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Opinion | J.D. Vance’s Baldwin Tweets Are an Offensive

Suck it up he has — and how. If this politics thing doesn’t work out for him, he has a potentially huge career as a vacuum.

When this feature of the newsletter last appeared, four weeks ago, I questioned the persistence and sexism of the phrase “maiden name” and digressed to mention a long-ago column of mine about the disproportionate abundance of slurs for women (versus men) who are deemed sexually permissive.

Many of you wrote in to note, rightly, that the aspersion inequality doesn’t end there. The English language, at least as practiced by Americans in modern times, is riddled with derogatory terms that refer only to women and have no match in the dictionary applicable to men.

Marilee Meuter of Chico, Calif., observed that a cantankerous but cute old man is sometimes called a curmudgeon while an irascible but adorable old woman is never called that — or, really, anything that captures the adorable smidgen. For old women, we have a cornucopia of put-downs: crone, hag, shrew, spinster (if she’s unmarried), biddy, battle-ax, harpy (if the insulter’s vocabulary is elevated), harridan (ditto). For old men we have … coot?

Beverly Connor of Berkeley, Calif., wrote: “The sexist word that has long bothered me is mistress. It is often used in media simply to describe the female lover of a married man. She may be financially independent, in no sense ‘kept,’ yet mistress she is. And for the male lover of a married woman there is no equivalent term.” Graham da Ponte of New Orleans made that same point.

And just as there’s aspersion inequality, there’s encomium inequality. I direct your attention to “the Great Man theory of history” (the italics are mine). And I thank Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla, Alaska, for directing my attention to it. (I’m struck by where she lives. Would a Great Woman theory of history include a former mayor of that city, whose recruitment for John McCain’s presidential ticket was one of the steppingstones to Trump?)

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