Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    ““I think it shows the level of inequality that still exists in the workforce and just in general in society”

    This seems to me an incredibly stupid comment. Folks who are so widely well known, that they can be identified by their first name only, have achieved the highest status they can in this country. EVERYONE knows who she is.Report

  2. zic says:

    I get the respect thing of using “Hilary” instead of ‘Rodham Clinton,” and there is some truth to it; it’s really common to see news and magazine and web articles that use last names for men, first names for women; and many women (myself included,) read that as a diminutive. It often is. But it’s the double standard on display — he’s ‘Rubio,’ she’s Hilary.

    But in Hilary’s case, the branding is gold. And I pretty much don’t have any problem with reworking the rules of respect in an era when women can hold reins of power. Oprah, Martha, Beyonce. When a woman becomes powerful enough that we can use her first name and everyone knows exactly who we mean, I’m not sure that’s an insult any longer. Perhaps the best indicator that Elizabeth Warren isn’t ready for the oval office is that she’s ‘Warren,’ and not ‘Elizabeth.’ Sarah Palin was never ‘Sarah,’ Carly Fiorina isn’t ‘Carly,’ and neither will receive the GOP nomination in the upcoming election.

    I fully expect, if the GOP nominates Jeb Bush, that he’ll use “Jeb” to help avoid the name fatigue of “Bush.” So I expect this to go from only women to men, too; that we’ll see more and more first-name branding; particularly if Hilary Rodham Clinton both wins the Democratic nomination and the presidency. People who want power use often mimic people who’ve held power, particularly when the mold’s broken and rules recast.

    To me, it’s good to question the notion that first-name use once indicated familiarity, and women needed to be protected from that or had questionable characters is really the problem of sexism here. Those women who see ‘Hilary’ as sexist are using a frame work where someone with whom you are ‘intimate’ (without the sexual connotation) got to call you by your first name and where people of higher classes got to called people of lower classes by their first names to reaffirm class distinctions; and because women held so little power, the slight of using a first name was obvious.

    Hilary Rodham Clinton already surrendered ‘Rodham,’ and adopted ‘Clinton’ because it discomforted the public that she didn’t have her husband’s last name. Her first, now, is recognizable the world over, and one of the most powerful political brands ever. Using it may be sexist by the old rules, but I say women get to make new rules as they get to assume the offices of power. And the notion that you can diminish a woman by using her first name instead of her husband’s last name is a pretty good rule to change.Report

    • zic in reply to zic says:

      Will, you might be interested in new research on gender and politics; found via Jonathan Bernstein’s morning reads post.

      Lot of good stuff in this.Report

    • North in reply to zic says:

      I agree with Zic. HRC is very evidently running and branding herself as “Hillary” so it would be very difficult to make a case that calling her by what she is running under is demeaning or sexist. Now when she wins I’ll probably begin calling her President Clinton but I fully expect to slip up now and then and call her Hillary and also expect to be lazy and refer to her as HRC (because damnit it’s so convenient).Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

      If not being “Elizabeth” means she can’t get elected, i think that means more about wether we’re ready for her than whether she’s ready. And I actually think that has more to do with gender than how people perceive Warren in particular. After all, Obama did not need to become “Barack” to get elected; he stayed “Barack Obama” and did.

      I.e., if you need to become so familiar (and therefore unthreatening) to people that they refer to you by your first name only, and that’s only true for women candidates, that says something about where we remain vis-a-vis electing women candidates. Which wasn’t a mystery anyway, but if it’s true, it’s another indicator.

