I am sure that most people have read the Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece entitled, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” The main focus of the Op Ed is to ridicule the incoming First Lady about using the title of Dr. in her name, after receiving her PhD in Education. I think that the critiquing articles eviscerating the writer of this Op Ed speak for themselves and I will not reiterate their arguments. What struck me when reading this Op Ed, was the opening:
Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name?
The writer dared to refer to the incoming First Lady as kiddo! And this struck a nerve, because it is a condescending term – one which I hear from a colleague at work all of the time.
Now my colleague is a work friend also and we are both partners, but in the last few months, he has been calling me kiddo and it has been leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Kiddo is a term used to describe someone younger.
Collins Dictionary states that ” You can call someone kiddo, especially someone who is younger than you, as a sign of affection.”
Well, I am definitely not younger than my colleague!
But kiddo can also be patronizing and condescending, and while the person using the term may think of it as an expression of benign affection, it doesn’t always come across that way. For a young woman who is trying her best to be taken seriously, ‘kiddo‘ can very quickly wipe all that away.
And my discomfort with the term lies somewhere in between. I like working in a work environment where people work well together and really work in a team environment. That they are comfortable with one another. And so in that vein, perhaps the term is an acknowledgement of that comradery?
Listen – I am really trying.
I guess ultimately, I find the term disrespectful because it is a term used to acknowledge a difference in ….status. By calling me kiddo, the same way that the author of the Op Ed used it, it is used to be patriarchal and condescending. As if the person using it is wiser and is higher in status.
Or am I overthinking this? Am I making a bigger deal over a term that is probably used just as a familiar term. But in this day and age, maybe that term is not appropriate and needs to be eliminated from the work place language. Because whether we like it or not, the work place is a professional place and your image and how you are perceived make a big difference in your success and failure.
And we need to evolve. We need to acknowledge that language and definitions matter. That the way we speak to others, represents our biases and our feelings about others. And especially in the work place, terms like Kiddo, Missy and other such terms are just not needed.
But that does not mean that this erodes the team dynamic and takes away the familiarity – it just means that we are moving past antiquated phrases and ways of thinking and creating environments where people are appreciated for what they bring to the table and are not diminished into gender, racial or other such terms.
And so no more Kiddo for me. And if that affects our workplace dynamic, so be it. Hopefully, it will improve it for the better.
But that’s just one Diva’s view.