Other than when a man or women is jokingly referring to themselves or a good friend of the opposite sex–or sarcastically making fun of mildly sexist language–I don’t especially like words like “chick” and “dude.” A man saying, “Hey, dude,” to address another man is one thing, but for a woman to disparagingly refer to some largely undefined group of men as “dudes” in a newspaper column–as Washington Post writer Monica Hesse did the other day–is sexist and prejudicial.
The object of her wrath was Pete Buttigieg, who served in the Navy in Afghanistan, and told Beto O’Rourke in Tuesday’s Democratic debate: “I don’t need lessons from you on courage.” He was “the kind of dude we had seen before, a sort of megalomaniacal Eagle Scout,” Hesse wrote.
Pete Buttigieg is a good man–a veteran, Rhodes scholar, Harvard grad, and gay–not exactly the kind of man whose remarks should incense even the most hyper-sensitive feminist ears.
Let’s roll the clock back to 1988, when Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, memorably zapped Republican Dan Quayle in a debate, saying, “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” Or, four years before, with Mondale’s “where’s the beef?” ad.
Good political candidates have always been tough in debates, using clever, biting one-liners that both put down an opponent while at the same time emphasizing their own strengths vis a vis their opponent.
Instead, Hesse seems to see Mayor Pete’s rejoinder as a form of “mansplaining,” a denigrating term that has entered the popular argot.
I would have the same reaction if a male writer snidely referred to Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris as “the kind of chick we knew in high school.”
Actually more than that: Prejudice, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “an unreasonable dislike of or preference for a person, group, custom, etc., especially when it is based on their race, religion, sex, etc.
OK, Hesse acknowledges deep into her column that her impression may be “unfair,” but such statements by self-styled progressives that make negative judgments about people based on their sex, race, ethnicity, social class, sexual preference, etc. are not much better than ones that Donald Trump and others make based on being a member of a particular group.
It’s trite but true to say: We need to heal the divides between women and men, whites and people of color, thoughtful liberals and thoughtful conservatives. We don’t need to keep stoking them, as this unfortunate column does.