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