      That said, I don’t think that not being “Elizabeth” means we’re to ready to elect Warren. We may not be, but I don’t think not being “Elizabeth” indicates it. If the day ever comes when we would elect Elizabeth Warren, I don’t think she all be universally referred to as Elizabeth or run that way the way Clinton is. I think Hillary is just a singularly well-known figure, having played a variety of roles in public life over the course of thirty-plus years, and I also think that Hillary is a slightly more distinctive name in American politics than Elizabeth. So she’s just HIllary. We could become ready to elect Elizabeth Warren, and I think we’d do it thinking of her as “Elizabeth Warren,” the way we thought of Obama as “Barack Obama.”Report

      • Guy in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It may have more to do with how the name sounds. Note how quickly Romney became Mitt; were Warren to transition to the same level of intimacy (it seems unlikely, but then it also seems unlikely for HRC and that already happened), I would expect the transition to look something like Elizabeth Warren -> Liz Warren -> Liz, with the second transition optional.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    We see this in schools, albeit somewhat differently.

    Some schools have teachers go by first names. Some have teachers go with formalities (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.). Sometimes these are codified in rules and sometimes they are just part of the culture. Until my most recent school, I always went by first name. I worked in hippy schools. It is what we did. And, frankly, I prefer to be called by my first name. But at my current school, they insist on the formality. Because respect. But… how respectful is it to disregard my preference? Shouldn’t I have absolute agency over how I am titled? Apparently not.

    If Candidate Clinton (that feels awkward!) prefers Hillary, than Hillary it shall be. If she prefers Hillary Clinton or Mrs. Clinton or Dr. Clinton or whatever, than that shall be (provided she can lay legitimate claim to the titles… I have no idea if she is a doctor of any kind).

    Now, we can talk about how much choice she REALLY exercises over the matter… we can talk about our cultural emphasis on women taking their husband’s names and our tendency to define women by their relationships with men.

    But Hilary is unique in that her husband was President. So she needs to differentiate from him differently than, say, Sarah Palin does. She is the only Palin we know so she can just be Palin. Clinton? Which one?

    So, yes, sex/gender is a factor, sexism is a factor, but so too is the practical need to know which (President) Clinton we are discussing.

    George H.W. Bush didn’t adopt H.W. until his son became President.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      When a resident in Deseret, several doctors called my wife “Clancy” in contexts where it wasn’t appropriate to do so (specifically in front of patients*). That was very much a gender thing as opposed to a resident thing. Well, it was also a religious thing. Male doctors were Dr, female doctors were Dr if they were members of the LDS.

      * – She had, when she decided to become a doctor, decided that she was going to have her patients call her “Clancy” to avoid pretension. That did not last very long, as she discovered that by virtue of being female, if she was called anything other than “Dr Himmelreich” she would be assumed to be a nurse or otherwise considered one by patients.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        Titling absolutely matters. Those who are less likely to be presumed to have the title (or have it legitimately) often rely more heavily on it.

        I attended a workshop led by two women: one black, one white. During the workshop, they discussed their prep. The white woman wanted to open with each introducing themselves personally: interests, passions, family, etc. The black woman wanted to list her credentials. When the white woman asked why, the black woman said, “Because they won’t think I belong here if I don’t.” Similar to Clancy needing to abandon her potential preference for going by her first name.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Will Truman says:

        A very weak defense is that ‘Clancy’ is a common enough last name for people to think (subliminally or actually) that they were using naming convention that implies a less familiar basis.

        Another thought is that nobody called Hugh Laurie’s character ‘Greg’, but also very few called him ‘Doctor House” either. See also, Quincy. Additionally, they really didn’t call Robert Leonard ‘Dr. Wilson’ either, but normally just ‘Wilson. So maybe it’s that TV show specifically that led to a decline in decorum manifested by less “Doctor” titles of people with medical degrees in the mid naughts.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Kolohe says:

          I think the inconsistency (Clancy was Clancy, but Dr Meyer was Dr Meyer and Dr Jacobs was Dr Jacobs).

          Also, no way for you to know this, but Clancy’s real name is not a last name.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Will Truman says:

            Ok, then, they’re just assholes. (at best, just dicks).Report

          • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

            @will-truman there is no doubt that this is sexist; a way to give the male doctors respect that the female doctors don’t get. While it may not be intentional, it’s certainly an embrace of the old rules; first-name for a woman diminishes her accomplishments.

