Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick On A Pig

One of the things I try to teach my students is, one giving a speech, while no topic is off limits, you have to be careful not to offend anyone. I understand that and I agree with it (although certainly this can be taken to an extreme). So, is it offensive, when talking about a person, to say if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.

This comment came out of the presidential campaign. In case you are unaware, this situation went something like this: At the convention, VP candidate Sarah Palin, in her acceptance speech, asked what the difference was between a Hockey Mom and a pitbull. The answer, she said, “Lipstick”. Obviously, the point she was making was she can be a strong and tenacious (both as a VP candidate and as VP) as a pitbull.

Barack Obama then took this line of Palin’s and twisted it around. Obama said that if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig. He then went on to say, “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years”. The point he was making is that, regardless of appearance, regardless of gender, Palin’s record is her record and her lack of experience is her lack of experience. Moreover, he was suggesting that McCain’s ideas were nothing more than George W. Bush proposals said by someone else.

Was Obama’s comment unfair? Was it sexist? That is what the McCain camp is claiming and I am sure that there are many who agree. In terms of public speaking, one has to be aware of comments that someone MAY find offensive. Of course, in politics, it is not necessarily that the comment has offended someone, it is a mater of trying to make it sound offensive so the point of the comment has the shelf life of spoiled milk while the comment itself continues to live on. By the way, Obama was guilty of doing this when Hillary Clinton made a comment about Robert Kennedy being assassinated in the primary in 1968. The point she was making was, until the party has a nominee, you never can be sure who it is going to be. The Obama campaign, however, argued that this, in effect, was suggesting that someone could, and many even should, assassinate Obama.

So, was Obama out of line with his lipstck comment? I am sure there are some who felt he was. Personally, I think Palin was the one who first used this image and Obama in no way was suggesting the Palin was a pig. Still, it points out just how careful someone has to be on the campaign trail and when speaking. I devote an entire class to the ethics of speaking so this episode will now enter my repertoire of things to use when discussing ethics.