? Since it has not, this statement equates to Scalia reiterating his willingness to discuss work outside of work, something almost every other justice assiduously avoids. What he chooses to discuss is an interesting insight, since he speaks out on some things and not others.

Also, note that caseynaperville took a shot at a writer's journalism skills while both being misleading AND including spelling and grammar errors. (Dude, it really doesn't help if your last sentence reads like caveman-talk.)

Posted by: purpledrank | January 5, 2011 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Whether Scalia is "correct" or not is a matter of interpretation. Christine O'Donnell was technically correct that "separation of church and state" does not literally appear in the First Amendment, but in fact she so wrong that her assertion made her a laughingstock.

If Scalia were around in 1954 for Brown v Board of Education, he'd be on the wrong side of segregation -- defending it, of course. There is little doubt he would point out that the 14th amendment says nothing about separate but equal. If he were around for Miranda in 1962, Scalia would no doubt point out that the Fifth Amendment does not contain the words "abusive police interrogations without attorneys present."

But here's the rub. The same Scalia who advocates a metallic reading of the Constitution when it comes to women, minorities, elderly, mentally ill and poor -- this same Scalia all of a sudden becomes wildly creative when it comes to the rights of the rich, the powerful and the Republican Party.

There is nothing in the 2nd Amendment that literally prevents government from placing limits on gun ownership and gun use; Scalia makes it up. There is nothing in the Constitution that says boo about campaign contributions, but Scalia creatively finds in the First Amendment a virtually unlimited right of rich people and big corporations to buy elections. And of course there was no clear constitutional basis for awarding George W. Bush the presidency; Scalia simply invented it.

Anybody who claims there is a "true" reading of the U.S. constitution or the Bible is a charlatan. You will inevitably find that their "true" reading is selective and biased. Scalia is a charlatan.

Posted by: tboyer33 | January 5, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

America isn't ready for a woman president? Nah, babycakes, nah. Democrats nominated a lesser experienced man over the better qualified woman. How about leaving the rewriting of history to the communists and liberals!

Posted by: jeff67 | January 5, 2011 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Exactly how do you interpret "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT be infringed"? Maybe you don't understand what infringed means.

Posted by: domalone | January 5, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Seriously? People actually think that the 14th and 19th amendments don't give women equal rights? I bet these are the same people that think Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.

In addition to not reading legal briefs, for Pete's sake, Scalia apparently doesn't read past Supreme Court decisions, which clearly give equal protection to women.

"In 1971, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that they were protected, in an opinion by the conservative then Chief Justice Warren Burger," Adam Cohen wrote in Time in September. "It is no small thing to talk about writing women out of equal protection -- or Jews, or Latinos or other groups who would lose their protection by the same logic. It is nice to think that legislatures would protect these minorities from oppression by the majority, but we have a very different country when the Constitution guarantees that it is so."

Posted by: divtune | January 6, 2011 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Scalia's legacy will surely be scorned. He doesn't mind being scorned though. He believes his way of thinking is different. From his conduct, I surely think he is "different." Scalia sure loves guns, beer (alcohol over marijuana) and unfair killings.

If Scalia wants to duke it out with the will of We the People (and I mean real people and not corporations), then lets have at it. Scalia probably made the decision to inject himself into public debate while he was drunk and bird hunting with his brethren (Dick Cheney).

Scalia is not a bafoon. He is crazy. Wouldn't you be crazy to go bird hunting with Dick "Darkinvader" Cheney?

My attorney Kobayashi tells me that any judge who makes the appearance of impropriety needs to be impeached.

Posted by: KiazerSouze | January 6, 2011 1:52 AM | Report abuse

How do the soccer moms who traditionally vote GOP like the GOP now?

Posted by: KiazerSouze | January 6, 2011 1:53 AM | Report abuse

I was shocked to learn that what will be called "SweetcakesGate" took place off-camera shortly before the broadcast of the "Chik-fil-A Bowl." The WHAT Bowl? Come on, even the Bowl's name is demeaning to women.

Back in the 70's, women burned a lot of bras to gain the right to not have doors opened for them by men. This is an excellent column, Alex. It will go a long way to ensuring that those bras did not burn in vain.

But what should a studmuffin buy you for National Cupcake Day?

Posted by: divtune | January 6, 2011 2:21 AM | Report abuse

So Ron Franklin gets fired for "sweetcakes" and Dana Jacobsen gets a week suspension for publicly shouting "F*** Jesus" at a roast held at Notre Dame?

Franklin may be a moron but the problem is balance when men are on egg shells and nothing a female reporter can do is considered inappropriate.
Next time a waitress calls me honey should I clock her?

Posted by: meadowgold | January 6, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Now if only Congress's immediate response would be to pass an ERA, or at least, for 'America' (women AND men) to demand one.

Posted by: 1g23 | January 6, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

We now know and understand that if you are a man and you utterly despise a woman then you must forfeit your job. God bless Ron Franklin and his family.

Posted by: darncer | January 7, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

A thought for "Sweetcakes" Petri: In the article you announced you have the ability to read Mr. Franklin's mind. This means you are the first human on the planet with this ability. Congratulations.

Posted by: darncer | January 7, 2011 8:18 PM | Report abuse

The post by domalone, besides being fabulously not related to the topic of sexual equality, is fatuous and simplistic.

S/he ignores the part about “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” represented by the ellipsis in the quoted excerpt from the Second Amendment -- commonly referred to as the “dependent clause” in legal analysis.

How does one legally define “the people”? The Constitution does not explicitly refer to “individual persons” or analogous language.

There are obvious “abridgements” to the right to “keep and bear arms”. Individuals cannot own surface-to-air missiles, armored personnel carriers, operational F-16 aircraft, or thermonuclear weapons. Would s/he have it otherwise?

The last time the Supreme Court ruled on a Second Amendment question (United States v. Miller, 1939), it specifically recognized the implications of the militia provision in the preamble. The Roberts court, as it frequently has, blatantly disregarded this instance of the doctrine of stare decisis, for which both Roberts and Alito repeatedly (and falsely) professed respect during their confirmation hearings.

Conservatives should be outraged that the subsequent 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago takes a big bite out of the “states rights” which they hold so dear. In fact, that decision stands in direct contravention to the opinion from Heller only two years previously, which reiterated that “Our later decisions in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886) and Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535, 538 (1894), reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government.” Stare decisis is thereby dealt another mortal wound, and hypocrisy scores another point.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | January 10, 2011 8:41 PM | Report abuse

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