It is already mid-February, and we are increasingly removed from the Super Bowl and, as result, the ads and subsequent reactions. Amazing that, even after only two weeks, some events can seem like old news. I touch on this briefly because I toyed with this being a focus for my second blog posting. I noticed, both from the reactions at the Super Bowl party I attended and from those on social media (perhaps more from the latter), that the advertising just did not seem to cut it this year. I figure there is an angle in all this that I may eventually expand upon —societal expectations and standards on the kinds of messages we want to see in average advertising, or perhaps what kinds of venues shape our reactions to the advertising we are seeing. For instance, is the Super Bowl the wrong time and place to be reminded of what some marketer feels it means to be a good dad; or is the Super Bowl a poor setting to market insurance via mention of accidental childhood deaths? Sorry readers …I’m not going to write about this at the moment. 😉
Instead, my catalyst this week is this quote by Senator Tom Corbin, a Republican from South Carolina:
Let’s pause there for a moment and attempt to consider whatever it is he may have meant by this comment. A headline from the online publication of The Greenville News read that “[the senator] says sexist remarks were just jokes.” There is subjectivity in that response. If an individual on the receiving end of a statement (in this case, Senator Katrina Shealy) does not find humor in the statement, is it still a joke? Surely “no” may not be the answer in all cases. (Think about the increasing amount of political satire we see that sprouts from statements such as this.)
In an instance like this and politics aside, I see an individual who cannot recognize that the statement he made is not just pointed at a specific individual (as is Senator Corbin’s perspective, described in the article). Rather, regardless of his post-comment explanation of joking intent, it can be (and has been) perceived that he is making a statement about all women to anyone willing to listen. A lot of negative reaction has surfaced as a result of this statement. I would offer that negative is, indeed, the justifiable reaction.
Does this scenario escalate if we take into account that the individual on the receiving end of recurring brash statements repeatedly tells the deliverer of the messages or actions to stop? Subsequent articles imply that Senator Shealy did just that. If this kind of repeated harassment is disallowed in an average corporate or business setting, how can a legislator in our government believe that his choice is acceptable at the expense of his colleagues and constituents —let alone his wife, his mother, his daughters?
Towards the beginning of January, I had a couple different friends share an article from Politico entitled “The Secret History of Women in the Senate.” It is a bit of a lengthy read, but it is an eye opener into an important aspect of women’s history in the United States Legislature. It is incredibly sad that I am not terribly surprised by the picture painted in this article…the misogyny, and the outright sexism in choices made by our elected national leaders —and in not-so-distant history. As appalled as I was while reading this, I was just not surprised. At the same time, I want to be able to expect more and I think we should expect more from the leaders in our nation.
Unfortunately, even as an elected official in 2015, one is clearly not obligated to take any kind of moral high ground in terms of how one presents himself. Is it possible that there is almost as much subjectivity in what defines morality and ethics as in what defines a joke? In the previously noted article from Greenville Online, Senator Corbin was quoted as having said: “She stuck a knife in my back because we’re at odds over this bill,” he said, adding she’s “trying to make me out to be a woman-hater.”
No, Senator Corbin, your words spawned from your beliefs are what make you out to be a man who may not fully respect women, and far too many of your political colleagues exist on the same, incorrect side of this issue. Regrettably, Corbin isn’t the first politician to speak disparagingly at the expense of women, and I’m sure he won’t be the last.