Don’t Call Them “Teabaggers,” It Means Something Icky

We stand corrected along with Sen. Mark Udall, 9NEWS helpfully reports:

Sen. Mark Udall is wading into a hotly contested special election on behalf of a fellow Democrat, and it’s his use of the word “tea-baggers” that has upset some conservatives.

The fundraising e-mail is on behalf of Martha Coakley, a Democrat, who is facing Republican Scott Brown in a tight race to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.

Udall’s e-mail reads, in part, “Martha’s opponent is receiving millions of dollars in support from far-right tea-baggers across the country, claiming him as one of their own.”

The term “tea-bagger,” which is also slang for a sex act, has been used by critics of the tea party movement, a conservative push for lower taxes and smaller government…

The word “tea-bagger” has appeared on signs at anti-tax rallies but movement organizers have long sought to discourage use of the word because of its sexual connotation.

“It’s inappropriate,” said tea party movement founder Michael Johns. “Especially by someone who should know better.”

A campaign representative for Udall, who is not up for re-election until 2014, issued a statement in response to an inquiry by 9NEWS.

“Over the past year, multiple media outlets have used the term as a short-hand reference to tea party activists,” the statement read. “That is what was intended by the campaign and nothing more.”

Udall’s staff shouldn’t feel too bad, we actually have used “teabagger” innocently and mistakenly too–as well as a few other times, which, we admit, were not so much mistakes. There’s no question, as 9NEWS says, that the term has been unwittingly used by authentic “Tea Partiers” many times: it does seem like a relatively benign shorthand description if you don’t know any better. Once you read what “teabagging” actually means at the Urban Dictionary (not even linking), though, you can understand why “Tea Party” leaders would rather their members–and U.S. Senators–find a better shorthand description.


72 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. SSG_Dan says:

    Yeah, I’ll remember not to do that. Just like I won’t remember  while campaigning for Obama, being called a terrorist-loving communist who is a traitor, and that I have never sacrificed for this country.

    Yeah, I got something for all of you Uber-right wing idiots, and Senator Udall got the name exactly right…

  2. Ralphie says:

    The teabaggers first stunt, last spring, involved tea bags.

    They opened the door.

    You do a demonstration with teabags, you get called a teabagger.  Maybe you should have thought it out a bit more.

  3. oldman says:

    “It’s inappropriate,” said tea party movement founder Michael Johns. “Especially by someone who should know better.”

    Is the statement by Johns inappropriate in itself?  Who’s he to judge or assume to judge what others may or may not know about sexual slang terms.  Damn sandbagging tea-bag..partiers.  Sounds uncomfortable.

  4. Dr B says:

    and we should continue to call them by their given name.  

    You don’t get to give yourself a nickname — others do that for you.  

    And moralizers don’t get to decide what we can and cannot say, either, though you can’t convince them or their enablers of that fact.  

    They are and remain the tea baggers.  

    Never refer to them as anything else.  After all, a tea party is something for little kids, not adults.

    • ajb says:

      Here’s what I don’t really get: the Boston Tea Party was a protest against taxation without representation.

      After a long bloody struggle, we have democratic elections. We have taxation with representation. The analogy for the teapartiers completely fails.

      If I were interviewing these idiots, the first question I would ask is how their beliefs parallel those of the founding fathers. They don’t.


      • sxp151 says:

        wanted all government services to be free, without ever paying for them. Even though there was no functioning government at the time of the revolution, the Founding Fathers knew that if they just cut the waste out of the total lack of government, they’d magically find enough money to make everything function smoothly.

        I cry every night into my pillow because we’ve lost that initiative, and some of us have fallen so far that we even think things have to be paid for. The Founding Fathers would have sold you into slavery for thinking that.

  5. davebarnes says:

    She is a party hack.

    She is a poor speaker.

    She thought she was anointed to this position and took it for granted.

    I hope Scott Brown crushes her.

    None of the above has anything to do with the positions of the 2 candidates.

    However, Harold Ford II is making her look OK.

  6. LakewoodTodd says:

    They chose a name that begs to be made fun of and I’m pretty sure none of the people who started calling them teabaggers had any idea that there was another meaning to this word.

    This is so clearly a pre-election day misdirection play. “Let’s make it about being called a dirty word instead of letting people talk about how our guy claimed he wasn’t associated to a group who just did a fundraiser for him.”

    If I thought they were REALLY upset about this, I wouldn’t be very sympathetic to their complaints anyhow. But, these are crocodile tears they are crying.

  7. harrydoby says:

    Oh dear, will your outrageous insults never cease?

  8. RedGreen says:

    itself doesn’t have plenty of degrading, vulgar meanings. In fact, some of them are more offensive than simple tea-bagging.  

  9. Voyageur says:

    But if the shoe fits, boys, wear it!

