Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Status, or I Am a Social Psychologist After All

A couple weeks ago I lamented the lack of status markers on the invitations my fiance and I sent out for our wedding. Basically, I forgot to include "Dr." in the appropriate places, beginning with my father and mother's invitation.

As a response to my post, Jeremy commented:

I can't imagine anyone would be bothered by a missing "Dr." from their wedding invitation. My druthers is not to ever use "Dr." Besides, if people are really into the prestige of honorifics, "Professor" is more prestigious for non-medical doctors than "Dr."

I actually quite agree with him, and I'm pretty sure none of the doctors (or professors) cared that I slighted them (although my soon-to-be mother-in-law was horrified that some people would get the "rejects" response cards - ha, HA! we didn't have extras, and had to send them to my family and our friends, who don't seem to care too much about etiquette).

Anyway, this whole etiquette name thing started me thinking. In our new world, where many more women are earning advanced degrees, what happens? Think about the following scenarios:

  1. A businessman is married to a doctor. Then, do we address the letter "Mr. and Dr. Balthazar Smith?"
  2. What if a doctor is married to a doctor? "Dr. and Dr. Balthazar Smith?"
  3. And, my personal favorite, will people have to address us as "Professor and Professor Balthazar Smith?"

I find myself drawn to having my status proclaimed in formal address (especially after putting in the time to earn my Ph.D.). And I'm wondering if other highly-educated women feel the same way. Perhaps it's not as important to male Ph.D.s, because they already have high status based on their sex (they have the high value of this diffuse status characteristic). So, males don't necessarily need others to recognize their high educational achievement, since they're already on top.

I don't know. I'm not making a feminist argument for changing archaic etiquette rules. But as a social psychologist who understands status processes, this is starting to bug me.


Anonymous said...

My husband only has a bachelors, but if he had a PhD, I would want anything addressed to us to read "Dr. Anomie2 [squared]." Stupid html editor won't accept superscript tags!!!

I would certainly not like to be the second half of "Dr. Balthazar Anomie"--I have a first name of my own, thankyouverymuch. What good is the title if I can't have my name?

And I like that some of your invitations had 'reject' as an option. I think you should have added a 'conditional accept' option, too!

TDEC said...

I agree with Anomie - I think I prefer the first name to title. Titles are really only of importance in professional showdowns/contexts. My first name on the other hand...the Spouse has a very nice first name, but I still prefer my own.