Don't You Dare Get 'Sweetie' on Me

Obama gets busted for calling a female reporter "sweetie." So what's wrong with that?

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Question: Is the term "sweetie" a great way to make an ambitious professional woman feel silly?

Sen. Barack Obama called a female journalist "sweetie" yesterday. The Democratic presidential candidate's use of the term of endearment for a TV reporter he didn't want to answer has sparked a little controversy.

But he's not the only man to be recently quoted as saying it. A quick news search shows that so did Ron Stone, a Houston anchorman who died recently. But Stone said it to a 5-year-old girl who was crying because she'd lost her front teeth.

And movie star Will Smith also said it. But he used it to please a fan who wanted to snap a picture with him.

So "sweetie" is OK at some moments, but not so great at others. Obama has used the term before, addressing a female factory worker, but the media didn't care too much until "sweetie" was used on one of their own.

How about some possible parameters? In an oddly prescient essay written last month for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 22-year-old Brianna Horan had this to say of "sweetie" and "honey":

Unless the subject of endearment is a child or a significant other, there's no reason to call someone Honey or Sweetie—unless you're trying to irritate them.

Sometimes, these sticky words are used to coddle someone. Other times, they're cooed at something that's cheek-pinchingly cute.

It's a great way to make a young woman who's trying hard to be serious feel, as Horan puts it, like she's "just playing dress-up in my mommy's closet."