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In reading another recent diary here today, there was a brief discussion regarding the appropriateness of using a woman's first name when using a last name is the norm.  For example, a poster referred to Senator Claire McCaskill as Claire.  Another mentioned that Hillary Clinton called herself Hilary when running for the Senate.  Another mentioned that Governor Jennifer Graham was generally referred to as Jenny.  Someone else mentioned that Romney is sometimes referred to as Mitt.

The discussion made my feminist radar turn on - you know, that stuff that makes women grow mustaches, hate babies, and get tattoos.  Well, while I kind of secretly want a little tattoo in an out of the way place and won't be around any babies for awhile, so am okay with hating them, I really, really don't want to grow a mustache.  So I've gotta' see if I can't do something to get that dang thing turned off.

Follow below the squiggle to see my efforts and let me know whether you think a mustache is in my near future:

My initial reaction to the whole discussion was that using a woman's first name when a last name is generally used is clearly sexist, even though it's a subtle form of discrimination.  Generally, using a person's last name is a sign of respect.  For example, a boss often calls the employees by their first name, even when the employees use the bosses last name.  The doorman's first name is used, while s/he uses the residents' last name.  Patients refer to their doctor using his/her last name, while the doctor generally uses the patient's first name.  And on and on.  Those with power or authority or money are nearly always called by their last name; those without those things are called by their first name.  Ergo, using the last name shows a level of respect that is being withheld when the first name is used instead.

Ah but, one of the poster's maintained, that can't be the case because Hilary Clinton herself chose to use her first name rather than Clinton in order to differentiate herself from her husband.  Another pointed out that Claire McCaskill uses her first name quite frequently.

At that point, I thought I might be saved from the deadly mustache blight.  Of course, if a woman herself prefers to be referred to by her first name, then there can be no sexism about it.  Of course, in this justification, I have to omit Hilary Clinton.  I mean, there's no evidence to suggest she preferred to be referred to as Hilary.  Just that she knew that if she didn't want the electorate to confuse and conflate her with Bill, there had to be a way to differentiate her from him.  Using the same name as he used wouldn't go far in that.  What other option was there?  Referring to herself as Clinton II?  Or the unClinton?  Nope, Hilary was about the only route she had to go.  The mustache is seeming inevitable right about now.

And Jennifer Granholm?  Well, I have to admit, even though she was my governor, I never once ever heard her called Jenny.  Or Governor Jenny.  I quite distinctly remember hearing her referred to as Governor Granholm, both in writing and in print.  So maybe the person posting that statement was much more in the inner circle than I - or knew her a lot better than I (a distinct possibility, since I never had the honor of meeting her).

But Claire McCaskill.  It does seem as though she is quite free about incorporating her first name into ads and such.  So maybe it's just a natural thing to refer to her as Claire rather than as Senator McCaskill.  It was the only hope I now held for fending off the mustache doom.

Then I thought back to when I first began working professionally and my level of discomfort at being called Ms. last name while I called the secretaries by their first names.  I remember feeling so bad when one of them would slip and use my first name - and actually apologize for it.  They needed to apologize only because they were worried that they weren't showing the appropriate level of respect by using my first name.  And I was very uncomfortable with being at a different level - I'd have much preferred just being one of them.  If I'd dared, I'd have told them to just use my first name.  But I also knew that if I was referred to by my first name while the men were referred to by their last name, I would lose respect from the men.  But I wasn't comfortable.  Of course, then, I wasn't comfortable with many aspects of stepping outside the box of societal norms that existed at that time.  It would have been so much easier to accept the sexual boxes we'd all been put into.

I then thought about the one female judge we have in our county.  I've kicked myself numerous times because I so often find myself thinking of her and referring to her by her first name, whereas I never refer to any of the male judges by their first names.  Again, during her campaign, she tended to refer to herself by her first name, and that perhaps made me think of her in that way more readily.  But more than that, I've concluded it's because I actually respect her more in most ways.  She's the most courteous judge I've ever seen, she exerts extraordinary self control and is patient with the most difficult persons, and she makes more of an effort to be certain she's rendering the correct decision.  

I've also noticed that it's quite definitely not just me that refers to her by her first name so much more often; it's pretty much everyone.  Do they all respect her more?  Like her more?  I have no idea.

Finally, I then tried out the idea that we're more likely to refer to female politicians by their first name than male politicians because we just like the females better.  That would work for Hilary - except for the right wing zealots, can you imagine any more well liked politician right now?  And it would work for Jennifer Granholm had it ever occurred to me to call her Jenny.  I don't think it would work so good for Claire, though.  Or for Sarah.

Then, too, there's the question of - even if a woman doesn't recognize that she's accepted some form of discrimination because it's so prevalent, who even notices, does that mean it's any less discrimination?  

And then there's the fact that we liked to call Bush Jr. George and Romney Mitt and Cheney Dick.  We did that, not their supporters or the media.  Us.  Those that hate them.  We used their first names and or a nickname as a symbol of disrespect, pure and simple.

I don't know that there's a right and a wrong way to look at this question.  But I find it an interesting one.  I'd like to think that the sex of a politician should not matter in either how we react to them or how we refer to them.  I'd like to think that, except for the fanatic right wingers, a politicians sex is irrelevant and it's their positions and abilities that create respect or lack of it.  I'd like to think that our tendency to "demote" women by fairly often referring to them by their first name rather than their last simply reflects a friendlier feeling towards them, more of a sense of bonding, rather than a subtle discrimination.  But I don't know.  That feminist radar still seems to be at least on a low frequency, and I swear I see some black hairs on that upper lip.  And I saw a baby carriage being pushed by my window, and had to hang on to my desk for dear life to stop myself from rushing out the door to harangue the poor mother for keeping the dear thing.  And the spot I've always envisioned a little tiny Tweetie Bird is feeling kind of itchy.


That mustache

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

    by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 02:59:29 PM PDT

  •  It's infantilizing (0+ / 0-)

    and I wish female candidates would avoid it.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:10:00 PM PDT

    •  why? Seems like making recommendations as (0+ / 0-)

      to how female candidates 'should' act is even more infantalizing.

      It's up to the candidate--male or female.  

      What's wrong with treating candidates as human beings?

      •  Objecting to trivialization (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is just so controlling of me, isn't it?   And hand me that moustache wax while you're at it.

        When an equal or greater number of male candidates start running primarily under first names or  cutesy dimunitives, that's when I'd withdraw my advice to female candidates.  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:27:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes, it's controlling. nt (0+ / 0-)
          •  Whence the sensitivity? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            We ALL give advice and recommendations out like mad around here, all day every day -- political discourse wouldn't be much fun without it.   If mere expression of opinion is inappropriate, we're all in deep trouble here.   So what do you think makes this case different?

            My counsel to female candidates not to dilute their authority unnecessarily, is exactly equally as controlling as my counsel to Obama to take a certain line of campaigning.   Free advice and worth every penny.  

            Is free advice worse if it might be angry feminism?

            "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

            by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:45:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Never said you're not entitled to your opinion. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I think it devalues the individual in pursuit of a claimed ideal, and I think it takes the wrong path.  I've always been strongly opposed to language cultivation/caution as a means toward social equality.  Me an' Ray Bradbury.

              •  Say more about that. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Waht is language cultivation/caution in the context of social equalty.  Like, do you thin "Ms." instead of Miss or Mrs., was a mistaken initiative?   How about alternating the gender of pronouns and possessives where generic humans are indicated, such as in textbook examples?  

                "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:54:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  it depends in part on whether (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  it is the result of a real mass-change/movement, or if it's directed.  I'm all for linguistic evolution.  I'm against linguistic management.

                  •  And how do you think linguistic evolution occurs? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    susanala, Uncle Moji

                    Through linguistic management.

                    It seems to me you object to PC and have developed an intellectual rationalization in order to have a defense against anyone questioning your reasons for objecting.  In other words, a lots of linguistics that really don't mean anything, but sound very intellectual.

                    "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

                    by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 05:19:29 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I vehemently object to 'PC'. You are right. (0+ / 0-)

                      I actually wrote a fairly involved comment awhile back--but I'd need to track it down.  Leaving the house now--but I may do a diary on it at some point before too long.

                      Linguistic evolution usually does not occur through top-down linguistic management.  Language shifts are not inherently the result of 'PC'.  What you're terming 'PC' here is a specific KIND of managed language shift.

                      IN any case I thought people on this site don't use 'PC' because it's a 'GOP' talking point.  (which is itself PC...)

                    •  you are, however, incorrect that I have some sort (0+ / 0-)

                      of 'intellectual rationalization'.

                      I'm actually just not particularly sensitive, to be honest.  I think that contrived 'sensitivity' has done a fair amount of damage to many social causes.

                      •  I doubt you mean to be comedic, but I'm (0+ / 0-)

                        laughing my ass off.  

                        Essentially what I'm getting here is that since you're not sensitive, no one else should be, and that in fact they aren't, but for some reason "contrive" to be so they can - well, I'm not sure why.  Oh, and that you don't want anyone else doing linguistic management, but you do object to certain terms yourself and -

                        well, and really just love big words and how they sound and no longer really have a flying fuck what you're trying to say, but if you can make it sound good, we'll never know.

                        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

                        by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 07:32:18 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  yes. I think a lot of sensitivity is (0+ / 0-)

                          contrived.  I believe a lot of people believe they're more angered about things--or, in some cases like to show they're more angered about things-- than they actually are.

                          Anathema here, of course.  So sue me :)

                          Yes, I do honestly believe this.

                          What terms am I objecting to?  I think I said somewhere--I subscribe to the 'don't be a dick' mentality.  Usually fairly straightforward.

                          •  Well, it's a good thing you know how other (0+ / 0-)

                            people feel better than they do.  Especially all those other people you don't even know.

                            Good lord, does your arrogance ever just overwhelm you?  

                            And speaking of not being a dick - you should try it sometime.  It begins with not thinking you know how others feel about things better than they do.

                            After that post of yours, I'm not laughing anymore.  I'm just disgusted.

                            "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

                            by gustynpip on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:54:36 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  you're entitled to your feelings. nt (0+ / 0-)
              •  I'm puzzling over this (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                gustynpip, Prof Haley

                I just don't see how language will ever NOT be front and center in debates about equality.  African-American, or Colored?   Perverted, or GLBT?   Little lady, or esteemed colleague?  You can't create social change with changing language.  

                "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 04:08:44 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  it will be a by-product. It should not be the (0+ / 0-)


                  Not saying that certainly linguistic aspects don't fade out.  Language evolves.  

                  I AM against focusing on it.  Because people pretend that managing language is a proxy for managing thought.  It's not.  Why are we so obsessed with 'apologies' in political society?  Same reason.

                  I'm strongly in favor of the 'don't be a dick' school--I"m not in favor of the 'culturally sensitive' school.  

                  If a woman wants to claim her own identity with her first name, good for her.  If you see it as demeaning--that's your personal issue.

                  •  Except that there's EVIDENCE (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    susanala, Uncle Moji, gustynpip

                    that first name vs last name modes of address directly embody levels of social respect and status, e.g. long-standing and wide-spread workplace and classroom customs.   It's NOT just a personal issue.  It's an observation.

                    I take your point that enforcing "correct" language is not in itself sufficient to change underlying attitudes.   Strom Thurmond may have learned to say "African American", but I doubt he ever truly repented his segregationist stands.  However, just because it isn't sufficient for change doesn't mean it isn't a necessary component of change.  I don't think we should hear racist or sexist language without objecting -- and I don't think "appropriating" demeaning language is very effective either, for the purposes of the public sphere.  Sure, among my friends I'll refer to "us dykes", but if I were campaigning I would choose more formal language.  

                    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                    by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 05:26:32 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  i don't dispute that evidence at all. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      But 'embody' does not equal 'cause'.

                      Attacking symptoms--which is--I would argue-the largest problem with the movement towards cultural sensitivity does absolutely nothing to remedy the fundamental causes--and in effect entraps them to a point where they resurface in particularly pernicious ways.

                      The struggle for rights to be protected is one of the noblest of causes.  The struggle for feelings to be protected, in my opinion, is not.  

                      I'm perfectly happy if you disagree.  But that has been my position for many, many years.

