Politically correct goes off the deep end into the abyss


Berl Falbaum

I am writing this column with perspiration on my forehead, my hands shaking, and my palms wet.

I thought hard and long whether to tackle the issue discussed here, but finally decided it would be cowardly not to examine the subject that has sent shock waves through our society.

So, I’ll take the plunge…

Dr. Vito Perrone was in line to be appointed superintendent of the Easthampton School District in Massachusetts. Everything seemed in be in order when he sent an email to two committee members, Chairperson Cynthia Kwiecinski and Suzanne Colby, executive assistant to the committee, regarding the financial offer. 

Here it comes. I hope you are sitting down. 

He made a fatal mistake. In the salutation, he addressed the two by writing, “Ladies, Good morning,” like in “Ladies and Gentlemen.” Now, do you understand my palpitations?

He was told he was guilty of “micro aggression” and the email was deemed “hostile” and “derogatory.”

The charge gives new meaning to, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I shouldn’t use that famous quote because it uses the “l” word.

I broke out in a cold sweat. It dawned on me how many times I was guilty of similar callousness because often I described a woman as, “quite a lady.” 

Through my career I have written about lots of controversial subjects, but this one is at the top of the list of sensitive topics.

After taking a few deep breaths, lots of questions popped in my mind. Let’s take a look at some of the ramifications of Dr. Perrone’s sin.

First, what is micro aggression, you might ask? I asked and learned it is, “A comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.” 

That led me to study some history for this column and discovered that “lady” actually was used as a compliment for women, signifying power, nobility, and privilege.

I learned that Abigail Adams asked her husband, John, who was to become the second U.S. president, “to remember the ladies” while he was working on the Declaration of Independence. She reportedly told him: “I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands.”

It is a good thing that Mrs. Adams was not applying to become superintendent of schools in Easthampton. She also became a “First Lady” when her husband was elected president.

Indeed, in politics, we had Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and all the spouses of U.S. presidents who were “First Ladies.”

In literature, if we want to respond to the committee’s sensitivities, we will have to edit out all the “m’lady” used by servants to address women in high social standing.

Perhaps the most famous lady in literature is the ruthless Lady Macbeth. I am confident the Easthampton committee would never have retracted a contract offered to her. She would not have taken that kindly.  She would have written, “Your offer, m’ladies, is fine and fair, but double, double, toil and trouble, I want to be mayor.”

In music, the song, “She’s a Lady” written by Paul Anka and made famous by Tom Jones would need to be revised as well as “Lady” written by Lionel Ritchie and performed by Kenny Rogers.

Then there is Lady Gaga and the country music trio, Lady Antebellum. The threesome actually changed its name but kept “lady.”  Instead, it changed Antebellum to simply “A.”

Frank Sinatra thought highly of “lady” when, while gambling, he asked, “luck be a lady tonight” because he found ladies to be loyal and devoted. They would not abandon you when needed.

We can’t forget Lady Godiva who rode nude through the streets of Coventry, asking people not to look. But one, a man named Tom, did peek, and, voila, we had our first “Peeping Tom.” (I learned so much doing research for this column). 

The decision to rescind the offer to Perrone was made behind closed doors, possible violating the state’s open meeting law. Perhaps someone will leak the minutes so the public can read about the debate over the word, “ladies.”

Dr. Perrone has some supporters. About 150 people, including some ladies, protested the committee’s decision. One sign read: “These Ladies Support this Gentleman.”

I wondered what the lady of the house, a feminist’s feminist who edits my articles and books, would think of the issue. I got my answer when she looked up from this column and asked, “What’s with these ladies?”


Berl Falbaum is a veteran political columnist and author of 12 books.