Act Like a Lady

I don’t think I could have had a more sexist upbringing. Although my father, a more traditional role man never lived, confused me by raising me and my next youngest sister as he would have done with sons in terms of expectations about education, work ethic, right/wrong moral issues, Dad still expected us to be feminine. I was a complete disappointment to him on this score. I was tomboyish and unattractive well into my late teens. Even when I took a stab at the girly pretty thing – growing my hair long – it met with disapproval.

Given all this – and throw in the tyranny of 12 years of Catholic schooling – it is small wonder I bristle at sexism in all its forms. It just doesn’t wash with me. There isn’t an argument compelling enough to make me put up with it or to keep quiet about it.

And given that the world in general prefers to not see it in daily action, I feel that much more duty-bound to point it out.

The latest double-standard issue in the world of politics is the Arlen Spector/Michelle Bachmann radio debate incident. Spector, as some of you may know, is an ancient Senator for life from Pennsylvania. Bachmann is the Tea-baggers’ darling Republican congressperson from Minnesota who is of the Palin school of thought on issues, which means she can name them, maybe even spell them but couldn’t define one to save her own life.

The two were paired on the Dom Giardono show and Spector challenged Bachmann to  “articulate what she actually stood for”, which is hilarious for two reasons. The first being that Bachmann is a Teabagger and they don’t stand for anything but the quaint notion that government exists only to bail them out when their lives take unexpected spine-chilling twists into disaster (which only happens to the godless anyway). Oh, and when they do exercise their rights to entitlements, other people should be footing the tax bill. But the other reason that this is so funny hinges on the fact that Spector has gone from Democrat to Republican  back to Democrat again. Joe Lieberman has more clearly defined priorities. Spector’s only aim in life seems to be staying in the Senate.

Having a head full of air and soundbites, Bachmann gleefully complied and went on about being a good little party of NO obstructionism with a good measure of tax cutting thrown in – if anyone didn’t already know that Republicans have no clue how budgets are balanced (Hint – you do actually have to take money in. The Fed can’t just print it. It needs a flimsy excuse at least.)

Spector at some point got a word in but in the spirit of what passes for discourse today, Bachmann talked over him.

The result was this exchange*:

“I’m going to treat you like a lady,” Mr. Specter shot back. “Now act like one.”

Ms. Bachmann replied, “I am a lady.”

He sounds like Dad’s uncle, Father John. A disagreeable man with no inner shushing voice. He spouted and if I knew what was good for me, I kept my good little girl mouth shut.

But good for Bachmann to speak up, she went on to counter him several more times as he chastised her for being “unladylike”.

Unladylike is what Sr. Walter Marie used to rag on me about when I was in junior high. She went about it with missionary zeal which is another reason I am such a pain about shining the light on sexism today.

Make no mistake here, I think Bachmann is a loon and her politics are abhorrent, but she is the elected representative of the people of Minnesota (a fact I can barely wrap my mind around) and has every right to speak without being silenced by shame.

Ladylike is code and all women should recognize it for the unsubtle put-down that it is.

* Audio link available

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