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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

352

Mizzzzzz

I was thinking about "Ms." the other day, because I was watching "Gloria: In Her Own Words" for the sixth time (immediately go get a close female friend and watch "Gloria: In Her Own Words" with her, and then talk all the way through it about how beautiful Gloria Steinem is, and how Gloria Steinem would be disgusted with you for caring about that, and wondering if you could find that blue dress she's wearing at the protest, and then eventually have a really powerful conversation about being women together, and then watch it with a different close female friend). But I was mostly thinking about "Ms." as our way of referring to women without associating them with their marital status, having never been referred to, as a woman, in an era in which it wasn't taken for granted that I could choose to be addressed without a reference to my marital status.

And then I called my mother, and told her that, and she said I could never understand how awkward and uncomfortable it felt at first to insist on being a "Ms.," even though the term first showed up in 1901, and how your mouth felt funny shaping the word, as though it was like saying a Killing Curse, or like being the first person in the universe to say "ableist," or any other word we've invented to confront ourselves with the ways in which language fails us. So, anyway, it's really extraordinary that we have this word, and that we can use it, and that it's in all the style guides, and that a bunch of women had to repeat themselves over and over again, in increasingly firm tones, at the DMV and the post office and at dinner parties, possibly in extraordinary shift dresses and gorgeous aviator glasses, so that we could have it.



352 Comments / Post A Comment

Ellie

Anne Fadiman has this wonderful story about interviewing with William Shawn for a summer job, not knowing how to pronounce the title of Ms. magazine, calling it "M.S." and then William Shawn talking about it with her for the rest of the interview without ever saying its name, so as not to embarrass her. Isn't that great?

Verity

@Ellie That's so considerate!

Pyxis

@Verity I read somewhere that if you are having a meal with the Queen and you do something un-mannered, she will do the same thing, just so you don't feel embarrassed. I thought that was an incredibly thoughtful thing to do on paper, but it real life you would probably feel even more embarrassed that you basically forced someone to do something.

stephanieboland

Every time I go and ask for my student record/postal address/medical records to be changed to 'Ms', I feel very grateful.

jaythenerdkid

I still prefer "Miss" to "Ms". I sometimes think I'm the only unmarried girl under 30 who does. I know it's old-fashioned but I like how it sounds. My mother prefers "Ms", though, and I have a few friends who like the gender-neutral "Mx".

The Lady of Shalott

@jaythenerdkid I prefer "Miss" for the purely aesthetic reason that it sounds better with my last name. (And actually my first name as well--I don't know if this is universal practice, but in the Midwest where I grew up, it was polite to address like, my dance teachers and some of my neighbours and my piano teacher with "Miss Firstname," so my dance teachers were Miss Jackie and Miss Bonnie, and my neighbour was Miss Sue, even though she was married with three kids older than myself.)

But my mom prefers "Mrs" because she's been married thirty years and says "Ms" doesn't sound right to her.

jaythenerdkid

@The Lady of Shalott The kids at the school where I work as a teacher's aide call me "Miss [Firstname]". It's an informal compromise between calling me by my first name and making me sound like a teacher. One of my coworkers is 40 years my senior and has been married for most of her life, and she lets the kids call her "Miss [Firstname]" too, though I imagine she uses "Mrs" in her everyday life. I used to call all of my school teachers "Miss" or "Sir" (depending on gender) whether they were married or not.

Beatrix Kiddo

@jaythenerdkid I prefer Ms. to Miss when followed by my last name, but I definitely prefer "Miss" to "Ma'am" when said as a stand-alone. I do NOT feel old enough and married to be called ma'am.

jaythenerdkid

@Beatrix Kiddo I'm Australian but my boyfriend is American and lives in the deep South. When I went there on holiday to visit him, everyone called me "ma'am". It was so bizarre and disconcerting, but on the other hand, I appreciated that everyone was doing it out of politeness so I let it slide.

