On Wednesday, a Philadelphia talk radio hosted Senator Arlen Specter (Democrat from Pennsylvania) and Representative Michele Bachmann (Republican from Minnesota) to talk about what President Obama has accomplished in his first year. Unsurprisingly, the Democrat and Republic had different opinions on the matter.
Surprisingly, Sen. Specter on more than one occasion chastised Rep. Bachmann by telling her to “act like a lady.” And that’s why there’s a controversy over sexism brewing.
Rep. Bachmann had opined that Scott Brown’s win in the Massachusetts special election was a reflection of public opinion on President Obama’s presidency. When it was Sen. Specter’s chance at the mic, he started to respond but was interrupted by Rep. Bachmann, much to Sen. Specter’s annoyance. “I didn’t interrupt you,” Specter said. “This is beginning to sound like a TV talk show.”
When she interrupted him again, he angrily fired back, “Now wait a minute, I’ll stop and you can talk. I’ll treat you like a lady, so act like one.” Rep. Bachmann protested that she is a lady, and the interview continued. Later, she interrupted Sen. Specter yet again, and he again chastised her to act like a lady. She again affirmed that she is, in fact, a lady.
“Well I think you are too, that’s why I’m treating you like one,” Specter replied. “But just don’t interrupt me.”
Naturally, all sexist Hell has since broken loose.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Amber Wilkerson Marchand responded, “Instead of belittling his female colleagues, Arlen Specter should take his own advice and act like a gentleman.” And she warned that if the senator makes it to the general election this November, he’ll be held accountable accountable by the women in his state.
So, was his statement sexist? Personally, I don’t think so. I think it’d be different if he was talking down to her, saying things like, “Listen here, little lady” for instance. But I think his comments, while they did reference his gender, weren’t meant or said in a way that disparaged her as a woman.
They disparaged her as a public official failing to act like a professional adult.
Of course my political leanings usually lean to the left, so you might think that I’m predisposed to take Sen. Specter’s side in this. On the other hand, I’m also notoriously uptight about sexism, homophobic, racism, and so on. (Except where you’re concerned, Kim: you’re fair game! I kid, I kid…) All joking aside, I think people should be treated respectfully and equally, regardless of their gender or personal life.
In this case, I think Rep. Bachmann is the one who was behaving disrespectfully. And I am 100% confident that if a male Republic chastised a female Democrat for repeatedly interrupting after being politely asked not to, and if that included the word “lady” in it, I would stand just as firm in my belief that it’s not sexist.
So what do you think? Is it sexist to tell a woman to “act like a lady” when she’s being rude?