Hang on to your hoop skirts, friends, because where we’re going, we don’t need gender equality. Following Donald Trump’s outburst near the end of Wednesday’s debate, where he referred to his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, as “a nasty woman,” the fairer sex have taken up the mantle of “Nasty Woman,” claiming it and using it as a compliment. But some Republicans are doubling down on Trump’s characterization. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas commented on a radio talk show Thursday evening, that “sometimes a lady needs to be told when she's being nasty.”
Speaking on the Alan Colmes Show, Babin was asked multiple times whether he agreed with Trump’s assessment of Clinton as a nasty woman:
COLMES: He called her a nasty woman, is that appropriate?
REP. BABIN: You know what? She’s saying some nasty things.
COLMES: You think it’s appropriate to call her a nasty woman?
REP. BABIN: Well, I’m a genteel Southerner, Alan.
COLMES: So does that mean no?
REP. BABIN: No, I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she’s being nasty.
COLMES: Oh, really?
REP. BABIN: I do.
It seems that all the gentility in the world can’t stop this gentleman from telling a woman her place.
Actually, I’m glad that Babin has brought up the word “genteel” for us to discuss. It’s a dated word — “dated” is actually going to be one of our keywords today — that the dictionary defines as meaning polite, refined, or respectable. But of course, the word has more meaning than just that: It stems from the French word gentil, which in modern usage means “nice” or “kind” but when the word migrated over to English meant “well-born,” or if you prefer, “well-bred.”
Yes, whether meaning to or not, Babin has brought us back to the time when what a person could achieve wasn’t based on how hard they worked but on what family they were born into. It's a belief that most societies have had in one form or another for millennia, and one that we still fight against today, especially when one of our presidential candidate’s slogans is nothing more than light code for “let’s go back to when only white people had rights.”
There are dozens of ways of reframing this election as more than simply “Clinton versus Trump”: experience versus attitude, facts versus aspersions — just a day ago I made the case that it was truth versus lies, integrity versus cynicism. However, Babin has reminded us of one more critical divide that this election has become a referendum on: the past versus the future, or, if you like, going backward versus going forward.
I’ll tell you this much: I’ll take civility and equality over gentility any day of the week.