Norms of Address at Conferences

A philosopher wrote into Daily Nous saying that at the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association (APA) she witnessed several instances of a speaker or chair addressing a woman in the audience they didn’t know the name of as “young lady.”

She suggested it might be a good idea to discuss the question of how we should address each other at conferences. Some forms of address, like the above, might be demeaning or disrespectful. Others, like “you, with the shirt,” might be insufficiently specific (I hope). At some point, augmented reality technology might render this kind of issue moot, but we’re not there yet, hence this post.

A version of Hanlon’s Razor might be helpful in this context: “don’t assume malice when ignorance will do.” We all make mistakes. Several years ago I was chastised for using the word “ladies” at a conference. We all survived.

(UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that this post seems dismissive. Please see the exchange between Female Prof and me in the comments for further clarification.)

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