SarahP

@jaythenerdkid Yesss I prefer Miss to Ms! Or I did, before I was married. Now I think I have to like Ms because I didn't take my husband's name so I don't think I can be a Mrs...?

MissMushkila

@jaythenerdkid I'm a teacher, and I greatly prefer Ms.! I actually don't care if my students call me by my first name, or "teacher", or "hey you" - but Miss and Mrs. bug me. I often respond to my students who call me Mrs. with, "don't marry me off!"

I don't mind correcting students, who hear so many different things, but what drives me crazy is when I'm emailing with a parent and they keep using "Miss" in the greeting. I respond and sign off with "Ms." and then they write back and use Miss AGAIN. Often they do this from business email addresses, so I'm like, I know you know the correct standard, and also, how do you know I am not married? It just always seems to come from parents who are using a particularly demeaning tone overall.

So I have "associations" there.

jaythenerdkid

@SarahP I'm debating whether or not I'll take my partner's name if we get married. He has a really nice surname, so maybe? If I do, I'll be "Mrs"; if I don't, I guess I'll have to get used to Ms. :(

frigwiggin

@MissMushkila I get what you're saying, but in conjunction with your username it makes me smile. I hope that's okay.

damselfish

@Beatrix Kiddo Ma'am is so fraught! I get called "ma'am" all the time by people older than me because it's a polite/respectful form of address, so it denotes a submissive posture (usually in retail or whatever). I... really hate being called ma'am, though. Even though I know why people use it there's that voice in my head going YOU'RE A MA'AM, YOU SPINSTER.

par_parenthese

@The Lady of Shalott Miss Firstname was quite common where I grew up and it's ubiquitous in my current southern town. Friends' kids call me either Auntie Par_ or Miss Par_ -- it's just not done for a child to call an adult by a first name only which is fine with me because subculture. Gotta roll with it. (Similarly, it threw me for a loop the first time I visited friends in Australia and all the kids called all the adults by first name only. I knew factually that they weren't being disrespectful, but it read that way to me because I've been in the south for so long. Punk kids smoking on the street corner with surly looks on their faces will step aside and say, "Sorry, ma'am," as you pass. So you know. Weird.) ;)

jaythenerdkid

@par_parenthese My mother used to feel really uncomfortable when my school friends called her by her first name. In my culture (my parents are both migrants from Asia/the subcontinent), we call family friends "Aunty [firstname]" or "Uncle [firstname]", NEVER just their name by itself. I still call all my mother's friends "Aunty", and I'm well into my twenties.

MissMushkila

@frigwiggin Ah! I can see that - I didn't even think about it. BUT I only have Miss in this username because it is an Arabic pun. In Arabic, "Mish Mushkila" means no problem. I changed a letter to make it more accurate ;)

I always make an exception for puns.

swirrlygrrl

@jaythenerdkid I'm afraid I am missing something...why would you only be "Mrs" if you changed your last name? Why would you be "Ms" if you kept your birth surname?

This whole thing is so messed up. I am currently in a 7 year relationship that will not end in marriage unless we move overseas to someplace where it legally makes a difference. I am a Ms, and use the last name of my birth father, who I haven't spoken to in over a decade. Which is also Ukranian and thus difficult to spell and pronounce for everyone. I sometimes think I should get married just to get away from it, or maybe just legally change my last name to my mom's birth surname, since I am very close to that side of the family. But it's also a very Anglo last name, and it sounds a bit wrong to me when combined with my first, and I also look more Ukrainian, and I feel like it advertises my prairie heritage given my Aboriginal first name.

