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Is it wrong to call women "Sweetheart" on the phone?

I work as a telephone agent. My last caller insisted on calling me "sweetheart" during the call. He was an older gentleman. I get this from time to time, especially from older men in the American South. When guys talk like that, I feel a mix of feelings as a woman, both valued but also patronized.

Do you think it's good or bad when men talk to women this way? Why do you think so?
The reason you feel conflicted is because it’s a term of endearment (which could be endearing) that assumes a level of intimacy that doesn’t exist. If my wife calls me baby… I don’t blink an eye. That intimacy exists for us and doesn’t feel out of place. It would if some person (man or woman) called me baby where there is no intimacy to be assumed with a term of endearment. It is the same with sweetheart. @sarabee1995 and I have talked about this many times over the years as some men on here will also use terms of endearment misplaced, since no level of intimacy like that exists between them and I. In the south, I think women were more so viewed as property for a long time where any man could assume a level of intimacy with any women with or without her consent and it’s looked at differently. Same as their opinion of not saying sir is considered being impolite, even though historically those were terms used for certain levels of nobility and not just for regular people. I don’t take issue with sir and ma’am at all, even though it technically doesn’t belong but assumed intimacy I can. It feels awkward at best and actually very creepy and sexualizing without my consent at worst.

“Sir is used to address a man who has the rank of baronet or knight; the higher nobles are referred to as Lord. Lady is used when referring to women who hold certain titles: marchioness, countess, viscountess, or baroness. It can also be used of the wife of a lower-ranking noble, such as a baron, baronet, or knight.”,baron%2C%20baronet%2C%20or%20knight.
sarabee1995 · 26-30, F
@ShadowSister @DarkHeaven Lol, you guys are pretty awesome yourselves. But thanks! 😁
@sarabee1995 🖤🖤🖤
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@sarabee1995 💜💜💜
FrozenWasteland · 61-69, M
Like most things in life, context is important. I could see "sweetheart" used either as a kind of warm, appreciative sort of comment -- a "Thank you, sweetheart..." sort of thing, or as patronizing "Now listen up, sweetheart..."

Easy for me to say, since I really don't care what people call me, but I don't think it's the word that's the problem -- it's the message behind it. Which, admittedly, can be a little hard to figure out over the phone. All I can suggest is that you accept it in the spirit in which it was intended. Or not, as it suits you.

I don't even know why I'm responding to this now. Clearly I don't have as much to say as I first thought. :-)
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@FrozenWasteland Lol I love it. Thank you for responding. 😀
@FrozenWasteland Very well put. 👍
OliRos · 18-21, F
It is belittling to be addressed in that way, though I suspect it is usually an unconscious expression of patriarchy. It is, nonetheless, offensive and should be avoided.

In some regions of England, it is not uncommon for women of a certain social class to address both men and other women as "love" or "dearie". Although this may seem over familiar, it is rarely offensive.
Justferfuun1 · 41-45, M
@DarkHeaven yeah you do 😏
@Justferfuun1 Normally, In Iceland nobody carries a family name. Your last name is your Da’s first name with son on the end if you’re a boy and dóttir at the end if you’re a girl. So my Da’s last name is his Da’s first name with son at the end but that’s kind of tough to do here because a lot of stuff is tied to family last names in America. So me and my two brothers and I just kept my Da’s last name (Grandpas first name with son on the end,) even though it should have changed to Da’s first name and also I’m a girl so it should have had dóttir at the end. I’d most likely be one of very few girls with son on the end in Iceland. Maybe the only one.
Justferfuun1 · 41-45, M
@DarkHeaven You're blonde, sexy, rocker, lesbian, no one is going to give a shit and your last name. They'd be too busy focusing on all those attractive qualities (all packed into an absolutely perfect personality!!) I just can't 🤣😂🤣

Ontheroad · M
I think it's more patronizing than anything.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Ontheroad You probably encounter a lot of things that are culturally different then!
Ontheroad · M
@ShadowSister Yep, I sure have, and I just shrug, and keep on with the keeping on 😁.

