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Is archaic language innocent or sinister? page 2
Leonard Pitts' op-ed column on politicians and the "ladies" they govern.

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Date published: 10/8/2012


This is not to say that a man ought not strive to behave in ways that reflect class, refinement, and manners. He should. A woman should, too. In a nation so rude that a member of Congress hectors the president during a televised speech, many of us could stand to act as if we'd had the benefit of home training.

But this is not about that. It is, rather, about an arrogant, condescending, and paternalistic mind set that says a woman cannot be tough, aggressive, competitive, smart, or feisty, and that if she embodies those traits, so prized in men, she does so at the cost of her own femininity.

In this construction, being a "lady" has nothing to do with good home training, and everything to do with being properly deferential and submissive in the presence of testosterone. And, yes, you may just want to chalk all this up to a difference of values, to say that Akin, West, and Specter are just old-fashioned guys having trouble finding their way in a newfangled world.

But to do that is to give them a pass they do not deserve. It is to tell a little girl she must truncate the sprawl and adventure of her personality, prune it back until it fits into a small, dainty box marked "ladylike."

That would be a tragedy. And a betrayal.

There is, frankly, a point at which being "old-fashioned" becomes being stubborn, denying unwelcome, unsettling, and self-evident change. These fellows are well past that point and our message to them ought to be simply this:

If you want to govern in this century, try living in it first.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

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