Overall, so much baggage over this stuff.

jaythenerdkid

@swirrlygrrl Well, I'd no longer be "Miss" because I'd be married, but I wouldn't really be "Mrs" if I didn't take my husband's surname - "Mrs [surname]" would be my dad's/brother's wife's name, wouldn't it?

bot
bot

@jaythenerdkid I am processing the same thing. I sort of want to remain "Ms. [Current Last Name]" for professional purposes, and "Mrs. [His Name]" for other things, but I'm afraid that will be an unmitigated mess. But "Mrs. [Current Last Name]" will always sound like my mom's name to me, so I don't want to be Mrs. unless I take his name, but my name is important to me (especially professionally). I should decide. Hitchin' date is 3 weeks away.

jaythenerdkid

@bot OMG. I had this exact issue! In another life (read: a couple of years ago), I was engaged (to another guy, long story) and I was about to graduate med school. My plan was to stay as "Ms [maiden name]" professionally, but be "Mrs [his name]" in our personal lives. Honestly, I was only considering it because he was the traditional type and hated the idea that I wouldn't be taking his name (which I didn't really like anyway). Current partner couldn't give a damn what I do as long as it makes me happy, and funnily enough, I'm actually leaning towards taking his name in the event that we get married - though the idea of giving up my very much loved maiden name does make me a little sad. (I've thought about passing it down to my future kids as a second middle name, maybe?)

If it helps, I know heaps of female doctors and teachers who use their maiden names professionally and their husband's names in their personal lives. So it's actually not that uncommon.

bot
bot

@jaythenerdkid So, when you have the "Ms. Maiden" for professional settings and "Mrs. Married" for personal, which is your legal name? I'm concerned because of (1) passports! visas! etc., and (2) signing legal documents (which comes up a lot for me, professionally). Is "Mrs. Married" just for fun, but not my legal name -- legal name remains unchanged? Or vice versa?

jaythenerdkid

@bot I think you can do it either way! Some people keep "Ms Maiden" as their legal name and are known informally as "Mrs Married", and some people are "Mrs Married" legally but keep "Ms Maiden" as an informal thing at work, where a lot of their colleagues already know them by their maiden name and would be confused by the change. As long as you know which one's your legal name and remember to sign it on all the paperwork, I don't think it matters. (I think some forms require you to write down any "additional" names by which you're known, so some forms would require both anyway?)

Phlomis

@jaythenerdkid The only issue that I've seen come up with the split naming thing is in politics. You have to use your legal name when you run, and if you're well-known professionally as X (or have one of those useful maiden names like Kennedy), but have to legally run as Y, name recognition problems can arise. I watched this when my mother ran for public office, with the added burden that her legal married name was Czech with many confusing consonants. One divorce and name change solved that issue, at least.

Kulojam

@jaythenerdkid You know, I got married in South America where women do not take their husband's last names. It is not done, and all kids get both names (though the father's name is for common use, like Bill Smith Jenkins becomes Bill Smith in everyday use). So I became Senora Kulojam, which to me translated to Mrs. Kulojam. But I guess that translation isn't perfectly accurate since Senora isn't just for marital status but also age/respect. Anyway, interesting question. But Mrs. Maiden Name doesn't bother me.

jaythenerdkid

@Kulojam I had a professor from South America who was married, and she had that! Her last names were Diaz Avila but we just called her Prof Diaz.

jaythenerdkid

@Phlomis I guess you could always legally change your name to whatever you want to run as?

Elsajeni

@MissMushkila Do you actually hear a difference in how your students pronounce "Miss," "Ms.," and "Mrs."? The kids I've worked with (student teaching) just universally said what sounded like "Miss," but I know they knew which teachers used which title because if they ever had to write our names down they got it right.

jaythenerdkid

@Elsajeni At my school, we called all female teachers "Miss" regardless of marital status, but wrote their correct titles if we had to write them down. I would feel strange calling a teacher "Ms" or "Mrs" without a last name following them.

koko

@bot I have 2 aunts who did this. They kept their maiden names as their legal names, and were known as Ms. Maiden Name professionally, and just went by Mrs. Married Name informally and in personal situations. One has just retired, and one will be retiring in the next 5 - 7 years, and it has never caused either of them any problems.

