Happy 49th birthday, Rep. Steve Southerland IIWilliam (Steve) Steve SoutherlandRules for male candidates MORE (R-Fla.). Like it or not, you're the poster boy for what not to say about women. Don't worry, you’re not alone; there’s plenty of company on both sides of the aisle.

You joined the ranks of middle-aged white guys pretending to know what they're talking about when it comes to the female persuasion.

Did any of these guys read the surveys that say women are going to cast the deciding votes that determine if Republicans or Democrats take the Senate? Dudes, that gender gap thing is real.


No, this column is not a rant about reproductive rights. Or about the iconic "war on women" phrase that's bandied about. It's more basic than that. It's about keeping stupid, and sometimes inherently wrong, observations about our gender out of politics.

How many more times do we have to watch a throwback-to-the-Stone Age guy — of either party — who's trying to get elected open his yap and say something sexist before they all learn there are just a few basic rules for not alienating half of the voting population.

One would think that in the post-Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) world, where it's no longer cool to say that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," male pols would be more careful about how they couch comments about women.

Not so.

When Southerland kindly invited men only to his March fundraiser, the invitation read: "Tell the Misses not to wait up because the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many."

The "Misses"? First of all, let's spell it right. It's m-i-s-s-u-s. Comes from the word mistress. Used to describe or address a woman who is not known. More common in the South. He could have just said what we all know to be the true meaning: "the old ball-and-chain," or "my old lady."

Hey, if having a secret handshake boys' club gets the votes, do what you have to do. I'm not against male-only fundraisers. But leave the wives and girlfriends out of it on your invite. If you're printing that, we can only imagine what you're saying behind closed doors.

Southerland quickly defended himself, saying that he's not sexist. Then he blew it again by comparing his guy-only bash to a lingerie shower. Shaking. My. Head. But it's okay, he says, because he lives in a house full of women.

While it seems like the fault lies mostly with Republican men over 50 (or close enough), that's not always the case. Take Virginia's 10th district Democratic candidate John Faust, who trashed State Del. Barbara Comstock (R) for her pro-life views and gave her the do-you-even-have-a-real-job treatment. Foust defended himself, saying he's not insensitive to women and that taken in context, "a whole long prelude leading up to that statement ... was focused on her claiming to be a job creator."

It's all so darn tiring. So here are the rules, guys, to keep you out of hot water when you're addressing the girls. First of all, don't say girls. Or missus — or "misses" — for that matter. Secondly, if you're talking about the value of stay-at-home or working moms, don't. Just shut your pie hole. And finally, if you mess up, which you will, can you please just say you're sorry? It goes a long way to forgiving your 1950s-style blunders. It doesn't mean we'll vote for you. But you'll have a better chance of keeping your misstep to one news cycle.

Ashburn is a veteran Washington-based reporter and analyst covering media and politics.