We’ve all been there. When a complete stranger calls you ‘love’ or ‘darling’, how do you react?
Are you insulted or are you immediately imbued with a sense of cosy warmth from the uninvited familiarity?
I ,for one, fall into the first camp.
When a man, or for that matter a woman, labels me ‘sweetie’, ‘doll’ or ‘ball-breaker’, a little part of me dies inside.
This is the same part of me that withers when I pass a building site full of cat-calling workmen while wearing a skirt.
Or the bit that cries when a reader rings up to speak to the editor, then assumes I am ‘his’ secretary.
But I am just as guilty as the next woman of accepting this.
When I’m called ‘chick’ or ‘babe’, I mentally roll my eyes then carry on with a wearied resignation.
When a ‘hormonal’ jibe is made, I fake laugh, when another woman is fat-shamed I fail to pass comment.
In other words I, as many woman, am part of perpetuating the inarguable condescension of everyday sexism.
I even have a sliding scale of insult.
If an adorable old man calls me ‘love’, I just smile and think it’s cute.
If a female colleague calls me ‘darling’, I internally plot her demise and smile.
To object after all would be dull, unattractive and to label myself a humourless-bore.
And therein lies the problem.
Here in 2016, women still feel they must accept this to fit in.
Equality is still a long way off.
Of course, many would argue that a ‘pet’ name is simply a sign of affection.
And it can be, between partners, family and close friends or, erm, pets.
But at what point do we draw the line?
This week, research instigated by Kelloggs revealed a list of words that women would, in reality, like obliterated from the English language.
Number one was ‘bird’ – a word that not only indicates a certain frailty but is also inherently belittling, often used to link a woman to a man like an accessory, i.e ‘his bird’.
This was closely followed by ‘doll’, again a moniker that implies a shallow sort of object where appearance trumps usefulness.
Then number three, a particular bugbear of mine and often employed by the over-friendly stranger – ‘chick’.
One down from bird, it seems chicks are still safely in the nest and under control.
Right now you are probably judging me for pointing this out, but that sums it up.
I’m not a ‘ball-breaker’, just a strong woman, sweetie.