Why It’s Not Cute When Strangers Call You “Honey”

Content photo from http://www.storypick.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/in-nooyi-cover-final.jpg

About two weeks ago, I went through the metal detector in the Boston airport, and my carry-on bag was pulled over by an older female TSA agent. She said she had to inspect it because it contained an unknown opaque object. I knew instantly that the said “opaque object” was a bag of coffee, which I was bringing home to my parents for Thanksgiving. She looked through my bag and talked to me while doing so––and she called me “honey” several times.

This is not the first time this has happened to me, and it’s not only with much older people. I’ve been called “honey” or “hon” by people who were older than me by just a few years. This term has a childish connotation as if the person who is on the receiving end of it is a kid needing a caretaker or to be reassured. Yes, I know I’m young, but I’m not a kid. I’m a legal adult, and I live, for the majority of the time, away from my parents. I can take care of myself, and I do not need to be reassured. I may interact with people who are older than I am, and as I respect them, they should respect me too. 

Calling a grown young woman “honey” is belittling them as a person. It is a form of condescension, and it is based simply on their appearance and their youth. Though there is a difference in experience and perspective, someone who is older should still respect you as an equal. 

I have expressed my annoyance toward this to many people before, and it is often met with the response that the strangers mean well and are trying to be kind. But think about it––they’re referring to a person they have never met with a term of endearment––doesn’t that seem strange? 

Most of the time, it is another woman who calls me “honey”. It is not uplifting; it does not make me feel special or good. Women should empower other women regardless of whether there is an age difference or not. If a man a young woman has never met calls her “honey,” that’s just downright creepy. 

Calling a young woman a term of endearment like “honey” is also sexist. Would someone refer to a young man this way? Most likely not. All too often, young men are treated with less condescension, and this is absolutely a gender issue. Young women are seen by their older equals as sweet little girls, while young men are seen as budding professionals or strong athletic types. This is wrong, this is patriarchal, and it has to change. 

So the next time a stranger calls you “honey”, don’t take it as a compliment. Think about what they’re really saying, and keep that in mind for future interactions. 

Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!