I have a confession to make. Despite the fact that Donald Trump is a terrible businessman, a ridiculous politician, and just not a good person… I have been addicted to The Celebrity Apprentice this season. The Next Great Restaurant (and my enduring love of terrible reality television) already had me watching NBC on Sunday nights and, before I knew it, I was tuning in to the Celebrity Apprentice each week too. It’s a terrible show that rarely makes sense (why was tonight’s episode three hours long?!) but I enjoy the mental vacation it allows me to take so I continue to watch week after week.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I have a few things to say about tonight’s episode.
After losing their challenge this week Star Jones, Marlee Matlin, and Meatloaf were sent outside so that Trump could consult with his two advisers. While outside, Meatloaf and Star continued the argument they had been having in the boardroom. When addressing Star during this conversation (which was not friendly or positive in any way) Meatloaf called Star Jones sweetie. I immediately cringed when this happened, and I am so happy to say that T did as well, because we both recognized how condescending this interaction was.
Upon watching this my mind immediatley jumped back in time, to the job that I was working two summers ago. One day a Professor came in and needed help using the stapler, so I showed him how to do it. He most likely felt embarrassed that he needed help using the stapler, because once he was done he made sure to throw a big, “Thanks sweetheart!” in there. Now, I know this is one of those scenarios where I’m going to have people coming out of the woodwork to call me an angry, humorless feminist for being annoyed by this… but I was. In that context, with the tone that was used, sweetheart felt like a tiny reminder that I was still somehow beneath him. Even though I had just taught him how to use the stapler.
Maybe if I had known this man I would have felt differently.
Maybe if our interaction hadn’t been one that threatened his authority (just a little bit) by making him look silly, I would have felt differently.
Maybe if there were any kind of equivalent to this type of comment that men regularly deal with, I would have felt differently.
But as this situation stands, I was left (just a little bit) annoyed, feeling like I had witnessed another (tiny) instance of sexism that plays into the web of (just slightly) frustrating events that build and build and build into the brick wall that is oppression.
The scenario on the Celebrity Apprentice was much less ambiguous than mine. Honey, sweetie, dear, darling… these terms of endearment are all lovely when used properly, in the right context. An argument, however? That is not the context. Meatloaf knew this, on some level, because in an argument when someone calls you sweetie the implication is calm down you silly sweet thing, you’re getting all riled up for nothing. Isn’t it?
To me, honestly, sweetie is the most frustrating out of all of these. Why? Because other people will acknowledge that being called fat, or turkey neck, or payless queen is insulting. Getting people to acknowledge that referring to you by a term of endearment when you are not close, and not happy with one another in that moment is not okay is a very difficult task, as we saw in this week’s board room. Trump layed into Star for being frustrated by this exchange, but still she stood her ground and ultimately got fired (for other reasons).
I feel the same way about the persistent door opening trope. If you’re opening the door for me because you got there first, or I was carrying something big and you’d like to be courteous… that’s awesome! Despite what you’ve been told about angry feminists, I am not going to get mad at you for helping me out regardless of your sex/gender identity. What frustrates me is the assumption that men must open doors, carry things, pay, etc. for women because women are the weaker sex and men are the providers.