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Why are there so many titles for women but only one for men?

(81 Posts)
THERhubarb Tue 26-Feb-13 09:47:32

Why do women need to have their marital status or otherwise conveyed in a title such as Miss, Ms or Mrs whilst men, no matter whether they are with someone or not, will always be Mr?

I've always hated titles and it still feels weird to be addressed as Mrs. I have a name, it's part of my identity and I would much rather my name be used than an old-fashioned title which tells the person whether I am married, single or otherwise.

I find it weird that people can take offence at their first names being used but not be bothered by a title that can tell others exactly what their marital status is. What business is it of theirs? How come men get away with having a non-descript title whilst we have to let the world know our marital status?

Am I the only one who hates having a title and who steadfastly refuses to use it?

WoTmania Tue 26-Feb-13 11:46:27

you aren't the only one. I think ti's mainly habit and tradition. They had those titles to know who women 'belonged' to and whether they were 'available' or not

Ilovexmastime Tue 26-Feb-13 11:47:55

I hate it so much that I did a phd to get rid of it! (Only half joking...)
Trouble is, I now feel like a prat when I insist on being referred to as Dr.
I don't know why we put up with it, haven't the French just got rid of it?
I think it's outrageous that we are expected to give away our martial status when men aren't.

catkind Tue 26-Feb-13 11:51:44

I think people invented Ms in the hope it would replace Miss and Mrs and therefore not tell everyone your marital status. Do people still call young boys Master instead of Mr?

catkind Tue 26-Feb-13 11:55:33

smile Ilovexmastime. I tend to say Dr if someone's being patronising at me, and Ms the rest of the time.

FloatyBeatie Tue 26-Feb-13 11:56:22

How do Quakers manage with automated forms? They don't like titles at all. I know one lovely old Quaker lady who lives in sheltered housing. All the other residents have their names on the doors as "Mr/Mrs... So And So" but her name is without title: she is humorously mock-afraid that the other residents think that the absence of the title indicates that she is an unmarried (great-grand)mother.

Ilovexmastime Tue 26-Feb-13 12:06:09

Oh yes Catkind, I love using it when someone is patronising me grin.

THERhubarb Tue 26-Feb-13 12:08:29

I don't even like Ms though. I never know how to pronounce it correctly. I usually just stop people and tell me to address me by my first name. I am not the property of anyone and hate all this focus on surnames.

I think we should just drop all titles.

And anyway isn't Ms generally used by divorced women? That's how I read it anyway. Further proof that titles just denote women's statuses.

Sunnywithshowers Tue 26-Feb-13 12:08:48

That's interesting about Quakers Floaty. I had no idea.

I tend to use Ms, but do have Miss on some of my official documents which I haven't been arsed to change. I'm married, and don't ever use my husband's name or 'Mrs'. I did all that shizzle with XH.

FloatyBeatie Tue 26-Feb-13 12:10:48

If websites are foolish enough to let me input "countess" or "dame", etc, then that's what I use. It's the most entertaining way of avoiding the Mr/Miss nonsense.

sleepyhead Tue 26-Feb-13 12:16:42

The people I know who use Ms are single/married/cohabiting/separated/divorced whatever. They use it as a direct equivilent of Mr.

Miss and Mrs are both versions of Mistress. I guess Ms is as well really, just as Mr is a version of Master.

Certainly there have been times in the past where the use of Mrs didn't necessarily denote a married woman, but it was used as a title of respect, a bit like Mme/Mlle in France, where in general you wouldn't call a grown woman Mlle, whatever her marital status.

The easiest thing would be just to have Mr/Ms, but unfortunately you're not alone in not liking it. I don't know what's wrong with the pronunciation "Mizz", but people get all in knots about it.

I guess we could all use Comrade.

MurderOfGoths Tue 26-Feb-13 12:18:07

Floaty I love it!

catkind DS's name comes up as Master MoG at the doctors, always makes me picture him looking like this

Sunnywithshowers Tue 26-Feb-13 12:20:07

Floaty I am inspired. I am going to do that.

Noren Tue 26-Feb-13 12:28:36

It also annoys me that titles indicate gender. I am one of those who used Ms as a single woman and as a married women, and I know many more who do the same. I'd be happy to get rid of titles altogether!

FloatyBeatie Tue 26-Feb-13 13:29:27

I've just bought a tankini from Boden online and I ticked "Field Marshal Lord" in the title field. It is actually rather annoying that they only have "Field Marshal Lord" and not "Field Marshal Lady". I know that woman field marshals are thin on the ground, but on the other hand so are men field marshals that wear Boden tankinis.

Actually, come to think of it, for swimwear I should probably have put "Admiral", which is an option (and which is gender neutral). Next time.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Tue 26-Feb-13 13:38:49

I pronounce it "Mzzz" like "bzz"

And it wasn't until I joined MN that I heard Ms used to be used for divorcees - I've used it since I was 18, single or married.

