Stop talking, woman!

Arlen Specter orders Michele Bachmann to "act like a lady"

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published January 21, 2010 11:42PM (EST)

Sen. Arlen Specter got a little testy yesterday during a radio appearance with Rep. Michele Bachmann. Only, when I say "testy," I mean he totally lost his shit and chastised her to pipe down and "act like a lady." (You can listen to the exchange here.)

While trying to get the Republican congresswoman to give specific examples of proposals she had supported in the past year, Bachmann interrupted to give him an answer. So, Specter interrupted her interruption to say, and I quote: "Now wait, now wait, now wait a minute, I didn't, I didn't interrupt you, now wait a minute, I didn't interrupt you, I didn't interrupt you, would you stop interrupting?" In other words: "La-la-la-la-la, I'm not listening!"

Bachmann again launched into her defense and Specter cut in: "I didn't, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't interrupt you." It kinda sounds like a DJ is scratching with the audio of Specter's voice: "I didn't, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't [chicka-chicka] interrupt you." Come to think of it, will someone please do a mash-up of this à la the DJ Jazzy Jeff-Allen Iverson jam? I'm pretty certain it would be, like, the greatest remix ever.

Ah, but I digress. It took just one more interruption from Bachmann and Specter blew his lid: "Now wait a minute! Don't interrupt me, I didn't interrupt you. Act like a lady." (Yeah, OK, Dad.) Bachmann, seeming a little taken aback, replied: "Well, I think I am a lady." Specter conceded, "I think you are too, that's why I'm treating you like one, but just don't interrupt me." (What, or else you won't treat her like a lady? And what exactly does that make you, sir?)

It's hard to get too worked up about such a juvenile exchange, but it's worth pausing for a moment to make note of his choice of the word "lady." Only Specter knows what he truly meant by it -- but, as a public service announcement for all the men out there, let me just say: Many women interpret "act like a lady" to mean "know your place, little girl." This comes from spending a lifetime being instructed in various ways to sit back politely, speak up only when called upon and defer to the male ego.

I'm reminded of how Bill O'Reilly yelled at Salon's editor in chief Joan Walsh to "stop talking" during a debate following Dr. George Tiller's murder. Of course, the guy is a blowhard and I'm fairly sure he would tell most anyone to shut up, regardless of their sex -- but at the time, she asked him a relevant question: "Am I gonna get to talk here or will I always have to talk over you?" Whether it's a radio or cable news show, those are often the only two choices at hand; and if being "ladylike" means not being heard, then bring on the "manly" women.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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