  10. DevilishlyModerate says:

    These are the same folks that continue to say that Obama isn’t a US citizen and that they are loosing their country to Socialists. Honestly, I never thought it would come down to this… NUTS

  11. peacemonger says:

    and lots of folks on the other side called THEMSELVES “tea-baggers”.  Only the most enlightened say “tea-partiers”.

  12. colorado76 says:

    For whatever that’s worth. It’s a term used to simultaneously refer to and deride people because they belong to a group. It’s also plainly true that a slur doesn’t stop being a slur because some of the people referred to also use the word.  It’s different than many more common slurs because it isn’t a component of the historical oppression of a group, but it’s still a slur.  

    • Steve Harvey says:

      that if you try real hard, you can think of some groups that deserve to be saddled with labels that have unflattering connotations.

      It makes a difference that the “slur” is directed toward members of a group whose membership is not due to the chances of birth but rather to their choices of belief and action. If someone chooses to act reprehensibly, or voluntarily belong to a reprehensible group, it’s not really a “slur” to call that person reprehensible. Using the word “teabagger” is just a way of doing so.

      Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary, nor is it particularly offensive. The important point is how people demean themselves by their own behaviors, and how others try to discourage and quarantine those behaviors by casting them in the most unflattering of lights.

      • colorado76 says:

        In deciding the morality of it all, there are bigger fish to fry, but it is what it is.  In the same way that you feel you can place a “reprehensible” judgement on anyone who might label themselves part of the tea party movement because of the reprehensible conduct of some of them is stereotyping.  The truth, I’d imagine, is that many people who consider themselves part of the tea party movement are decent, kind individuals who don’t like the current direction of the country and join with others to say so.  Of course some of their members act reprehensibly, but the same can be said of any group.  In the end, maybe its all justified and maybe it isn’t.  Maybe tea party activists deserve to be slurred and stereotyped because of their affiliation and maybe they don’t.  But it makes more sense to admit its happening than to say it isn’t a slur and it isn’t a stereotype when its someone we don’t like.

        • Steve Harvey says:

          a range of different people involved in the movement, some probably quite decent and likeable folks. But I think you’re applying concepts in an overly convenient way.

          To use some examples from different contexts, it wouldn’t be a slur to call KKK members racists, though some of them might be quite nice as well. It wouldn’t be a slur to call members of religious fundamentalist groups religious zealots, because, by definition, that is what they are. How much of a slur is it, then, to call members of religious fundamentalist groups “religious kooks” if it happens to be your opinion that religious zealotry is kooky? That’s not a slur, and it’s not a stereotype, but rather an expression of an opinion about the real, or legitimately opined, nature of the group.

          Some of us share a legitimate negative opinion about the real nature of the Tea Party group. It’s not a stereotype to believe that they stand for things which, IMHO, range from merely dysfunctional to outright hateful and ignorant. And it’s not a slur or recourse to stereotypes to call them “kooks” or “nut cases” for joining a group that occupies such a range. “Kooks,” “nut cases,” “Teabaggers,” what’s the difference?

          Sure, as I said, I think that the name calling is a distraction from the substance of the criticisms, at least for the purposes of rational discourse (it may or may not be more effective politically). But calling it “slurs” and “stereotyping” is just launching a volley of strategically deployed words not quite appropriate to the context in order to smuggle in inaccurate connotations.

          But have at it. It’s all fair game.

          • colorado76 says:

            Racist is a descriptor that’s used for literal meaning.  Teabagger is not.  Zealot is a descriptor that carries a connotation.  Teabagger is not.  Kook is an insult, but generally one that travels with the person and can fit someone from any background, be they a religious kook, scienfic kook, or Bronco-loving kook.  Same for nut case.  Teabagger is not the same, it is a term of derision chosen for a particular person because of a particular affiliation without respect to that person’s individual worthiness of judgment (to the extent such things can be measured).  

            I call it a slur because it meets the dictionary (look it up) and common sense meanings of the term.  And I call labeling someone worthy of derision simply because of affiliation with a political group that does not contain only reprehensible people stereotyping because that’s what it is.

            The point is, I haven’t seen you argue yet that it isn’t a slur or a stereotype, just that it isn’t bad. Those are indeed separate questions.  But I’d imagine that there are many, including myself, who would like to think we believe all slurs and stereotyping are intrinsically wrong, but also notice that how we feel about them depends on who they are being applied to.

            • Steve Harvey says:

              it’s not a stereotype because it has no content: It’s merely an alternative, and intentionally insulting, moniker for the members of the organization. They are Tea Baggers because they belong to the movement that is called, alternatively, the Tea Party Movement or the Tea Bagger Movement. The term does not reduce the members to a fixed set of assumptions, because the term is synonymous with membership in the group.

