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Ashley, Sweetheart…

Irena Sendler who saved thousands of Jewish children

While passing through an airport security check, actress Ashley Judd had a major meltdown. At fault was a screener who called her “sweetheart” and complimented her dress. She branded his comments “everyday sexism.”

This got me thinking about the women who came before us.

Dr. Helen Taussig, Pioneering Heart Surgeon

Women like Helen Taussig who was severely dyslexic, hard of hearing and discriminated against because of her gender. After earning a medical degree at Johns Hopkins, in 1927, she went on to save the lives of thousands of infants with heart problems.

In 1999, a high school teacher challenged three students to complete a research project on Irena Sendler. Little was known about the nurse who smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of war-torn Warsaw.

Irena Sendler worked tirelessly to reunite the children with surviving family. She also created false documents for 3,000 Jewish families. Sadly she was caught, tortured and escaped death when supporters bribed German guards to free her.

While working with Hospice patients, I met one of the first women to graduate from Harvard. She got a job but had no choice but to work in the company’s backroom.

The company couldn’t have clients discover the brilliant new stock trader was a woman.

Slowly her talent and hard work gained her the loyal support and respect of her male coworkers and bosses. She became a major share holder in the company.

As a young journalist, working with whiskey-drinking, cigarette smoking and smirking peers, I shrugged off their stupid comments and studied my craft. Diving into computer training, while they slapped each other on the back, I leaped over them and became their boss.

Never would I condone sexist behavior, but for the women who came before us, and for me, it was more about strategically choosing my battles and winning than making examples of idiots who didn’t know any better.

Ashley, sweetheart, women are being stoned to death because they’re unlucky enough to have been sexually assaulted. Because it was easier than solving flaws in an immigration program, an entrepreneur reinvented the chastity belt. His invention was created to protect German women from being raped, while out jogging, by Syrian refugees. The product immediately sold out. At the same time, Syrian women are swimming across deep, dangerous seas, clinging to their babies and possessions to flee terrorists.

You, sweetheart, were about to board a plane to attend a posh movie premiere. Perhaps you were having a tough day. Maybe the inconvenience of the security check was simply too much. You called it “everyday sexism.” I call it a slap in the face to all the brave women before us who worked strategically and tirelessly so you could have the opportunity to be whatever you wanted.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to focus our positive attention on the young men and women who are eager to dig in and work together for equality, while giving a pass to an older man who meant no harm and was only giving a compliment the best way he knew how?



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Doreen McGettigan, President of Intrepid Marketing Inc., consults and coaches about writing, publishing and marketing. She is an award-winning blogger, ghostwriter, speaker and a best-selling author of The Stranger in My Recliner and The Bristol boyz Stomp.

Doreen is on the board of Family Promise; a former board member of The Press Club of Pa.—affiliated with the National Press Club—and a volunteer for SCORE where she presents seminars on creative marketing to small business owners.

She’s a fierce advocate for the elderly and all victims of crime and a former board member of the Network of Victims Assistance (NOVA), Pennsylvania’s largest, comprehensive victim service organization. Doreen works to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide and homelessness.

Doreen lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband John. They have five grown children, two more in heaven, and 13 grandchildren… their own little cult. Their lives are never boring.

22 thoughts on “Ashley, Sweetheart…”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this! I see so much focus on these small slights, which I really don’t believe do us women any favours at all. Let’s save our time and energy and focus our attention on things that really matter. Great post! Esther xx

  2. You miss the point intentionally, obviously. You want to impress us with your knowledge of some truly excellent, accomplished women but you neglected to do your homework on the one you chose to trash and demean. Ashley Judd called out his “everyday sexism” because she is sick and tired of it, just as millions of women are. Ashley Judd is not your “sweetheart.” She is an actress, yes, but she is also an accomplished and respected political activist doing terrific humanitarian work around AIDS and poverty. She was a Global Ambassador for YOUTH/AIDS, an education/prevention program. She is also an advocate for political and social change, particularly as it involves poverty and crimes against humanity. She’s traveled the world meeting with political and religious leaders and has created documentaries to educate others. She is part of the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women. Why does the term “sweetheart” offend Ms. Judd? Because, she joins millions of women who are horrified by having a president who got elected after announcing he like to grab women by the genitals. Real women want to be recognized as people, not brushed aside with a dismissive, diminishing quip. Women like you who are okay with the dismissive attitude of some men (thankfully not all men) are so much a part of the problem.

