Saturday, July 09, 2005

L&S: Nametag Tag

IHS gives everyone attending this seminar a nametag and requests that we wear our nametags at all events. I smile on that policy, given that I struggle to learn and remember all of the many students' names. At dinner tonight, however, I found that each of the four women sitting at our table was thwarting that helpful practice. How and why?

Those (and several other) women had not entirely neglected to wear their nametags; they had simply affixed them to their belts. Granted, that conforms to the letter of the IHS policy. But you cannot read another's belt-mounted nametag when seated with them at a table—leastwise not without some rather impolitic gyrations. Nor can you read those hip-high labels very conveniently when standing and speaking with its wearer.

So goes the "how." What about the "why"? Do women want to hide their identities? Do they enjoy forcing strangers to go through bowing motions?

I have a different hypothesis, one that my "belle" (as Glen called her below) confirmed when I called home to check in: Women wear their nametags on their belts because they don't want to give any guy an excuse to look at their breasts.

I sympathize with that motivation. I question whether low-hanging nametags really combat leering, however. First off, is it really much better to have guys staring at your hips? Pity shy women; guys will oogle almost anything.

But, really, are guys so loutish as to use a nametag as an excuse to stare at a woman's breasts? Would a guy really say, "What an interesting name you have! I see that it contains many distinct letters, both vowels and consonants. Nice font, too. . . ."

And, anyhow, if a guy is staring at a nametag, he isn't really staring at a breast. He would do that, anyway. Indeed, a breast-starer is likely to regard a nametag as an impediment to his real aim.

I conclude that women might want to reconsider hip-hugging nametags. I recognize that sensitive women have no really good options, here. But maybe they could put their tags on their shoulders, or clipped in an attractive hair arrangement.

(By the way, James Stacey Taylor is offering us an admirably clear presentation about the philosophical enterprise and what it can tell us about the origin of rights. His take reminds me of Eric Mack's, as it invokes reasoned judgments about how we should behave to others. I prefer an evolutionary approach, myself, but I suppose that’s a meta-ethical approach to rights. James evidently aims at a first-order explanation for rights.)


Gil said...

And, anyhow, if a guy is staring at a nametag, he isn't really staring at a breast. He would do that, anyway. Indeed, a breast-starer is likely to regard a nametag as an impediment to his real aim.

But it's more socially acceptable to look at that area when there's a plausible justification that it's to look at the nametag rather than the breast.

He's more likely to do it if he thinks he can get away with it.

I think that if women don't want men to look at their breasts, they should wear clothes that obscure them. Because, otherwise, men are going to look at them more than these women like; nametags or not.

Why reduce the value of nametags to mitigate a problem they could address differently?

Anonymous said...

Body piercings seem to be all the rage among young people these days, but they seem to serve no practical purpose. Why not use those piercings to hold things like postit notes, name tags, grocery lists, even car keys. Thank you, Tom, for conjuring up the idea in my head. I may even get a "name tag" piercing myself if I don't get squeamish at the thought of a needle going through my nipple. (Think about it, you won't need to go topless for this NameTag (tm) piercing to work!)

Amber said...

Also, because the breast is curved, it's sometimes hard to find a good place for the name tag so it hangs straight and is not dangling off to the side but is also not obscured by your collar. Women's clothes are smaller than men's, and name tags are often large. Again, sticky tags are the worst offenders; there's nothing like bunching the edge of a tag over the curve of your chest to make you feel self conscious about name tag placement.

Anonymous said...

It might simply be about fashion considerations or the fact that these ladies might be interested to know if they made enough of an impression for you to remember their names?

Tom W. Bell said...

Thanks, ladies, for your insights. I should have known that it was far more complex than I assumed.

I like that added explanation, too, Ben. But surely a savvy girl would start with a high nametag, giving people a chance to learn her name, and then start making it more and more obscure.