            But I don’t think you can make an across-the-board rule about first names and sexism based on the old rules; either. While name/title might be hallmarks of respect in medicine, politics engages name recognition and branding in a way medicine doesn’t, unless you’re Dr. Oz selling snake oil.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

              It was also contagious, and put my wife in a position. Because when Doctors A and B called her Clancy, Doctors C and D assumed that it was what she wanted to be called. Then she would have to correct them, then of course it was she who was making “a big deal out of it” feeding into her reputation as someone who “doesn’t get along.”

              Meanwhile, male doctors and female LDS docs were never put in the position to begin with.Report

              • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

                Then she would have to correct them, then of course it was she who was making “a big deal out of it” feeding into her reputation as someone who “doesn’t get along.”

                Funny, bu that I often feel like that when pointing out here. I consciously decided it was worth it to rock the boat a bit, and you cannot begin to imagine how much I let slide by that I think of calling out.

                This is the sea women swim in.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

      Kazzy: I have no idea if she is a doctor of any kind).

      She is in a very obscure way (that almost no one would count). I don’t remember the years in which these changes happened, but once upon a time the only doctorate degrees are what are now considered doctorates of philosophy (PhDs). That was the rule for a long time until people decided that physicians ought to be able to lay claim to the title of doctor as well to recognize the considerable amount of extra schooling they go through. So, the names of their degrees were changed to “Medicinae Doctor” in Latin, and now “Doctor of Medicine”. I am not a Latin scholar, but my understanding is that in Latin, “doctor” meant “teacher”.

      This courtesy was also extended to lawyers, since they have relatively lengthy programs as well. Thus, they earn Juris Doctorate degrees. Hillary Clinton has a Juris Doctorate. For whatever reason though, lawyers as a group haven’t chosen to lay claim to the title ahead of their names. I haven’t yet come across an explanation for their original reasons, but clearly now it would be weird if a lawyer started calling himself Dr. [Whatever] and all the other lawyers didn’t follow his lead.

      One of the reasons I find this history interesting is that now only physicians are considered “real” doctors, and PhDs seem like the ones glomming on for a ride.

      For what it’s worth, I never call myself Dr. Bath, and I’ve never written it down or said it except in sentences like “Don’t call me Dr. Bath.” I also was going to leave the trailing “PhD” off my name on my resume feeling it was pretentious, but I have a friend who was very insistent that I not do that. It’s the only place I’ve written my name down as “Vikram Bath, PhD”.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I’m under the impression that the original specialized doctorate degrees (Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Theology, and Doctor of Law*) predate the general purpose Ph.D.

        I suspect that the continued widespread use of “Doctor” for medical professionals contrasting to the use of other degrees for Lawyers has regional origins. The use of the term “Doctor” for professional degree holders was historically more common in Southern Europe but less common elsewhere. Even today, lawyers in most Spanish-speaking countries typically do use the title “Doctor”.

        Since expertise in medicine was very much associated with Muslims and Sephardic Jews, it makes sense that the term used in the parts of Europe where they lived became dominant.Report

  4. KatherineMW says:

    I think people call her Hillary because, for a long while, saying “Clinton” would make it unclear whether you were talking about Bill or Hillary. Now that Bill’s mostly just doing the lecture circuit and Hillary’s running for president, most people would recognize “Clinton” as referring to her in the context of the presidential race, but we’re already in the habit.

    It does feel like a double standard in that we refer to all the male candidates by their last name. But it also makes her feel more personable, which in her case is likely something she needs, and the reason she’s going with this campaign title.

    Besides the double standard, though, I have no problem with referring to political candidates or political leaders by their first names. (Justin Trudeau, for example, is “Justin”, because “Trudeau” still means his famous dad.)

