Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Wed Jun 28



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There's A Reason They Call It A Sirname

Greg Piper

If there's a lack of respect for women in this world, it's partially due to our intrinsic understanding that a name, especially one's last name, is a source of power, strength, and in some cases, a banking legacy.

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Men like to roughhouse with each other, not just beating each other up following accusations of being gay, but verbally jostling.  In such environs, the use of the first (or "Christian") name to address each other is the equivalent of rubbing each other's shoulders with Jergens Shea Butter lotion.  It's gotta be Lewis, Pitts, Dougherty or some playful derivation like Smitty, Whip or Pipes (my moniker since high school).

Needless to say, it's completely inappropriate to call women by their last name.  Unless it's prefaced by "Mrs."

The fairer sex may be more capricious and unstable than us double-Xers but they are also more delicate, relational and contextual.  Having been hidden within their husbands' and families' identities for millennia, they revel in the personal validation and intimacy that comes from calling each other by their first names:  "Sally, I love that brooch!" or "This homemade spanakopita is delish, Anastasia!"  But throw in last names and the tenor of the exchange becomes cold, unfeeling, Darwinian, a gulag decorated by Todd Oldham.

The military isn't a cruel, desolate institution because soldiers shoot people and wear uniforms the color of vomit.  It's because they all go by last names.  This has the effect of masculinizing women in the armed services - which I have nothing against!  But you can't be feminine in fatigues.  That's the point:  to eliminate beauty and personality.

Say I have a friend named Libby Hels, and I start greeting her with "Hels yeah!" or asking "spot me a five, Hels" or any other casual effrontery.  Soon she will no longer be a sisterly figure whose dignity I uphold, but a gutter for the trash I talk and other forms of matter emitting from me.

If men can call women by their last names, every other barrier sustained by chivalry will fall. Wayne and Garth will become philosopher kings, and Schwingvalry will reign.  Dirty jokes will be freely offered in women's company.  "Bitch" will become a common male greeting to women outside rap.  Purple nurples will be issued on all bosoms, including those with an anatomical purpose, and the resurgent breastfeeding movement will be nipped in the boob by a Bacchanalian tit-for-tat.  More aggressive behavior is sure to follow, like punching shoulders, noogies, sitting on girls to keep them from getting up - sure, this is passable when you're in junior high and siblings, but not on a friend level.  Before you know it we'll have another Anita Hill-style accusation (ask your history teacher) and every American man will be fleeing to Europe to avoid indictment for Polanskiing.

Once women have become comfortable last-naming each other, all is lost.  This is why female senators are so bawdy, vituperative and androgynous - they are never acknowledged as the special, unique women they are.  Look what spending eight years in the surnamical Senate did to a certain presidential candidate.  If only those caring people behind Hillary: The Movie had been allowed to show her softer side...

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The New Civil Rights

Jeremiah Lewis


I like a woman with hair that blows when it's supposed to, heels that don't click too obnoxiously on a stone tile floor, and who can answer to her last name without feeling like she's the office lesbian (unless she is the office lesbian). Goodbye sexual revolution, hello post-modern feminism. Or should I say, "Hey Farmiga!"

Whether business, sports, politics, or academia, men and women have been sharing the same space, stature, and responsibilities for the last forty years. Sure, some disparities mar an otherwise evenly keeled vessel of equanimity, but it's difficult now to point to a job that men and women couldn't do equally well. Corporate, industrial, science, and even sports all feature prominent women.

In fact, women have, in some fields (and the circle keeps growing) overtaken men in both prominence and earnings. Now it's time to bridge the last gap between the sexes. Sally Johnson will no longer be called Sally. She's just "Johnson!" When the Supreme Court justices are on their lunch break, you should expect Chief Justice Roberts (a strict constructionist, I might add) to say to his cohort across the table, "Hey Sotomayor, pass me the salsa." If that's not equality under the law, I don't know what is.

Our society needs to address feministas via the sole surnames that men have used for hundreds, even thousands of years. "Hey Simpson, I need that TPS report by four pm." Yeah, he's a weeny because he works in a cubicle for some schmuck, but calling him by his last name allows him to retain his last shreds of dignity in a bundle he can take home to his wife. Lasses should take the same comfort, knowing they are accorded respect based on their last name, not their ass(ets).

Calling a man by his last name is a sign of respect, a tiny piece of glory to call his own. It's the name he got from his father, and his father's father, on down through the generations to the first man who was so badass he didn't even have a last name. (When you're the first man, there's no real need for one.) Reducing women to their surname actually decreases sexual harassment, as no self-respecting hetero male can call someone by her last name and think lewd thoughts about them. That would be the equivalent of feeling up one's sister.

And is it really that aggressive and unseemly for a man to call a woman by her last name? Tradition might tell us so. But tradition also says women can can't vote, should only wear dresses, and birth babies while making men supper. Don't listen to the masculinists who would have you believe reducing the feminist taxonomy is the equivalent of nomenclatutory rape.

If there's a lack of respect for women in this world, it's partially due to our intrinsic understanding that a name, especially one's last name, is a source of power, strength, and in some cases, a banking legacy. We deny women the full extent of their power by ignoring their matronymicy out of misguided reading of traditions and gender relations. We are telling women the world over that they are not yet our equals.

The time will come when tradition will bow to the new equality. Men will have the courage to speak to their female associates, friends, and potential dates by their last names. Only then will we live in a society that is truly blind.

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  • Ms. Craig says:

    “Reducing women to their surname actually decreases sexual harassment, as no self-respecting hetero male can call someone by her last name and think lewd thoughts about them.”

    Have you never seen an episode of “The X-Files”?

  • I love the X-Files. I’d posit that Mulder and Scully’s relationship was platonic, despite the producers/writers giving us 9 seasons of them dancing around each other, the possibility of romance always in the background. However, as sexy as it was to hear Mulder say in that soft, scratchy voice, “Scully, got something.” it never was demeaning, nor sexually driven. There is a difference between lewdness and romance.

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