This man who called you sweetheart is stuck in time, and in the culture he was raised in. He very likely didn't mean to be condescending, but as my Dad used to say "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Ontheroad I agree. I don't think he meant anything by it. Still, it just annoyed me enough to post something about it here haha.
BlueVeins · 22-25
I'm a man and I've had southern women address me as sweetheart. I don't think they mean anything by it, but if it's making you uncomfortable, that's still a problem.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@BlueVeins If it had gotten too bad, I would have said something. No, it was not that worrying. Just something I thought worth starting a conversation about on SW.
LordShadowfire · 46-50, M
@ShadowSister It's definitely a southern thing.
carpediem · 61-69, M
I would say few people who speak like that intend to be patronizing or misogynistic. It's mostly a cultural thing based on where you were raised. But you can't please everyone. Sometimes trying to be nice just isn't worth it. I've smiled at a clerk once and she became upset. I was taught a smile will brighten someone's day so I smile often. If someone is upset by it, not a problem. I can always bring my business elsewhere.
@Slade hush ya mouth Slade! You don’t get to call me baby! Lol
Slade · 56-60, M
@Slade oh stop! 😊
helenS · 36-40, F
I would most likely reply by calling him "handsome" or something like that. I wouldn't take it too seriously, he's trying to be nice, just swallow it, with a smile if possible.
Slade · 56-60, M

[quote]just swallow it, with a smile if possible.[/quote]

Oh how tempting - but I won't comment 😋
Richard65 · M
It's just the traditional way older men address younger women. It is patronising and vaguely misogynistic inasmuch as they won't even consider your feelings about being called that and would likely feel affronted if you pulled them up about it. They might even feel a little annoyed at you as they'll think, at best, that you're being a little oversensitive, at worst a feminazi. I'm approaching 60, but I would never address any woman using such terms.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Richard65 Right. I'm in sales. I'm not ever going to contradict a caller if I want to make that sale. I usually just put up with it. I'm just never sure if I should be feeling some kind of way about it or not.
Richard65 · M
@ShadowSister how do you feel about it? Don't pre-empt your reaction or be tempted to overthink it. If someone calls you that, what's your immediate, natural internal reaction?
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Richard65 Well, as I said in the main post, it's a mix. In a way it makes me feel valued, but in another way it makes me feel dismissed.
It all depends on the vide. You can feel if it’s just being polite and friendly. In my country it’s common.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@GoingDownToStellieTown That's a helpful perspective.
@ShadowSister thanks.
bt0005 · 70-79, MNew
I'm in the habit of calling women "Hon." It's not meant to patronize and hope it isn't taken that way. But I am a Southerner and we are, or used to be, raised differently. I was once told by a guy that his wife was angry at me for not shaking her hand when I met her. I informed him that, where I was raised, a gentleman doesn't offer his hand to a lady. It's considered too forward. He gently takes her hand if offered.
I guess that it's the same situation. Sometimes it's just where and how you were raised.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@sarabee1995 Good stuff. There is a difference between fighting for justice for yourself and for others. It is virtuous to overlook a wrong done to oneself. But it is not okay if that wrong was done to another person.

Also, we ought to fight injustice wherever we see it. But there is a huge difference between a systemic injustice that we don't notice because it is so ingrained, and an injustice that violates cultural norms. Systemic injustices take extra effort to notice. And particularly if it's a borderline case... like calling someone "sweetheart," that is hardly a major issue. Some folks might call that a "microaggression," not a big deal at all on it's own. But when you live in a culture that is constantly assaulting you with little things, one after another. it adds up over time.
sarabee1995 · 26-30, F
@ShadowSister Yes it does. And I can multitask!

Of course sweetie and honey and sugar aren't the greatest wrongs in our society today.

And personally, in my real life, I don't give a hoot what anyone calls me.

But you know I volunteer at a woman's shelter and have been doing this for years (since undergrad at one shelter or another). Those women are the reason I say something when some guy here or at some store irl treats me as some delicate little flower in need of his protection and domination. Many of the women I've met in shelters cringe terribly when they hear these words.

It doesn't matter to me why they cringe, just that they do. And it should matter to these guys who claim they use these words out of love and affection for women. Find some other way to express your fondness for women. Demeaning and belittling them with unearned terms of endearment does not work for them.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@sarabee1995 Thank you for that context. I suspect most of the folks who use these terms tell themselves that they are honoring women, not demeaning or belittling them. I doubt that most of these folks have never considered the effects it would have on women like that. Me? I deal with it maybe once a week or less, so it rolls right off.
Piper · 61-69, F
I've never thought of it in terms of good, bad or wrong, so much, except when it comes off as clearly condescending. It's not [b]always[/b] easy to tell, but most is.

