No, Ma'am: Fiorina Dings Boxer

What Women Really Think
Sept. 23 2010 12:20 PM

No, Ma'am: Fiorina Dings Boxer

Check out this new ad from Carly Fiorina, in which she dings Barbara Boxer for asking to be addressed as Senator rather than ma'am. "I worked so hard to get that title," she tells Brigadier General Michael Walsh (who probably knows a thing or two about working hard for rank). He quickly apologizes, and any mild sexism on his part probably wasn't intentional ("sir" and "ma'am" are de rigeur adresses in the military). But Boxer's smart to point it out rather than let it slide; a new study shows that when it comes to even mild sexist attacks on female politicians, "the advice often given to women-to ignore the attacks rather than risk giving them more attention or legitimacy-turns out to be wrong. In the study, responding directly helped the female candidate regain lost ground and cost her opponent support," according to USA Today .

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But then Fiorina plays dirty, turning an accidental slip-up into an opportunity to paint Boxer not just as a too-entrenched Washington insider, but as an uppity, strident career woman, a stereotype she knows (probably personally) is perhaps more damaging. And what exactly would she want to be called if she won the office, the junior missus from California?

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.