Elsajeni

@jaythenerdkid My students pronounced them all as "Miss" even in front of a name, though. (And I think my classmates and I did, too, when I was in school -- I definitely remember a fifth-grade teacher who was very firm about wanting us to say BOTH SYLLABLES of "Mrs." when we addressed her.)

MissMushkila

@jaythenerdkid Yes, I hear the difference. I catch it more often between Ms. or Miss and Mrs. Part of it though may be that I teach ELL/ESL students almost exclusively. So we talk about pronunciation a lot, and when I think I use Ms. as one of those weird examples of when an English "S" sounds like a z (none of our letters are consistent!)

Honestly, are you sure your students KNOW the difference in pronunciation? A lot of times people look up names or look at a syllabus when they email a teacher,so they might be using the correct written form because they can look it up. They might honestly not know.

photoelectric

@MissMushkila I've noticed that my students are pretty good about using "Ms." in emails (though they usually sidestep the issue by addressing me in a way that avoids Miss/Ms/Mrs), even if they've said "Miss" in class. Which warms my heart because I remember being a kid and referring to female teachers as "Ms. LastName" and getting corrected by other students who insisted on using Miss or Mrs, even if the teacher referred to herself as Ms.

sevanetta

@jaythenerdkid (and everyone else in this thread): reading this thread, all I can think is 'is there a group of average men having a conversation about this anywhere... whether to be called Master or Mister MyDadsLastName or MyGirlfriendsName... hmm.'

jaythenerdkid

@MissMushkila I work with ESL students as well, actually! Here, it's just customary for students to refer to all female teachers as "Miss" (no name following" and all male teachers as "Sir", so I guess they've picked up on the habit. It sounds like "Meeeeeessss" when a lot of them say it. XD

jaythenerdkid

@sevanetta When my ex was trying to convince me that I HAD to take his name because it was traditional, I asked him if he'd take mine and he got really mad about it. (There are reasons he's an ex, let's just say.)

special_boots

I was so offended by an American Express customer service agent who wouldn't stop calling me "Mrs." on the phone the other day. It felt so goddamn presumptuous and rude. Set my teeth on edge and gave me a feeling of ickiness that lingered through much of the day.

(I am 26 and happily -- perhaps permanently -- unmarried. TYVM.)

fondue with cheddar

@special_boots That's not as bad as "Ma'am". I started being called "Ma'am" around your age and I hated it. Still do, 12 years later.

Bittersweet

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I'm OK with "Ma'am," but when people call me "Miss" it always jars me a bit, being middle-aged with a kid and 16 years of marriage under my belt.

fondue with cheddar

@Bittersweet Yeah, "Miss" is weird once you reach a certain age. Like past college age.

Beatrix Kiddo

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Miss doesn't bother me, but I'm 30, single and hate being called "ma'am." Doesn't that assume you're married?

fondue with cheddar

@Beatrix Kiddo I don't think so. It's short for "Madam", which does not denote marital status.

The Lady of Shalott

@Beatrix Kiddo No, it doesn't, "ma'am" is neutral to marital status.

supernintendochalmers

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) According to Miss Manners, "Ma'am" is the appropriate address for all adult women, but somewhere along the way it got associated with "old." I've seen elderly women addressed as "Miss," I'm assuming because the person didn't want to offend them.

Megoon

@special_boots our office had someone applying for a job refer to me, my boss, the office assistant, and our VP as "Mrs." None of us were married at the time (and the office assistant looks and sounds 12). After MUCH mocking behind his back, my boss clued him in, but it was kind of eye-opening. Who doesn't, when in doubt, go with Ms.???

hotdog

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Unless you mean 'madame' which means a married woman. Mademoiselle is effectively 'miss'.

fondue with cheddar

@Megoon Seriously. Ms. works for all occasions!

Beatrix Kiddo

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) OK, I was thinking "madam" was the same as the French "madame," which does mean you're married.