    Due to being Canadian and having some awareness of monarchical abbrevations, my brain automatically translates HRC as “Her Royal Clintonness” before remembering those are her initials. Distaste for dynastic politics may also have some effect on this.Report

  5. Notme says:

    It seems like hillary wants it both ways. She wants to be hillary for america but yet calling her hillary is sexist. Maybe someone here can explain why those words like calculating are sexist when describing her.Report

  6. Alan Scott says:

    I read somewhere (probably in 2008 during her first attempt at the White House) that Hillary Clinton was maybe not very fond of her last name–That she would have preferred to stay Ms. Rodham, but that such a thing wouldn’t fly for the First Lady of Arkansas, and that it was quite possible that a major motive for the use of her first name in campaign materials is that it was HER name, and not just her Husband’s name that she used for political reasons.Report

    • zic in reply to Alan Scott says:

      As I recall, she was Hilary Rodham as first lady of Arkansas.

      It was Bill’s presidential campaign that spurred her to adopt “Clinton,” and it happened very early in the campaign because voters were discomforted with a wife that hadn’t adopted her husband’s last name.

      Much of this whole (ridiculous, I might add,) controversy roots in the clutches of women as men’s chattel. She’s living evidence of the slow, slow release of cultural misogyny’s grip on our lives. Amazing progress (she’s running for president, and it’s because she has the chops, in her own right, to do so! Yay!) But she’s a coattail woman who had her spouse’s name forced upon her to even play the politics game at a national level.

      My state, Maine, sent the first woman to the Senate; Margaret Chase Smith, who replaced her husband in the Legislature after his death to illness. She rode the coattails of her husband. As did Olympia Snowe, who replaced her husband after his untimely death in an automobile accident. Susan Collins replaced her mentor and boss, Bill Cohen, after President Clinton made him Secretary of Defense.

      These are three Mainers and Hilary Rodyam Clinton are some of the most politically powerful women in US history; and each achieved power, in part, by their proximity to powerful men. But any man who achieved that power would also have had that proximity. I’ll feel women will have progressed beyond the coat-tail phase of evolving feminism when a man is noted to have achieved some political success due to his proximity to a powerful woman.

      But this is a process going on; the process of cultural change to a world where people have equal access to opportunity no matter their gender (and race, a parallel process) and I’d hope we’ll see, in Hilary’s run, some real evaluation of that process. The name game we see evidenced in in these discussions are really data points that help us understand the cultural change.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

        @zic Here’s a good rundown of her name over the years, from the NYT in 1993.

        Basically, she informally moved away from Rodham in the early eighties. After Bill lost his first re-election bid and it was decided by their peeps that the name was an issue.Report

        • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

          Thank you for the history, @will-truman

          I probably heard this tale at the time, so associated the adoption of “clinton” with his presidential run; and remembered she’s been First Lady Rodham.

          Either way, my basic philosophy of her name doesn’t change; it still documents something very important in the progress of women’s access to full participation in society.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

            Yeah, wasn’t really disagreeing with your thesis. Just remembered the timeline differently (close though not quite correctly, it turned out) and went fishing.

            Clancy didn’t take my name, which I wasnt thrilled about mostly because I was told it would be a PITA, but it’s turned out not to be an issue.Report

            • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

              You know what was PITA?

              Changing all my documents.

              When I married, it wasn’t required; the presumption was I’d use my husband’s name, and all I needed to do was use it.

              Sometime in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, this began creating all sorts of problems for me, particularly with SS. I had to go through and change all my gov records, and it was a pain in the ass.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

                It’s particularly an issue with physicians, with all of the licensing and accreditation issues involved (though, at the time we married it would have been less of an issue than it would be to hyphenate her name now – see below). That was part of why she leaned in the direction that she did.

                We ultimately reached a compromise that we wouldn’t be in a position of “constantly correcting”… that if someone at a PTA meeting referred to her as Mrs. Truman, she would be cool with that. Likewise, I would be cool with anyone referring to me as Mr. Himmelreich. Unless specificity was required. In other words, we’d keep our legal names but informally accept each other’s as alternates. It’s a lighter variation of where I would prefer society move more generally.