              Secondly, it’s a slur in the same way that calling someone a jerk is a slur. It’s an insult, which is more or less denotatively synonymous with slur. But the words are used differently, for different purposes, and especially when “slur” is juxtaposed with “stereotype” (which “Tea Bagger” is not). Slur carries a set of connotations implying that it is a particular type of insult, as in “racist slur.” And “Tea Bagger” is not an insult which belongs to that implied sub-set of insults.

              Actually, the one thing I haven’t argued is that it isn’t “bad.” I don’t really disagree with the substance of your opposition to calling people names. I’m just pointing out that your choice of words is slightly disingenuous.

              • colorado76 says:

                The term isn’t a stereotype. This is:

                If someone chooses to . . . voluntarily belong to a reprehensible group, it’s not really a “slur” to call that person reprehensible.

                I don’t see any eat to read that other than claiming the ability to judge a member of the tea party movement strictly by their associations.

                We could also argue the meaning of a slur all night too. I think the most common sense usage is a term that is used to refer to a member of a disfavored group intended to cast disdain as well as make a reference.  Generally the speaker knows the person wouldn’t want to be referred to as such, but the speaker doesn’t care because he or she intends the insult. “Jerk” is completely different. Now perhaps slurs only matter in the context of historical oppression (as I mentioned in my first post) but I want us to make sure we own that conclusion.    

                • Steve Harvey says:

                  for the simple and irrefutable reason that it’s sole substantive meaning is that it refers to the membership of the group. Despite its other (sexual) meaning, the only importation of that meaning is as a generic insult, not as a suggestion of any specified habits or customs or traits. A stereotype has to reduce those who are being stereotyped to something more specific than a vague disdain: “teabagger” doesn’t meet that basic criterion.

                  The disingenuity comes from using words that aren’t appropriate to the context, but that carry a particular set of connotations with them. I don’t know you, only the words you chose to describe something. Misusing the word “stereotype,” alongside the word “slur,” which you keep insisting differs from other insults by virtue of being directed at the members of a group, clearly is an attempt to imply a form of bigotry.

                  So, while you are trying to import the connotation of slur as an expression of bigotry (“disdain” toward “members of a disfavored group” who are being “stereotyped”), and, while in a strict literal sense, “teabaggers” is an expression of disdain toward the members of a disfavored group (though they are not being stereotyped), the reason the group is disfavored is because of what they stand for. That’s not bigotry. That’s just impolite opposition.

                  You have no objection, I imagine, to expressions of disdain toward members of the KKK. The only difference is that you too (presumably) don’t like what the KKK stands for. I can take your entire argument, as developed in every one of your posts, and use it in exactly the same way, with exactly the same words, to critique calling KKK members by some generically disdainful moniker. There’s absolutely no difference other than how you feel about the political positions of the two groups.

                  Disdain toward members of a group for that reason is the same as disdain toward an individual for being a jackass.

                  It doesn’t matter what words you use: If you are married to the words “slur” and “stereotype” (though the latter is simply wrong), more power to you. But when you pretend that impolite opposition to a political group on the basis of their political position is somehow akin to bigotry, you’re playing fast and loose with both your words and implications. All it is is impolite.

                  • colorado76 says:

                    I wish you well.  For whatever its worth, every assumption you’ve made about me and my motives is wrong, but it would appear that generally that’s not worth anything at all.  I am honestly concerned about the use of the phrase because I’ve come to accept the widely-held view that the use of slurs is inadvisable, and no one has been able to explain to me what a slur is in a way that this term wouldn’t be included.  But that is a small concern in an ocean of challenges.  Good night, dear friend.

                    • Steve Harvey says:

                      maintaining that name-calling is generally inadvisable. And I make no assumptions about your motivations (I almost qualified “disingenuous” with “intentionally or unintentionally”), only conclusions about your use of words. Good morning to you as well.

  13. Laughing Boy says:

    It’s like folks that can’t post here without saying “Repugs” or “Democraps” or whatever.  

    Eventually you have to sit down for dinner with these people you deride and try to get something done.

      • Laughing Boy says:

        That’s a targeted insult that will be withdrawn when card check is gone.  You don’t get to call yourself “Democratic” and try to imply that moving away from a secret ballot is good for any form of democracy.

        It’s like the DPRK or the DDR.

        • SSG_Dan says:

          I wish I had the time to go back on the internets and find the first reference, but the use of the term “Demo-o-cRAT” Party goes back to around the 2006 election.

          You can warp it up in whatever new ploy you want, but this crap has been around for years. And as long as the Repubs use it, I keep using my shortened version.

          Or, it’s longer variation, the “Republican’t” Party.

        • ardy39 says:

          Of course, the fact that “card check” does not get rid of the option for a secret ballot is just so terribly inconvenient, no?

          • Laughing Boy says:

            And you know it.

