Imagine a presidential debate between a Senator Mike Davis and Governor Betty Neilson. Throughout the entire debate, the Neilson refers to the senator as “Senator” or “Senator Davis.” In turn, Davis consistently refers to Neilson as “Betty.”
This would largely be considered a textbook example of sexism. Absent some greater context, I’d probably cringe at it myself. Even if I supported Davis.
I’ve commented before that in Deseret, my wife and other non-LDS female physicians were constantly referred to by their first name while male doctors of any religion (and female LDS ones) got the Doctor honorific. They did this in front of patients, which is a no-no. That LDS women got the “Doctor” treatment suggests it wasn’t entirely a matter of sexism but also of respect. But male gentiles got the respect regardless.
There’s nothing wrong with going by one’s first name, as a physician or anything. Clancy had intended to do so until she kept running into the problem of patients not taking her seriously, or slipping into calling her a nurse. So she goes by Dr Himmelreich largely to avoid that.
I had for the longest time avoided calling Hillary Clinton “Hillary.” This was an inconvenience in many respects because “Clinton” was typically a reference to Bill Clinton. It’s for the same reason that George W Bush was Dubya, W, or sometimes Shrub instead of just “Bush.” And Jeb is Jeb, of course. But even taking these things into account, I was very conscientious about it all. Then Hillary Clinton decided Hillary was okay and I stopped worrying about it. Even despite that, people have “called me out” for using her first name. As she gets closer to becoming president, I do refer to her as Clinton more and more, just as “Bush” gradually came to refer to the younger rather than the older.
To get back to Davis-Neilson, it’s noteworthy that while Hillary Clinton’s supporters are claiming sexism in the moderation of the last debate (because Clinton was interrupted more than once), less attention has been paid to the fact that he called her by her honorific while she referred to him as Donald. Trump really prefers to be called Mr Trump. She didn’t extend him that courtesy and likely declined to do so precisely for that reason. She wanted to get under his skin and make him do something stupid.
Nobody, of course, is going to call this sexism. Nor should they, even though it’s something Trump would have been called out for under different circumstances (that she accepts “Hillary” complicates things).
My point isn’t poor-old-Donald or anti-PC. But rather as an illustration that it’s complicated. Because the sexism being complained about absolutely exists. But it doesn’t exist in every manifestation. It’s not unlike how half of the lines of attacks against Bill Clinton (womanizer! Slick!) and George W Bush (dumb, unsophisticated, lazy) would suddenly take on a huge racial component when lodged against Obama in a very similar manner.
Which leaves the discussion in an awkward place. It’s easier to say “This wouldn’t happen if it was a white male” but that’s rarely accurate. It’s easier to say “This has nothing to do with race or gender” even though that’s probably wrong because race and gender can amplify or color particular arguments. The truth, that maybe this attack would be used anyway against a white guy but more likely under circumstances in which it is warranted and probably to lesser effect, doesn’t fit into a headline.
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