Saturday, June 20, 2009


I first read about the Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) "ma'am" controversy over at Not a Potted Plant. Basically, a military officer called Sen. Boxer "ma'am", Boxer asked instead if he would call her Senator, and the officer agreed. And then apparently a huge swath of the intertubes went off on Sen. Boxer as an uppity bitch.

The supposed twist here is that "ma'am" in the military is a standard term of respect used when addressing a female superior officers. This is discussed a bit in the Shakesville comments, where it is noted that even within the military "Senator" is still the proper address to a female Senator, not ma'am (see here). And of course, civilians not part of the military don't necessarily interpret words in the military context -- which I presume is part of the reason why the military has that protocol in the first place.

Nobody was saying this officer was a bad guy. He said "ma'am", which given his background was perfectly polite; Boxer asked to be called "Senator" -- also entirely reasonable and within her rights; the officer agreed. That should be case closed.


Julia said...

I prefer Star Trek where all superior officers are Sir.

The Gaucho Politico said...

people will turn anything into a fight. the continuous outrage is tiring.

Andrew said...
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Andrew said...

This is funny that I'm reading this now - I hadn't heard about the "incident." I just spent the last two days holed up at the ACS Convention (David, were you there? Half of Chicago is in ACS it seems), and at the Moot Court Finals, one of the competitors, an ex-military man, addressed Judge Karen Nelson Moore as ma'am, and the other two male judges as "Your Honor." He corrected himself after the first time, but my friends and I discussed that for a little bit afterward.

David Schraub said...

I'm mean, it's pretty clear it is an innocent mistake, but it's not unreasonable to be corrected either.

And yeah, the ACS organization at Chicago is quite expansive. I'm a member, but I wasn't at the convention.