Personally, it doesn't matter much if it's a man or a woman calling me an endearment like "sweetheart", when it seems patronizing.
samueltyler2 · 80-89, M
@Piper when is being condescending good?
Piper · 61-69, F
@samueltyler2 Maybe you didn't notice the "except when", in my first sentence above.
samueltyler2 · 80-89, M
@Piper i saw the phrase as almost a double negative, sorry if i misinterpreted.
Scribbles · 31-35, F
If it comes off as awkward, I just imagine the speaker dressed up as a waitress in a 1950's American diner whenever a stranger calls me dear, honey, or sweetheart or something like that. And I have the urge to respond back in an exaggerated Dick Tracy voice.
Matt85 · 36-40, M
I have never felt bad about being called a sweetheart.
I dont speak that way, but, if a lady calls me sweetheart or honey or dear, i dont get offended. i have been called worse.
@SheCallsMeCrushDaddy You’ve already got all uptown! Hahaha 🤣
Blondeez · FNew
People from the south say honey, sweetheart, etc. Thats normal there.
Yet I didn't care for it at the doctors office. Didn't seem appropriate.
Asmae · 31-35, F
At work I get that from much older men sometimes, like old enough to be my dad. Most of the time it's harmless and said with good intentions
Jenny1234 · 51-55, F
I fucking hate it and I even hate when I go to the states and the waitress in the restaurant calls me sweetie or honey. I’m Not there sweetheart sweetie or honey
I remember when I was in high school an adult woman called me "sweetheart" after I'd helped her with something. I was like "d'awww" 🥴

I get that a man calling a woman "sweetheart" can seem inherently condescending even if it isn't intended that way, as it assumes women need to be addressed with special, endearing language that no man would receive. But if it's cultural and regional and nothing's meant by it, I wouldn't call it "wrong".
@TheSavageDetective fair points.
TheManHimself87 · 36-40, M
No honey. I really don't see what the deal is but perhaps it depends what part of the world ones from.
TheManHimself87 · 36-40, M
@ShadowSister But don't call me "bro" 🫵🏻😠
@ShadowSister I totally get that… same as in NYC or PA.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@TheManHimself87 I'll keep that in mind
ServantOfTheGoddess · 61-69, M
I've been called "dear" or "love" ("luv"?) by women in customer service. It seems odd to me but I assume it is intended warmly and is a cultural thing. I would tend to see this the same way, especially since you notice a cultural pattern about it (older men in the US South).
@ShadowSister Pennsylvania
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@LoneVoice Oh! I'm surprised. I figured you would say somewhere like Georgia.
@ShadowSister Nope, PA, carbon copy of Wisconsin. 😂
Jimmy2016 · 61-69, M
🤔........Women can call a man honey or sweetheart but a man can't call a woman by those names............It's the double standard rule.............My dad was from Texas and he always said thank you mam or yes mam..............One time I was at the store with my dad and mom and my dad said Thank you Mam to an older lady working there and she got all pissed off at we were all laughing at it.........
@Jimmy2016 The double standard exists because traditionally, women have not been able to take that over-familiarity to threatening levels in the way that men have. But in a work setting, neither would be considered professional.
Jimmy2016 · 61-69, M
@bijouxbroussard Diffidently not in a work environment!! That's big no,no.............I never compliment my female coworkers on anything that's personal...........If it's work related then yes, I will..........I have had female coworkers complement me on things before like "nice shoes" BUT I never complement them on how they look or what their wearing...........I don't what them to think I'm checking them out.........
@Jimmy2016 Definitely a southern way of being nice,
Virgo79 · 61-69, M
Theres no right words anymore no matter whats said someone is offended.
Were failing as people fast
TheBlueOne · 26-30, M
@Virgo79 it’s not difficult to be respectful.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Virgo79 Well first off, I wasn't offended. I'm just getting a conversation going on SW after an encounter made me feel some kind of way about it. But secondly, I have calls with people all day long that I never think twice about. So I'm pretty sure it's not super hard to find right words.
I don't know whether it's good or bad but I wouldn't like it if a stranger calls me a sweet heart
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@SIMPlyLogicalDiscipline Right? That's exactly how I feel. Except I also kind of like being treated nice. It's a weird feeling. I'm just not sure.
Havesomefun2 · 56-60, M
Well iam from Yorkshire so it’s normal to say love
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@bijouxbroussard "Pet?" Like how? I have no concept of someone using that word in that context.
@ShadowSister She would say things like, "don’t worry, pet, it’ll be fine…" when something was going wrong. She was so nice. Many times she would be in the kitchen having coffee with our mother. She made English food for us to try and Mom made Creole food for her, her husband & son.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@bijouxbroussard Thank you, that helps me understand!
I don't mind at all but I grew up in the country. I call people sweetheart and hun pretty often.
Elessar · 26-30, M
Yeah that's condescending. In fact I only do that to men (that inconvenience me) 💀
Buildingadoor · 26-30, F
It's weird. Because it's overstepping a boundary
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Buildingadoor In my area it would be overstepping a boundary. But in the American South, I'm not so sure. Seems like it's more normal there.
Iwantyourhotwife · 22-25
How does it make you feel patronized?
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Iwantyourhotwife Hmm, good question. Not sure I can put it into words. But my teacher used to say, if you think you understand something but can't explain it, you probably don't really understand it.