Plant Fire

@supernintendochalmers I wish it had never gotten associated with 'old' (or that the association with 'old' wasn't seen as such a bad thing). I love being called Ma'am and wish people would do it more often. I think Miss always sounds like you're getting the attention of a teenager.

TheclaAndTheSeals

@supernintendochalmers I think it's a regional thing. I'm 25 and live in the South. Little kids regularly call me ma'am, and I'm fine with that because I know they mean it as a sign of respect. I've even had high schoolers call me ma'am, and that's cool, too. It's used commonly enough that it doesn't feel reserved for old people. The only time I stopped someone was when I was 21 and she was 18 (I think she thought I was older, but seriously, girl, we go to the same college).

fondue with cheddar

@Sea Ermine For some reason, I always associate "Ma'am" with annoyance, like when someone is killing you with kindness.

fondue with cheddar

@TheclaAndTheSeals Now that you mention it, it does bother me less when somebody with a southern accent says it.

MilesofMountains

@special_boots But what else are you supposed to use for an adult woman if you don't know her name? "Miss" is insulting for anyone older than 15. I like Ma'am. Is this like how many women I know insisted on being called a girl rather than a woman until well into their 20's? I never really understood that one either.

Lily Rowan

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) This is all so interesting! I'm in the middle where I'm definitely grown, not quite middle-aged, not married -- and I don't mind either miss or ma'am, really. I don't care for Miss Lastname or Mrs. Lastname, although Miss Firstname is fine.

I guess really, I don't much care how people try to be polite to me.

special_boots

@MilesofMountains Ms. That's the point of this post.

I'm a woman rather than a girl. But I'm a Ms. -- emphatically not a Mrs.

special_boots

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I get "ma'am" all the time, and have for years. I don't really like that or "miss," but what can you do?

special_boots

@Megoon Aaaaah. So much cringing. I can't bear it.

The Lady of Shalott

@special_boots It's impossible to get someone's attention if you don't know their name by calling them "Ms," though, especially in a service setting. If you're going "Ms! MS!" it's going to sound like "miss."

And I really prefer "ma'am" if I'm working in retail anyway, because "Miss" always sounds condescending. "Excuse me ma'am? Ma'am?" is much nicer to hear than "Miss? Miss?" The latter sounds condescending almost always.

MilesofMountains

@special_boots Do people use "Ms." in place of a name the way they do Ma'am? Like "Excuse me, Ms., you dropped this?" I've never heard it used that way. I've also never heard Ma'am used instead of Miss/Ms/Mrs, either, as in "Ma'am Johnson" so I don't really consider Ms to be a counter to ma'am. Maybe it's a regional thing, I'm Canadian.

queenofbithynia

@hotdog I was under the impression that French feminists had exactly the same objections to Mademoiselle as American ones do to Miss, if not more so. I only have English-language media citations to grab for, so I don't want to be too definite about this, but wasn't "Mademoiselle" eradicated from official paperwork as of this year because it's so offensive? It is very definitely the same issue of sexism in French as in English.

Ophelia

@MilesofMountains Same; I'm from New England.

queenofbithynia

@queenofbithynia & one of the lobbying groups to get rid of "mademoiselle" is called the Chiennes de garde -- guard bitches -- which is pretty all right.

fondue with cheddar

@queenofbithynia That is fantastic.

queenofbithynia

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) And check it out, I have French backup after all:

http://www.madameoumadame.fr/

I never got over having dude French teachers tell me that French women don't care about linguistic sexism and it was only our naive schoolgirl Anglophone ignorance that made it stand out to us in any way (one male in a group means you use the masculine forms, et cetera.) I always knew they were wrong but at the time I could not whip out citations to prove it.

special_boots

@The Lady of Shalott But that's not the situation I was talking about at all! I'm sure either "miss" or "ma'am" is fine there. I'm talking about someone who knows my full name choosing to refer to me as "Mrs. Boots," with zero knowledge of my (nonexistent) marital status.