                It’s worked out reasonably well. Really, it comes up a lot less often than I was told it would. She has long said that she did want to hyphenate at some point, but I’ve told her that the choice is hers and I have no preference as far as that goes.Report

              • I’m sure this says more about my social circle than practice in America, At this point, when I meet a couple around our age or younger where each has the same last name, it feels downright weird, and I assume they must be really socially conservative (though not necessarily in a bad way).

                Will Truman: Mrs. Truman…Mr. Himmelreich

                I don’t think such a mixup has ever happened with us. Maybe we once got a piece of mail when there was such an error, but I don’t even remember which of us was slighted. People so rarely address you by last name anyway. How many times have you even been called Mr. Truman? Maybe this will all change now that we have a kid.Report

              • That hasn’t been my experience, but it’s an open enough question that I have been asked “Do you have the same last name?” far in excess to the number of times when I have been called Mr Himmelreich.

                Prior to all of this, I had read a whole lot of complaints from people about others not understanding or respecting that they had different last names. Some of it was whining about assumptions, some of it was righteous indignation at people being extremely rude and disrespectful. Given that the likelihood was that we were going to be landing somewhere in the Red Sea, I had visions of it being a constant issue. Which it hasn’t.

                My real preference would be for a system where last names are passed on from father to son and mother to daughter, and where the household name is hyphenated. So in our case it will be Will Truman, Clancy Himmelreich, Lain Himmelreich, and if a son then Sonny Truman.

                If our first child had been a son, I actually planned to offer to my wife giving our daughter the Himmelreich name. Since our first child was a daughter, though, I did want her to have my last name. Things are still such that my paternity would be questioned (or assumed non-existent) if all our children had her name.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                I’m not sure that young people taking a wife’s name is particularly conservative. Of the three family members in my generation who have been married so far: A cousin’s wife took his name, my sister took her husband’s name, and my female cousin and her wife combined their names (not hyphenated, mind you, but straight up fusion into a new one-word last name).

                In other families, I’ve seen it be reflective of family connections or lack thereof. Someone whose parents are divorced, and who is raised by their returned-to-maiden-name-mom is maybe not gonna want to hang on to their dads, name, and will take the chance to change it with a marriage.

                And it gets so much weirder when one is professionally know by their last name.

                My Aunt, born Miss R, married at a young age and become Mrs. A.

                While Mrs. A, she became a teacher. So when she divorced Mr. A and married Mr. S, her legal name became Mrs. S, but professionally, she continued to be known as Mrs. A.

                When she Divorced Mr S., she changed her legal name back to Mrs. A., and kept that name even when she married Ms. D.Report

  7. Pyre says:

    The opposite argument could (and probably would) be made that, if people were referring to Hillary as “Clinton” which is her husband’s last name, it would still be sexist. The argument could easily be made that, by referring to her as “Clinton”, we are still emphasizing the importance of the husband over the wife in any official capacity.

    There is also an element of “mansplaining” present when guys start making the argument that the name which a female presidental candidate has chosen to run under is sexist. If she has chosen to run under the Hillary name of her own free will, then is it your place to say “No, that’s sexist.”? Whether she has chosen to do so because of branding or just to differentiate herself from her husband in the minds of the voters, it is still her choice to do so. Yes, she may face the same problem that Cliff Blezinkski faced when, after becoming a big enough name in the industry, he decided that the brand name he was using of “CliffyB” was no longer something that he wanted to be referred to as. Hillary may find out, once elected, that getting the public to start calling her President Clinton instead of President Hillary is going to be a difficult task. However, I presume that she’s thought of all that and she has accepted such future issues as an acceptable trade-off for a more recognizable marketing brand. If she has made the decision to do this, who are we to question?

    Besides I’m still trying to gradually replace #thanksobama on social media with the new 2016-2024 tag of: