- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009

Feminist rudeness

Last week, a U.S. senator treated the world to a shocking display of rudeness toward a member of our armed services. As Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer arrogantly and ignorantly reprimanded an officer and a gentleman who has risked his life many times over for her “right” to become a U.S. senator in the first place.

When he respectfully began a statement with “ma’am,” the California Democrat and panel chairman abruptly interrupted and gave the smarmy directive, “You know, do me a favor. Could you say ‘senator’ instead of ‘ma’am’? It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it. Yes. Thank you.”

More than any other group, America’s military insists that their members show respect for authority. When addressing a male superior, they say “sir.” When addressing female superiors, they say “ma’am.” And out of simple politeness and common courtesy toward others, they are also taught to say “sir” and “ma’am” even when addressing civilians. As the wife of a retired naval officer, I have always been so thankful to be in the company of those who serve our nation with such dignity and respect.

Many moms and dads are trying to teach their kids to be polite and respectful by using the time-honored titles of “sir” and “ma’am” too. Most women appreciate when someone takes the time to show such honor. We recognize kindness and chivalry when we see it, and we’re not so insecure in our gender identity that we lose our dignity by complaining.

I guess Mrs. Boxer forgot how important it is to be a role model of civility when you are a public figure. As the most powerful person in the room that day, she should have been gracious and kind. She really should have thanked Gen. Walsh for his years of service to our country. She should have expressed praise for all military personnel who are making it possible for other women around the world to enjoy the same privilege that Mrs. Boxer has of holding public office, or even voting. And she should be aware that most women appreciate the respect afforded by the term “ma’am,” regardless of any other gender-neutral titles we may have earned. Instead, she set a poor example, insulted every military officer in the land, and left many males wondering (once again) about how to be respectful to females without inflaming some feminist psychosis.

How to save your family from becoming rude, too

A very likely ripple effect from Mrs. Boxer’s petty complaint is that many may become afraid to practice simple courtesies, especially toward women.

We can’t allow our family members to be bullied into choosing the “safe” route and thus abandon acts of common decency. It’s sort of like the quandary a male faces in wondering whether or not to open the door for a female, or if he should offer his seat on the subway or help a woman place a heavy bag in the airplane’s overhead compartment.

The shrill complaints of a few angry feminists have caused many even to avoid eye contact and instead look out just for themselves.

We must teach our sons to value the concepts of respect and kindness enough to always be gentlemen, even if that means making themselves vulnerable to attack. And our young women need to be taught to accept the thoughtful gestures for what they are - thoughtful gestures.

Showing and accepting kindness for and from others is the definition of civility, and our nation needs more of it. So, in the wake of this much-discussed rudeness by a prominent public official, let’s make it an opportunity to remind our children to err always on the side of respect.

• Rebecca Hagelin is senior communications fellow for the Heritage Foundation and the author of “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.” Have a culture challenge? Write to her at [email protected]



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