THERhubarb Tue 26-Feb-13 14:51:25

Aha Floaty - another dissenter! If given the option I don't bother using a title at all but if I have to choose from a drop down list then my choices are as creative as yours. In fact, friends and I used to make titles up for each other so I would send a pal a letter addressed to "The Second in Chief Command Direct Wugglebotter the Third formerly known as Squonk."

Addressing each other as "Comrade" makes me think of some kind of Orson Welles society. What's so wrong with using your first name? It's who you are isn't it?

StephaniePowers Tue 26-Feb-13 14:53:15

I think everyone should have Citizen as an honorific, and be done.

slug Tue 26-Feb-13 15:23:31

When I am premenstrual feeling particularly antsy I have been known to ask in a very loud voice when being asked which title I use why it is necessary for the company to know my sexual availability. I can do a very good Lady Bracknell voice and when asked "Miss or Mrs" declare "Neither". wink

HairyHandedTrucker Tue 26-Feb-13 16:34:55

And anyway isn't Ms generally used by divorced women? That's how I read it anyway. Further proof that titles just denote women's statuses.

No it just means "fuck off my marital status is really none of your business and not relevant anyway" it's nothing to do with being divorced but seems to be taken that way by a lot of people in the UK. Haven't come across anyone seeing that way in the US. It's definitely a feminist title.

from wiki

"Ms." (or at least the pronunciation associated with this spelling) began to be used as early as the 17th century, along with "Miss" and "Mrs.", as a title derived from the then formal "Mistress", which, like Mister, did not originally indicate marital status.[6][7] "Ms." in whatever form, however, fell into disuse in favor of the other two titles and was not revived until the 20th century.[8][9]

The earliest known proposal for the modern revival of "Ms." as a title appeared in The Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts on November 10, 1901:

There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill. Every one has been put in an embarrassing position by ignorance of the status of some woman. To call a maiden Mrs is only a shade worse than to insult a matron with the inferior title Miss. Yet it is not always easy to know the facts... Now, clearly, what is needed is a more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expressing any views as to their domestic situation, and what could be simpler or more logical than the retention of what the two doubtful terms have in common. The abbreviation "Ms" is simple, it is easy to write, and the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances. For oral use it might be rendered as "Mizz," which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis' does duty for Miss and Mrs alike.[4]

The term was again suggested as a convenience to writers of business letters by such publications as the Bulletin of the American Business Writing Association (1951) and The Simplified Letter, issued by the National Office Management Association (1952).[citation needed]

In 1961, Sheila Michaels attempted to put the term into use when she saw what she thought was a typographical error on the address label of a copy of News & Letters sent to her roommate.[10][11] Michaels "was looking for a title for a woman who did not 'belong' to a man."[12] She knew the separation of the now common terms Miss and Mrs. had derived from "Mistress", but one could not suggest that women use the original title with its now louche connotations. Her efforts to promote use of a new honorific were at first ignored.[13] Around 1971, in a lull during a WBAI-radio interview with The Feminists group, Michaels suggested the use of Ms. A friend of Gloria Steinem heard the interview and suggested it as a title for her new magazine. Ms. magazine's popularity finally allowed the term to enjoy widespread usage.[14] In February 1972, the US Government Printing Office approved using "Ms." in official government documents.[15]

Velve Tue 26-Feb-13 16:52:59

I come from Finland where we don't have titles. Somehow I never really realised I'd have to use one coming here, until I actually settled and tried to get a bank account, apply for anything etc.
It annoyed me a lot but I've accepted it and have always called myself Ms. I don't see the point of titles at all.

sashh Wed 27-Feb-13 05:23:46

Titles for everyone are quite new, Mr, Mrs and Ms all implied a certain status, all be it below the fancier ones.

I think the oddest one I've seen was a female surgeon. You probably all know that in the UK when a Dr becomes a surgeon they drop the Dr title.

Obviously this was originally dropped to Mr and then more recently Miss.

But now you get female surgeons who are married women and don't want to use 'Miss', so I have seen 'Dr Mrs X' listed as a title and name.

THERhubarb Wed 27-Feb-13 11:05:37

I think I might get darned awkward and simply refuse to use a title. I don't like the sound of Ms, I think it's pointless. You can't tell what my marital status is by simply using my first name so that's what I'm going to insist on. Stuff formality. I'm taking a STAND people!

HairyHandedTrucker Wed 27-Feb-13 13:52:41

Why does a surgeon lose their title!? If I went to university for that long, you can damn well be sure everyone would be calling me doctor!

I actually like having "Ms Surname". I don't like being called by first name by people I don't know too well.. I find it weird and overly familiar. Might be because I am American and a bit southern but I find it uncomfortable to call much older strangers by their first name. Also my first name which used to be quite unusual is now a very popular child's name.

sleepyhead Wed 27-Feb-13 13:56:13

Google barber surgeons.

Basically, doctors didn't recognise surgery as "real" medicine so wouldn't let them be called doctors. Once that all changed the surgeons decided that they didn't want to be bloody doctors anyway so stuck with Mister (or Miss, or Mrs, or Ms....).

So, a medical Consultant is Doctor D'eath, but a surgical Consultant is Mr Butcher. Dentists are Mr/Ms as well, because they're dental surgeons.

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