      •  I suspect it's the hope for society giving (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        female candidates the same level of respect.  If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I receive only the level of respect I demand.  And if some candidates accept less (if it indeed is a matter of less), then it will be easier to treat all with less.

        I tend to agree with lgmcp that a decision like this is not relevant just to the particular candidate, and how one decides will definitely impact how others are perceived.  Therefor, I see little harm in his or her voicing an opinion on the subject.

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:30:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  depends upon the situation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, gustynpip, BitterEnvy

    First names are either used because of a lack of respect or because of a perceived affinity.  There are also some that are known by their first names- Cher, Madonna.  I call women by what they ask and if they give me permission to use fiirst names then I always ask to be called by my first name.  Even though I as the attorney am techinically the boss of the first name secretary it works. ( of course we have male and female secretaries so that helps)  I do not feel threatened by the use of the first name but I do not want to be called by my first name by judges or other attorneys unless I give them permission. It is wrong to refer to women by their first name if we are calling men by their last names.  And you will not get any unwanted facial hair.

    •  I'm going to rec you for that last sentence, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      just to make it an official contract, rather than just a promise.  If any comes, you know who I'm going to come after, right?

      I do believe your first sentence is right on point.  And the reason the use of a female politician's first name bothers me is because it's being used for both reasons by different people.  Maybe it would be better if they didn't give they didn't give their haters such an easy excuse for exhibiting a lack of respect.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:21:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Judge Sarah T Hughes (0+ / 0-)

    First woman federal district judge in Texas. Commonly referred to by many (legal professionals, media and citizens) as "Sarah T". But then, as often as not, Judge Barefoot Sanders was referred to as "Barefoot". Maybe we've got some regional stuff going on with the issue?

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:18:14 PM PDT

  •  It is very difficult to make rules (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, gustynpip

    about what constitutes "respect".  It is impossible to do so across generations, geographic and national (and ethnic and religious and educational) boundaries.  There's a wonderful passage in Anne of Green Gables (first volume) - I'm working from memory here - where she tells the woman who is adopting her that she would like to call her by an honorific, "Aunt Marilla", if I remember correctly, and the brother "Uncle Matthew".  Marilla brusquely tells her that how she says the names will be what matters.  So Anne calls the brother and sister who adopt her "Marilla" and "Matthew", though as far as I can tell, for a child to call authority figures and adults by their first names in any circumstances was not a norm at the time the book was written.

    When these issues come up, I remember that English used to have both a singular and a plural form of "you". But the Quakers and others objected to the practice of using the plural as the "formal" address to someone and the singular as the informal.  Even the king was "thou/thee" to them, a tremendous show of disrespect in that context.  Whether as a direct result or simply boredom with the whole issue, we as English speaking people opted for the "respectful" form for everyone, and lost the familiar.  And now "you" can be quite disrespectful all by itself.  It depends, as Marilla said, on how you use it.

    That said, I have the same issues with women in positions of power using their first names and falling into it all the time myself.  Good luck, on whatever path you choose.

  •  On a slight tangent, I read this article (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in relation to Todd "Legitimate A$$hat" Akin's misunderstanding of reproductive science.  It addresses the subtle and constant belittling of women's opinions and expertise:

    The road to excess leads to the palace of Wisdom, I must not have excessed enough

    by JenS on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:23:50 PM PDT

  •  When you see a diary here about "Barry" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gustynpip, Prof Haley

    we know what we are going to find inside it, right?  Things that well lead to the diarist's profile sporting a skull and crossbones.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 03:51:48 PM PDT

    •  But he doesn't call himself that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or hasn't since college. I think calling him "Barack" is too familiar for us, but it's okay coming from Joe Biden.

      into the blue again, after the money's gone

      by Prof Haley on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 04:45:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even for Biden, it depends on the context. (0+ / 0-)

        If he's giving a speech and refers to Barack rather than to President Obama, I think it would be disrespectful.  If he's telling a story among friends, Barack would be acceptable.  

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 05:10:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It depends on who is using the first name and (0+ / 0-)


    Here? Meh. As far as I can tell, it seems that most of us fall into the pattern of "whatever is easiest to type" is what we use.  Mitt is easier to type than Romney. Bush is easier to type than George.  GWB (is what I tend to use) is simpler still (I just hold down the shift key, no sentence case necessary), and it's a bit more respectful than simply using "W."