    • My point was that sometimes we have to let little annoyances go so we can fully focus on the bigger picture. Do I love being heckled or called ‘doll’ by anyone but my husband? Not really but it takes too much energy to be outraged by every comment. It only makes me look angry.

  3. Your post by Doreen McGettigan about Ashley Judd has no place on a site purportedly to empower women. McGettigan exhibits her acceptance of misogyny and her extreme lack of knowledge about the subject. She puts down Ashley Judd for being offended by a man’s “everyday sexism.” Well, we should all be offended by sexism. (I mean, if we as women don’t stand up for each other, who will?) Is a little sexism okay, as Ms. Gettigan suggests? What’s next? A little racism is okay, a little discrimination is okay? Ms. Judd is an accomplished humanitarian and political activist, which Ms. McGettigan chose to ignore, as she wrote about other women of substance and put Judd down as “just” an actress. On a site designed to support woman, you allow a post of this nature? If you’re about making women’s lives count, why would you allow this? It’s bad enough we have a president who is an avowed misogynist and his grabbing of genitals didn’t disturb women like McGettigan. On a women’s site there should be no home for hatred and demeaning of women.

    • Hi Debby,
      1010ParkPlace empowers women by giving each of us the right to state our beliefs whether it’s as a blogger, or someone who comments on their blogs. We welcome your comments just as much as we welcome Doreen McGettigan’s blog. Friendships are made in these comment boxes. Women may see another side of an issue here, and that’s a good thing. I welcome different viewpoints whether it’s Doreen McGettigan’s, yours, or the “investor who called me ‘honey.’ His comment spoke volumes, but I knew I would never change the way he looked at women. We’ll never agree with, or like, everyone we encounter, but I don’t want to live in an insulated bubble with people who believe exactly like I do. How do we challenge ourselves–and them–and grow if we don’t listen to all sides?

      1010ParkPlace doesn’t support any of the negative things you’re suggesting. We can all voice our opinions and engage in a dialog with other women, and men–we have lots of male readers–who agree or disagree with us. I don’t believe Ms. McGettigan was “okay” with with the dismissive attitude of some men. Like you, she’s been a writer for a newspaper and like Ms. McGettigan, I would imagine you’ve also been subjected to male coworkers who weren’t in your corner. The two of you have more in common than not. I believe that’s true for all of the women who visit 1010ParkPlace. We’re strong, smart women who’ve fought the “systems,” at every turn, for equality and justice for more than just ourselves. I think Ms. McGettigan was saying we should pick the opportunities to speak out. If not, the people whose opinions we hope to change tune us out, and the power of what we’re saying is lost. It might make us feel better in the short term, but repeated anger, flung at every opportunity, doesn’t always help our cause.

      I appreciate your stopping by and voicing your opinion and hope you’ll come back, again and again.
      Brenda Coffee

    • I have no idea why you’d think I’d want to fight with you. I don’t. You and I read the same material and had different reactions. That’s your right, as it is mine. Of course I object to sexual assault and am sorry you went through that. I believe, and you are free to disagree, that sexism is part of a larger problem of the way women are treated. And sexual assault is one extreme of that problem. I find all forms of sexism offensive and while I’m surprised some women do not, as I guess you don’t, they are free to make their own choices. As to calling people “darlin'” do as you see fit. I’m sure you mean no harm. Nor do I invoicing my opinion about a women’s site publishing what I consider anti woman rhetoric. I get it, it doesn’t bother you, that’s your choice.

  4. I appreciate various opinions, and I understand Doreen McGettigan’s comments as well as I understand Ashely Judd’s comments. I agree with McGettigan that being called “Sweetheart” is a minor anoynance when compared to the brave heroics of saving 2,500 Jewish children. In my opinion, accomplished, successful women choose not to be victims, pick their battles, and proceed with self-confidence, regardless of stereotypical mutterings of old men.

  5. Unfortunately, I agree that “everyday sexism” of a certain generation is common, though your post doesn’t say how old the man was. I agree that he’s probably just clueless, but that’s the problem–men need to be clued in. I think Ashley is entitled to her opinion, as are you, but I think to say that her comment is a “slap in the face”…I don’t see that. I just think it used to be a lot worse, and the women you referred to in this post would probably nod in agreement with Ms. Judd. We have a long way to go towards being respected as we should be. This is a good story to get the conversation going with the men in our lives (especially the young ones).