I think it's because I'm in a professional environment. When he calls me sweetheart, he's moving it out of the realm of professional. Makes me feel like he values me for my pretty voice rather than my skills as an agent.
zonavar68 · 51-55, M
sweetheart/love/hunny/bunny/babe/darling/etc. all very cringeworthy terms of so-called endearment.
@zonavar68 sorry. you’re somebody is out there. just be ready.
zonavar68 · 51-55, M
@DarkHeaven id like to think so despite experiences to date.
JustNik · 51-55, F
You can tell when the intention is ill and that’s rare. I’m sure I don’t see every single thing the way everyone else thinks I ought to either, and I hope the same grace can be extended to me.
lumberjackslam · 41-45, M
only time I'll put up with it is when I stop at some truck stop diner in the middle of nowhere and there's some hick waitress ambling around with a pot of coffee saying 'more coffee hun?' then I eat that shit up. otherwise GTFO.
lumberjackslam · 41-45, M
@ShadowSister oh my mistake. then I'd just write it off as another weirdo. yes maybe. 😅
lumberjackslam · 41-45, M
@TheBlueOne how dare you? 😅
TheBlueOne · 26-30, M
@lumberjackslam you know me man
Anything for a good jab

Where are my meds
Bleak · 36-40, F
You can just interrupt in between

My pardon sir, I am no one’s sweetheart. Yes you heard me right. No one’s.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Bleak I don't think it got to that level of discomfort. But that's a great idea to keep in my back pocket. Thank you.
cycleman · 61-69, M
an older woman at work is saying "honey" to me all the time.
I don't mind, it is her thing and I just let it be.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@cycleman I think that matters. If you see they call everyone "honey," then you know they're not making it weird. I tend to think that's how this last guy was. But maybe not? I don't know.
hunkalove · 61-69, M
Sometimes older women call me "hon" or "honey." I don't mind.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@hunkalove A few other commenters have mentioned the same. It's a good point!
Venturist · 26-30, M
I personally dont like it. Its arbitrarily flirtatious.
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@Venturist I agree. But is it always? Or is that just how they talk in some parts? I'm not sure. May I ask where you are from?
This message was deleted by its author.
NiftyWhite · 46-50, F
I don’t take it personally at all. Not at all offended or patronized
Lilymoon · F
It's patronizing as fuck especially from a stranger. And so is dear 🙄
samueltyler2 · 80-89, M
yes, an in person as well!
TexChik · F
TexChik · F
@ShadowSister it’s very patronizing to folks not from the Deep South, but if he’s an older gentleman , it wasn’t intended to be .
TexChik · F
@ShadowSister 😂🤷🏻‍♀️😉
ShadowSister · 46-50, F
@TexChik I think you're right on both counts.
Kygirl · FVIP
As long as it's meant to spend cheer to the one you're talking to it's more than fine.
I call everyone honey or sweetheart. It's so much better than not saying their names right... Plus it shows the person that you are being there friend.
In a professional setting it’s one of those inappropriate habits older men are unlikely to break, alas. I tended to ignore it as long as nothing else (like inappropriate [b]touching[/b]) went with it. The culture has at least changed enough that most bosses know not to urge women to encourage that response ("he likes you, honey !"). There’s been some progress.
ChipmunkErnie · 70-79, M
Politically incorrect, for sure, but for some people it's normal, the way they were brought up, and they don;t realize it might be offensive.
Willyp063 · 61-69, M
I don’t think it’s intentionally derogatory. It’s men of a certain age. Just an opinion. 99% of the time it is innocent.
TheBlueOne · 26-30, M
Telesales here. Your job is to sell, not have feelings lol
It’s over familiar..but preferable to “hun”
HannahSky · F
They shouldn't. Doesn't matter where they're from.
alongalone · M
Bust him for being in a good mood 😀
lumberjackslam · 41-45, M
call him 'son' or maybe 'grandpa' or 'old timer' are you taking notes?

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