    Paul and Ryan are the same length and same difficulty so we tend to use those equally.

    Someone once asked if it was ok to refer to President Obama as "Barack" here, and overwhelmingly people told him, "no." He felt that doing so indicated that he was a friend and we had his back. And people still said "no."

    But Palin gets called Palin more frequently here, I think, specifically because "Sarah" feels to chummy. She is most certainly NOT our friend.

    Patty Murray is usually referred to as Murray. Diane Feinstein is always referred to as Feinstein. Elizabeth Warren tends to be called Warren. Michele Bachman is usually referred to as Bachman. Christine O'Donnell is always referred to as O'Donnell, unless it's possible that we might confuse her with Lawrence O (whom I always refer to that way, for some reason). And Rachel Maddow is referred to by first and last name about half and half.  The only woman that I think consistently has been referred to by her first name is Darcy Burner. Maybe that's because she has met a number of people here?

    In the REAL world, women absolutely SHOULD Be called by Firstname Lastname, then Lastname thereafter. And please, no damn comments about what they're wearing.

    And the DK FP should follow that standard.

    Around the rest of the place, meh, I've never been too concerned about how women are referred to. I think we're rather respectful to women on the whole.  I'm really sensitive to how people use language, and yes, there is sexist language used here. My little "sexist language" light flashes at least once at day here.

    But this (use of first names) isn't where I'm seeing it....  

    Now, if we could simply get people (including those here), to refer to the president as President Obama, I'd be thrilled.  

    © grover

    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 04:00:26 PM PDT

  •  I usually use the last name, but if I'm in a hurry (0+ / 0-)

    or trying to shorten a comment I'll use the first name, for men and women.
    For a long time, when the worst insults were being hurled at the President, I wrote President Obama always. Now that he's kind of in a more solid position, I go with "Obama" lots of time. Not out of disrespect.
    I would use "Bush, Clinton, McConnell, Reid, etc. a lot of the time because it's just a quick and neutral way to identify someone.
    I might use Hillary to make a distinction from Bill, and I might use Claire because McCaskill is a long name.
    No one would think calling VP Biden "Joe" would be disrespectful. He's that kind of guy.
    I think there's occasions to use "Sec. Clinton" or "Senator McCaskill" and then there's a time to use Hillary or Claire.
    Ditto for men.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 04:54:21 PM PDT

    •  Re: calling Biden "Joe" - guess that's kind (0+ / 0-)

      of where I was going with the judge whose first name I use frequently and with Hilary.  There's a level of comfort with them that make it seem okay.  I'd feel comfortable calling Elizabeth Warren "Elizabeth", but no one would know who I was referring to without the Warren attached.  Yet we definitely don't feel that level of comfort with Obama - I suspect people would get very upset about that.  And it would feel very unnatural for me to write.  I have no clue on what the difference is between some of these folks.  Maybe it has less to do with the sex of the person as with some other indefinable aspect.  I wonder whether any studies have ever been done.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Mon Aug 20, 2012 at 05:15:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  in the U.S., professors usually go by their (0+ / 0-)

    title--even in grad school.

    In the UK, lecturers (same thing) go by their first names.

    In the U.S., the last name/title preserves a sense of detached hierarchy.  

    In the U.K., the first name facilitates a spirit of collaboration/camaraderie.

    You can find some who support either approach.  Growing up in the States, it was a HUGE shift for me to go from the title to the first name--but once I understood it--it was SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE.

    Because I like to engage with human beings AS human beings--not as hierarchical products--I love the first name idea.  I like thinking of Bill as Bill, Hillary as Hillary.  Even though I don't know them, it allows me to feel like I do--and gives me an outlet to relate to a power-player on my level.

    Here's an interesting tidbit--

    I had a history teacher in high school who was the most influential teacher I've ever had--and who largely set me on my career path.

    Recently, I moved back home, and have been collaborating with him on a project--now that I"m actually a professional in the field.  I needed to send him an email but i waited TWO WHOLE DAYS because I couldn't feel comfortable switching from 'Mr.' to his first name!!!

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