October 31, 2002
HIDING BEHIND HER OWN SKIRT:
Camps spar over Romney word choice
: Gender issue raised on 'unbecoming' (Stephanie Ebbert and Yvonne Abraham, 10/31/2002, Boston Globe)
It means unsuitable, indecorous, and it's viewed by many as an archaic, ill-fitting corset of a word. When Mitt Romney described Shannon O'Brien's attacks on him in Tuesday night's debate as ''unbecoming,'' he raised the ire of her female supporters, who used the description to rally their cause yesterday.
Teresa Heinz, a philanthropist and wife of US Senator John F. Kerry, told a crowd of some 750 women at an O'Brien fund-raiser yesterday that Romney would be surprised at how many ''unbecoming women'' were gathered for the event at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel.
US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, told the crowd that years ago the ambitions of women who wanted to vote or run for public office were described as ''unbecoming.'' Clinton drew roaring applause when she said she found Romney's comments ''unbecoming.''
That single word opened a new front in the campaign as O'Brien's supporters seized upon it to reintroduce the question of gender in the final days of the race. Romney, campaigning with US Senator John McCain, defended his word choice as gender-neutral.
Romney denied the word carried any special significance.
So when this coven of supposedly smart and capable women takes such hysterical umbrage at a word with no known gender connotation is it because they are ignorant or because of the kind of extreme sensitivity that their very careers are supposed to disprove?
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2002 7:42 PM
Unbecoming is not part of the Newspeak dictionary. Use of double ungood words like Unbecoming is thoughtcrime.
dictionary is itself a sexist word.
As the Romney campaign (but not the Washington Post) has pointed out, if 'unbecoming' is a sexist word, how does the military get away with the phrase 'conduct unbecoming an officer', from before the days when women ever were officers?
I spoke with She Who Is Perfect In All Ways about this, and she said the objection (not that she agreed with it) was twofold:
1) Romney wouldn't have used that word against a male opponent (e.g. "inappropriate" instead)
2) Romney wouldn't have raised the issue at all against a male opponent.
Of course, she also pointed out that (3) politics and lefties being what they are, it's not the incident but what can be manufactured from the incident that matters. Just like the smear campaign you reference concerning Harry Stein in the previous post, substance is irrelevant, smearing is all. I have to agree that the motivation is not insecurity, but win at all costs.
I hate to differ with you, and even more so with the Queen of Your World, but he was actually forced to use a weak phrasing because she was a woman. Had a male been attacking him this way he'd have been free to call him just about anything. And he would, of course, have raised the issue of a opponent running unrelenting attacks on him.
AOG's wife is spot-on with how most Mass women interpret it. And that connotation matters more than dictionary definitions. Romney might have done better to simply apologize for his word choice and quickly return to the attack on her conduct with different language.
So he should dumb down his campaign because MA women are ignoranami?
Is that last thing at the end of your sentence a word, or did your hand fall in convulsions on the keyboard?
(normally don't check spelling of other folks, but that looked sooo strange. BTW its "ignorami" )
I think you got the contextual gender stratification right though. Romney could have called a man "plug ugly" and smiled, but all women have this preconception that they are naturally "becoming" and contradicting that insults the sex.
oh well, I'm an ignoranamus