Can I call you sweetheart?

Someone gave me an ‘after you, love’ the other day, and it set me thinking. Terms of endearment like this come up in the news every now and again, and the debate rages on about whether or not they are sexist.

I consider myself to be a feminist, but on this occasion I was ok with being called ‘love’, which made me think what a minefield this whole subject is.

There are obviously times when it definitely isn’t ok. I die inside if someone calls me sweetheart at work (thankfully, a rare occurrence). It just feels so belittling. But is that more unprofessional than sexist?

Any one from Nottingham will be familiar with the term ‘duck’ – which is interchangeable with ‘love’ as a greeting or term of endearment here. Maybe it’s because it’s part of my hometown’s history and culture, but I think it would be really sad if people stopped saying this to each other. Interestingly, this is sometimes used for men as well as women – perhaps partly why it makes me smile rather than have to bite my tongue!

Like most words, it’s how we use them that matter. When a kindly old man lets you get on the bus first, it would be unfair to give him a ranty lecture about how to speak to women. But if someone tries to put you in your place with a ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’, I won’t blame you for losing your cool.

What do you think – do you mind people calling you love or sweetheart?

9 thoughts on “Can I call you sweetheart?

  1. JamieTSmyth says:

    As you say it can be a bit of a minefield. I think when you fall down a linguistic rabbit hole over what is offensive or not it can get very complex, very quickly. There is no standard, for everyone it is different.

    I think, as so often is the case, context is key.

    I – as a man – am often called love (and son) by females. To many older working class Scot’s it is a term of endearment, almost motherly in a community sort of way, rather than a word used to ridicule, demean or show dominance. In those instances I have no problem with its usage.

    However, there are occasions where the words are loaded. Son can be used to purposefully highlight the age gap and perceived immaturity for example. In those instances we should make a stand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hannah Graham says:

    I think it’s fine. I’d rather be called love or sweetheart than bitch or something vulgar, and if someone is trying to put me in my place I generally just ignore them. Life is too short for negativity and arguements over things that are habit or someone trying to be nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rmpye says:

    I totally agree – it’s such a minefield! I have always hated being called ‘love’ and ‘sweetheart’ but my boyfriend calls me ‘dear’ and ‘duck’ all the time! He’s from Lincoln and I would be sad if he did stop calling me it!

    I think it depends when on the context you’re being called it. I’ve usually found that love is used in a patronising or negative way!

    Blogger & The Geek

    Liked by 1 person

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