Please Don’t Call Me “Sweetie”

Post Author: Rev. Jill M. Howard

This Valentine's Day (or any time of the year), when your "superior" calls you "sweetie," Rev. Jill Howard offers advice on how to respond. Please check out her blog at www.revjillhoward.wordpress.com.

medium_204763409I attended a meeting recently where a male authority figure in my denomination called me “sweetie” when I approached him and extended my hand for a handshake. Unfortunately, this happens quite often to many of us. This is how it feels when you call young clergy women “sweetie” or “kiddo.”

  • We feel that you don’t take us seriously.
  • We feel that you don’t respect our calling into ministry as capable, educated, and motivated women who are working hard for the church and the kingdom.
  • We feel belittled…and demeaned…and small…and a little violated…
  • We don’t feel that you see us as equal with the men in our field. Would you call them “sweetie” or “kiddo”?
  • We feel that you only see us as that: “sweetie.” Here is some news: I am not your “sweetie.” I am your colleague in ministry. I guess I could say that I am my husband’s “sweetie,” and that’s even pushing it!
  • We feel that you don’t know our name. We are just another female face to you.
  • We feel that you are still operating under the idea that women are not equal colleagues in the church or workplace, but that we are still second class citizens whose only job is to be “sweetie.”

So here is some friendly advice for men in any workplace setting:

  • Don’t call women “sweetie” or “kiddo” or anything remotely similar to these. These titles are not cute or endearing. They are demeaning.
  • We have names – USE them! In fact, refrain from any use of a nick name unless you are very close with the person and you have that kind of relationship.
  • Yes, we might be the age of your daughter or even your granddaughter, but don’t confuse us with a member of your family. We are your work colleague. We want to work with you and deserve the same respect in return that we have for you.
  • Think before you speak. Each person deserves to be treated with utmost respect, regardless of their gender. Choose words wisely.

So what can young clergy women do when confronted with a male authority figure or colleague in our church or denomination who feels it’s necessary to label us in this way?

  • Consider why he uses these phrases. Does he see it as a warm greeting? A friendly exchange? Does he see you as a daughter figure in his life? Is it out of habit?
  • Find a good time and place to confront him about it. Start a conversation with him. Be bold about this. Explain why these names bother you and why it feels condescending and insincere rather than sincere and friendly. Chances are that he has no idea that this bothers you. It might open his eyes to the way that he interacts with you and other women in the future. Bad habits are meant to be broken!
  • Accept apologies. If he apologizes, accept it. Know that you have done nothing wrong in sharing your concerns with him, and perhaps you have paved the way for women in the future to be called by their proper names and titles in your denomination. Progress is good!

I believe that this generation of young women has the unique opportunity to begin to change the culture of collegial relationships between men and women of all ages. We will be the ones to be seen as those who stood up for ourselves and will earn mutual respect for our vocations and callings as pastors. So step out, be courageous, and make your voice heard.

I, for one, am tired of being called “sweetie” and “kiddo.” I am neither of those things. I am a 31 year old woman, a wife, a pastor, a child of God, a daughter, a friend, a sister. I have a name. I have a story. I have an education. I have a calling.

Please don’t cheapen that by calling me “sweetie.”

Rev. Jill Howard is pastor of Morgantown United Methodist Church in Morgantown, Indiana and is a graduate of Butler University and Candler School of Theology. Jill enjoys preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, doing musical theater, Zumba, and spending time with her husband, Corey, and dog, Kole.

Image by: Pensiero
Used with permission
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