            • ardy39 says:

              And I have no idea whether you knew this or not. 😉

              • Laughing Boy says:

                Under EFCA, who decides whether to have a secret ballot or a card check in a union referendum?

                • ardy39 says:

                  since I’m not fluent in legalese.

                  But my understanding, of how the NLRA would be changed by EFCA is that the employees get to decide. (shudder)

                  If >50% of the employees sign a petition, a union is created. If between 30 and 50% sign such a petition, then a secret ballot is held to determine unionization. (Sec. 9(c)6)

                  If the union is created by petition alone (that is, no election takes place) then a second petition, signed by >30% of the employees could force an election, by secret ballot, to decertify the union. This second petition could follow immediately after the first. So, even if “union thugs” were able to “coerce” 50%+1 of the employees to sign a petition, the employer “upstanding agents” merely need to “gently persuade” 30%+1 to require a secret ballot. (Sec. 9(e)1)

                  In other words, EFCA does absolutely nothing to get rid of secret ballots. And it doesn’t appear to do anything to inhibit the ability of the employer to influence how employees vote in a secret ballot.

                  Again, my fluency in legalese is below the 1st grade level, but it appears to me that EFCA is kind of a lame bogeyman, but whatever rocks your boat…

        • Emma Anne says:

          The rule is you get to use a derogatory term if you disagree with a groups policies.  Teabaggers it is, then.

  14. Froward69 says:

    of the term meant BEFORE they adopted the name… shows Just how out of touch with society they were to begin with.

    Additionally, they have no intention to come back to reality. only to impose theirversion of reality on the rest of us…

    then again the whole Fiber induced “movement”. really just comes off as a bunch of RACISTS pissed off that the rest of us elected a Black Guy President. Confederate flag included.  

    • Laughing Boy says:

      Just to clarify, everyone who opposes Obama’s policies is a racist?  

      • DevilishlyModerate says:

        As for the T-bag gang, they have proven that they have racist inclinations: Dale Robertson, a Tea Party activist who operates, is getting stung for an old photo – taken at the Feb. 27, 2009 Tea Party in Houston – in which he holds a sign reading “Congress = Slaveowner, Taxpayer = nig gar.”

        As for the Republican party, I think it would be a mistake to everyone in the party racist because that’s definitely off the mark. However, it is a bit odd that it’s made up of all older white gentlemen.  

      • Froward69 says:

        From time to time.

        Disagreeing with is different than Opposing.

        >>> To ardently “oppose” without reason or logic. even to turn on Conservative originated ideas just because President Obama accepts them as viable…

        Shows racism.

        Opposing just to be the opposition is placing party above country. and only goes towards treason.

        Reality shows President Obama is actually governing from centrist position. Just Like Clinton was.

        However the right refuses to accept this reality. and Accuses President Obama of fascism, communism, Marxism, Socialist. any leftist label when reality shows us these terms just do not apply.  

        • MADCO says:

          The R does accept that Obama is a centrist or wayyy more moderate than the hype claims.  But there is no value in acknowledging it – the way to inflame and motivate their base and even in the middle is to define him as so far left it’s illegal.

          And though tis frustrates the actual left who know Obama is moderate, the far left is lost to them unless/untill they get a new Ralph Nader.

          • Froward69 says:

            rallies its own base claiming Obama carries a copy of Marx everywhere he goes.

            ok I accept that as how the R’s play the game.

            So then it is fair game to claim

            teabaggers are really fascist racists.

            OK I’ll play.

            gets nothing done nor any real problem solved.

            but if those are the rules R’s insist upon playing by…

  15. dentarthurdent says:

    Since the bagging question is the problem then refer to them as TP’ers. A juvenile pastime which causes temporary irritation but no meaningful impact seems appropos. I also like the double entendre. A TP party is stuck on the heel of the body politic.

  16. divad says:

    …and teabaggers, apparently nobody bothered to inform $arah Palin what the alternative meanings of “going rogue” are.

  17. DaftPunk says:

    …If I never have to hear “Democrat Party” again.

  18. Vincent Lynn says:

    A Tea Party group out of Cleveland, Ohio is sick of the degrading ‘Tea-Bag’ title that the liberal media has given to their movement.  This group is steaming mad at the liberal MSM and has started an off-shute of the Tea Party called the ‘Cleveland Steamers.’  

    It seems that the Cleveland Steamers are not alone in their anger.  A similar group of Tea-Partiers from Hobbs, New Mexico is sick of all the dirty fighting.  Jerry Sanchez, the leader of the Northern New Mexico Tea Party said “Until we get our democracy back from the communist regime, we are going to fight hard and fight dirty, just like Keith Olbermann.”  The Dirty Sanchezs of New Mexico will be holding a rally at a local bath house on Thursday at midnight.


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