Ending sexism one quaint phrase at a time

July 6th, 2012 § 8 comments

A few weeks ago Rep Lisa Brown, a Democrat in the Michigan State house, gave a speech defending abortion under the guise of religious freedom. An interesting approach but how she put it caused a bit of a stir.

NPR reported the comment:

“I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?” she said. But what came next is what got her in trouble: “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

Zing. Obviously the Republican’s felt the need to retaliate in a petty manor so they prevented her from speaking about a completely unrelated bill.

The Detroit News reported on their rational.

“‘What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. ‘It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.’

“Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, determined Brown’s comments violated the decorum of the House, said Ari Adler, spokesman for the Republican majority.”

The fact that some old white dudes got their panties in a knot when a woman used “Mr. Speaker” and “vagina” in the same sentence is not terribly shocking. It’s clear that sexism is at the heart of this issue but you don’t usually get people to admit their bias so openly. Lets return to what Mike Callton said as evidence.

“It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” [emphasis added]

The implication being that if he was getting cozy with his good ole buddies then he would be just fine saying vagina though lets be honest, he would probably use something less clinical. The fact that he openly admits to having double standards regarding what he would say in front of women is sexism at it’s most basic level. If you think I’m off my rocker lets try looking at this through a different lens. A good measure of whether or not a joke is racist is how willing you would be to tell it in “mixed company”. Would you tell that great joke you heard about Mexicans in front to your Hispanic maid? No, you wouldn’t. She is from Guatemala by the way, not that you care.

Lets stop considering the phrase “mixed company” to be quaint and start calling a spade a spade. It’s a sexist phrase that needs to die.

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§ 8 Responses to Ending sexism one quaint phrase at a time"

  • Autumn Ross says:

    vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina!!!!!!

  • Alfred Morgan says:

    OS X Dictionary: Mixed Company noun. a group of people consisting of members of both sexes.
    No sexism there. Am I missing something?
    The only sexist comment I saw was “I don’t even want to say it in front of women.”

    • Thomas Paine says:

      The definition is not sexist but the context it’s used in is. Saying “I would not say that in front of mixed company” (or “I would not say that in front of a woman”) is basically saying “I have something sexist to say but am uncomfortable saying it in front of women”. There are things I say in front of men that I would not say in front of women so I’m not judging it rather I’m calling it out. The first step towards equality is to recognize sexism and racism in our daily lives. We must see it before we can end it.

      • Alfred Morgan says:

        So because “mixed company” was used in a sexist context the phrase needs to die? If you are going to use that rule then you might as well get to the root of the problem and get rid of “Female” and “Male” because those can be used in sexist contexts.
        My impression was that Mike was trying to be more polite in front of women. Which technically is being sexist. So are you asking for him to not be as polite towards women and treat them equally?

        • Thomas Paine says:

          I’m saying “mixed company” is a euphemism for sexism and is never used in a non-sexist context. Male and Female can be used in plenty of non-sexist contexts.

          By allowing people to couch their bias in euphemisms we tacitly allow them to continue their sexist attitudes. This goes for you and me but it goes doubly for those who are supposed to represent us (politicians, celebrities, pundits).

          • Alfred Morgan says:

            That’s what I was missing. I wasn’t aware the phrase had sexist connotations. In that case we need to use the phrase more in mixed company so that we can wash out the sexist connotations.

  • Dennie says:

    I watched this event, watched those guys go crazy!! Wow. Would they have a stroke
    if the word ‘clitoris’ was spoken out loud? From my experience most of them don’t even know where it is or what it does……….. and because I have listened to so very many women over the last 40 years, many of them don’t know much more. I think we should create a Clitoris Awareness Week, or Month, or Year!

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