Don’t call Ashley Judd “sweetheart” for that matter either.
In A Facebook Live video, Ashley Judd explains the situation she was placed in and how she responded. Note the comments in the thread that aren’t exactly supportive of her being offended.
“This is the kind of thing to me that happens which I categorize as everyday sexism. And it is so easy to let it go and not to speak up, particularly when it is so easy for someone to push back and say, ‘Oh, I was just being polite.’ So I was coming through security and a guy said ‘Hey sweetheart,’ and I said, ‘I’m not your sweetheart, I am your client.’ So I was already setting a boundary.”
I am of the opinion that service providers need to treat clients in a respectful and professional manner that is consistently applied regardless of the gender of the client being served. I don’t consider it a compliment for a stranger to refer to me with a term of endearment reserved solely for my husband or my immediate family to use. It crosses the boundary into being too familiar, it’s not an appropriate term of address for a client/vendor relationship and coming from a stranger, it appears to be flirting. Women should not have to defend their reasons why they prefer to be treated in a professional manner by employees and service providers.
The caveat to this are people who use these terms of address for everyone. Years ago I shopped at a Southern States Farm Co-op store in Creedmoor, NC where the elderly female cashier referred to everyone, and I mean everyone… young, old, black, white, male, female… as “Precious”. It didn’t matter who you were, your name was “Precious”. It was a little surprising at first to be called that…until I realized the big, burly farmers wearing overalls and sporting beards were also being called “Precious”. It became rather endearing.
I had my own Ashley Judd moment decades ago when I was the client interacting with an older male salesman who kept referring to me as “sweetheart” or other terms of endearment typical of what a father would say to his daughter. His patronizing familiarity was undoubtedly a learned habit because he was truly stunned when I informed him of the reason why I would no longer do business with his company and was shifting business to his competitor. To men of his generation, his behavior was seen as complimentary to a woman whereas to have behaved similarly with a male client would have been unheard of. Sorry, I’m here to conduct business in as a professional manner as possible and I expect to be treated like the male customers.
Do you want to edify your clients and customers? Smile pleasantly to everyone, do your job professionally, ask pleasantly how their day has gone, and wish them a good day. That’s enough of a compliment for me.