Thursday, June 18, 2009

Senator Cuntface

The title was taken from comments to this YouTube video about Senator Barbara Boxer asking to be called not ma'am but Senator by Brigadier General Michael Walsh:

And the Christian Science Monitor, usually a calm-and-collected kind of place, had this to say on Boxer's behavior:

Brigadier General Michael Walsh appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works yesterday to discuss the restoration process of the New Orleans' levee system due to the damage created by Hurricane Katrina.

There's still a lot of work to be done. Billions of dollars have been spent and there are no permanent structures in some areas that would prevent such a disaster from occurring again.

Obviously Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer has a right to be concerned with this. After all, it's her committee.

Did she voice her concern?

Absolutely. But what got her most rankled was when she wasn't addressed properly. It seems that "ma'am" — a term deemed appropriate by a Military Protocol guide — isn't good enough for the senator. She demands the title "Senator". So much so that she interrupted his testimony to scold him for the apparent lack of respect.

Respect my authoritay

When beginning to address one of her questions, Boxer Senator Boxer immediately cut him off to correct him.

"You know, do me a favor," Boxer Senator Boxer demanded. "Could say 'senator' instead of 'ma'am?'"

"Yes, ma'am," Walsh answered.

"It's just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it, yes, thank you," Boxer Senator Boxer continued.

"Yes, senator," he said.

And on my short tours of some larger blogs I find general agreement on this particular topic: Boxer is an ass or worse. So I have to write about the other side to all this.

A woman of Boxer's age has had plenty of experiences of sitting in a room with other dignitaries, hearing how they are called by their last names while she's called Barbara. I'm absolutely certain of this. She has probably also had experiences where it seems that people are trying very hard not to use her proper title while using the proper titles of others in the room. Which reminds me to check what General Walsh called other Senators in the room. If he called them 'Sir' then 'Ma'am' is perhaps justified on the basis of military use. If he called them 'Senator' then not.

I once talked with a medical researcher, a physician, who told me about his time at the ER. Once the physicians there had a big row, having to do with the female physicians' refusal to be called by their first names in front of the patients. They insisted on being called Doctor LastName.

This, to the male physicians, was a sign of arrogance and bitchiness. The resulting quarrel was not good for smooth cooperation, so the man I talked with was called in as an arbiter.

What he found out was this: It was the custom of this ER to call nurses by their first names and physicians by their last names (which in itself tells us something interesting). When the male physicians insisted on calling the female physicians by their first names the patients assumed that they were also talking to a nurse, not a physician. This made the female physicians works harder.

The point of this story is not argue that Senator Boxer's work is made harder by her being called ma'am, but to point out that the experience of women is often very different from the experience of men and that there may be reasons why Senator Boxer is sensitive to this particular question of proper titles.