- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Bay State lawmaker is calling on her colleagues to change the sign to an entrance for the Massachusetts State House named after Joseph Hooker, a Union general in the Civil War, saying his surname is tied up with a slang term for prostitutes and is demeaning to women. 

“Female staffers don’t use that entrance because the sign is offensive to them,” State Rep. Michelle DuBois, Brockton Democrat, told CBS Boston in a recently aired interview.

The sign, which reads “General Hooker Entrance” is affixed to the exterior of an entrance to the capitol, nearby a statue depicting the civil war general astride a horse. Smaller signs around the complex also direct visitors to a “General Hooker Entrance.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Ms. DuBois took her complaint to social media. 

 

“R U a ‘General Hooker‘? Of course not!” she wrote. “Yet the main entrance of the Mass State House says otherwise.”

“#Metoo it’s not all about rape & harassment but also women’s dignity,” she added, “A ‘funny’ double entendres misrepresented as respect for a long dead general? 1 Keep statue 2 Take sign down[.]”

“Ive seen teenboys tease teengirls about being ‘general hookers’ waiting in line at the entrance,” Ms. DuBois explained in a subsequent tweet. “Sign is out of context & either Gen’s his first name should be added or change the entrance name. This change is not a priority for me but I do think it should and will happen[.]”

Oddly enough, while popular belief has it that “hooker” came to be used as slang for “prostitute” due to prostitutes who followed around Hooker’s troops from camp to camp during the Civil War, the term appears to have an earlier provenance, according to popular historian and podcaster Joseph Coohill, better known by his online pseudonym, Professor Buzzkill. 

“[T]he slang term ‘hooker’ in American English was used to refer to a prostitute at least as early as 1845. And in 1845 young Fightin’ Joey was just a staff officer during the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and probably didn’t have the nerve to surround himself with swarms of prostitutes,” Mr. Coohill quipped on his Professor Buzzkill website.

“Further, there’s some evidence that ‘hooker’ was in use as early as 1835. That year, The New York Transcript (a popular newsheet at the time) referred to a police court hearing in which a prostitute was called ‘a hooker’ because ‘she hangs around the hook.’ ‘The hook’ in this case was Corlear’s Hook, the sharply curved shoreline on the Lower East Side of Manhattan,” he explained.

“Further reference for this comes from John Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms, published in 1859, before the Civil War started.”

Regardless of the term’s genesis, however, Ms. DuBois‘ call to arms has largely been met in social media with derision.

“This is literally the stupidest thing I’ve seen on Twitter,” complained Twitter user @mediapostate.

“What a sad pathetic feminism that can’t deal with historical signage,” remarked user @GenghisKhet.


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