Monday, February 12, 2007

What is "Uppity"?

A daily Kos diary caught the Salon front-space promoting an article about Barack Obama with these words:

But Obama began his journey as an uppity young man.

The term has now been switched to "smug", the same diary reports. But "smug" is not "uppity". This is what I found out about uppityness:

Adj. 1. uppity - presumptuously arrogant; "had a witty but overweening manner"; "no idea how overweening he would be"- S.V.Benet; "getting a little uppity and needed to be slapped down"- NY Times
immodest - having or showing an exaggerated opinion of your importance, ability, etc; "brash immodest boasting"

Now smug is something quite different. "Uppity" is one of those loaded terms, terms which carry a different meaning when applied to blacks or women. That "getting a little uppity and needed to be slapped down" quote explains the difference pretty well.

This is one of those posts where I will be accused of writing about trivialities and of bringing the whole feminist movement down to sterility with me. But I find the trivialities fascinating for what they reveal about the way we function as a society.

And the way we function as a society means that calling a black politician or a woman politician uppity means something else from calling just a randomly selected person uppity.