  6. After doing a little research, I found out this “rape” happened at an airport in Germany. That fact alone should have halted any rhetoric Ms. Judd decided to post live on social media. What I find especially deceiving is the fact she didn’t bother to disclose this information in her video. She allowed most of her audience to assume it happened in the US. Yeah…it’s the little things that make or break a story…truth, or lack there of, is a huge red flag to the motives behind someone’s actions. This was done to draw attention to herself. Nothing more. Had this happened in the US…perhaps she could “choose” to be irritated at the ordeal. But, in Germany? Seriously? I don’t think so. You are right, Doreen, there are so many more important things happening in our world to concentrate on. I wish being called sweetheart was the worst of our worries.

  7. Can’t we all just chill out a little bit? In some parts of the country calling a woman sweetheart is the same as “ma’am” or “sir”. I’ve been called “honey” or sometimes “sweetie” by the person checking out my groceries, and that was a woman. We need to see things for what they are and stop looking for the worst in everyone. Sometimes a compliment is just that and well intended.

    • Are you kidding? Telling a woman to “chill” is the worst thing you can do. And why should women who doesn’t advocate sexism- overt or subtle as it may be–have to be quiet about it? isn’t this page supposed to be a place where women can voice their opinions? I’m not even referring to the article in question right now, I am thinking about it in general terms? Why should someone who reads an article on this site be chastised for giving her opinions about it? Those opinions were given in a respectful manner. Perhaps more in your face than you would approve of, but they were iterated, IMHO, very eloquently. To tell someone to “chill” is also quite condescending.

  8. I have experienced true sexism. It didn’t include sweetheart or a compliment on my dress. A woman knows what is meant to degrade and demean. my sensibilities aren’t as delicate as Ms. Judd. However, if she chooses to be offended then my hats off to her. I doubt the other 2 women who even notice.

  9. Maybe instead of using the accomplished and heroic women to compare and contrast, this should have been two separate posts. Reading about the women who did so much good was interesting, but mocking Ms. Judd for being offended by being called “Sweetheart” was not necessary or fair. If you want to write an opinion piece about Ms. Judd’s response, there’s no need to belittle her with stories of people who rescued Jews or saved babies. For those of us who feel uncomfortable and demeaned by being called a term of endearment by a stranger, especially in a position of power (the airport security line can be a very uncomfortable place), Ms. Judd’s response was not only reasonable but expected. The premise that this is not a big deal is incorrect – it is clearly a big deal to some, and small acts can and do lead to bigger acts of inappropriate behavior. As someone who was sexually harassed, and consequently fired for not responding, by an employer, long before there were laws about it, I am hyper-sensitive to men speaking to me in a way I don’t appreciate.

  10. LOVED THE SHARE of STORIES AND I DONOT WATCH THE NEWS ANYMORE………HAVen’t in YEARS!!TOO SAD for me……….WHY CAN”T SOMEONE invent a NEWS BROADCAST with ONLY GOOD NEWS!!!!!!!!????I want to smile at night not go to bed SAD.
    SOUNDS TO ME AS IF SHE misunderstood the Meaning behind……………..
    IN THE SOUTH They have different manners……or REAL MANNERS STILL!!!
    Most likely he was passing the time at work with what HE thought was a NICE GREETING!!!!!!!I would love to know the AGE and see a photo of this MAN!
    Did they show that?

    • Hi, Katherine did write back! I’m coordinating with my traveling companions as to what we want to do. Thanks so much for putting me in touch with her. I so appreciate it…. BTW, I didn’t write this piece about Ashley Judd, but agree with you that the security guy thought he was being nice. I’m in Texas, and even the women of a certain age behind the checkout registers at Whole Foods or at the dry cleaners sometimes call me “honey” or “sweetheart.” Old habits die hard. XOXOXO, Brenda

  11. Excellent read and some very interesting comments, albeit somewhat attacking in nature. I wouldn’t want to “trash” any other woman, but I am wondering if Miss Judd stood up for herself with the gentleman in question or just posted her indignation on social media. We are learning that many times, women have been afraid to speak up or confront this type of behavior for one reason or another. I believe it is time for the dialogue to be between the offender and the person offended. Posting it on social media seems rather a poor substitute for direct communication. In my experience, if I speak up in a straight forward, honest way, the person either acknowledges their insensitive behavior or stands by the statement. I understand that there will be people who are completely clueless, or just plain obnoxious. Either way, I have done my part to inform them. I am neither a victim of their behavior nor do I condone it. I am also astute enough to know if it is an demeaning insult or just an ingrained behavior. I guess we can either confront the obnoxious or educate the clueless. Either way, it would be beneficial for women to stand by one another, and confront the true offenders. I appreciate all the women who commented on this issue.

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