packedsuitcase

@TheclaAndTheSeals I worked at a toy store in the mall in college, and sometimes teenage boys would come in. There was one guy, maybe 17, who kept calling me ma'am. I was 21. At some point, I said, "You don't have to call me ma'am! I'm too young for that!" And he smiled at me and said, "Sorry, ma'am, I was raised to be polite." And I know when writing that it sounds snarky and dismissive of what I wanted, but it was said with this genuine regret that he just couldn't get past the manners he was raised with and it was all kinds of adorable.

Generally, I prefer "Ms." to anything else, and I will quickly correct people every time they get it wrong. I am not married nor am I a teenager, so please address me properly.

special_boots

@MilesofMountains That's just not the situation I was talking about, and not really something I have a position on. This person knew my full name and insisted on calling me "Mrs. Boots."

MilesofMountains

@special_boots Oh yes, that would be annoying. I was responding to your dislike of being called "ma'am", though, which I see as being pretty much unrelated to marital status and is just an age thing.

effystonem

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I agree on not liking "ma'am" - I feel like it definitely implies "old(er) woman (aka undesirable)" or sometimes with tone "spinster." (Side note: thoughts about "lady" - I remember being 16 working at a movie theater and people would come in with their young children and SO MANY of them would say, "Give the lady your ticket." It bothered the SHIT out of me, because "lady" is definitely like a grown-up, and I was clearly a teenager, and for some reason it always rubbed me the wrong way.)

However, Southern people using "ma'am" totally doesn't bother me because I was raised there and I know it's just being polite and good manners are just the greatest thing.

Verity

@hotdog Don't "madame" and "mademoiselle" denote age rather than marital status? I was under the impression that "madame" was used for all adult women, regardless of if they were married or not.

whateverlolawants

@queenofbithynia Yes, Spanish is like that too, and it drives me crazy. I seriously love Spanish and I'm aware that I shouldn't push my Anglophone values on everybody else (and that there are other languages that are far more gender-neutral than English)... but come on! As soon as a man walks in, the group is referred to with masculine denotation? Hmph.

Springtime for Voldemort

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I've been called "ma'am" since I looked old enough to live on my own. I don't think "miss" is really common here except for minors, so I actually wince when I hear someone call me "miss" because I immediately think "what, do I look like I'm 5? Are you going to pinch my cheeks or something?".

barefoot cuntessa

@special_boots I recall it meaning a woman who is not a virgin. You ask a frenchman how you can tell and he says "you just know."

whateverlolawants

@Springtime for Voldemort (formerly papayalily)
I never really care if someone calls me "miss" or "ma'am". I don't get either too much, but unless it's said in a condescending or rude way, it's fine. I'm 25, look about my age, and live in a midwestern city, if that matters.

Ophelia

I was also surprised to be told recently that, because I didn't change my last name when I got married, the "proper" form of address for me is "Ms." since "Mrs." implies a possessive, and shouldn't therefore be combined with your maiden name? In a super-twisted way that makes sense, but JESUS.

I think it's just further proof that I am a happily married person with my own name, TYVM, and you can just call me by my first name if you're puzzled over what to do. (I'm trying to think of a time anyone has recently needed to call me "Ms/Mrs. So-and-so" instead of "Ophelia," and failing - it probably helps that my last name is pretty difficult to pronounce correctly, so people don't really like to try.)

Ellie

@Ophelia Yeah, to me it is impossible (from a logical standpoint) to be "Mrs. [maiden name]" - it just doesn't work.

Ophelia

@Ellie Further contributing to my discomfort with "Mrs." as a title, in that case.

OhMarie

@Ophelia Yeah, I always use Ms. because I'm a married lady who kept my own last name.

SarahP

@Ophelia While I think etiquette-wise you go my Ms and not Mrs if you don't have your husband's last name, "Mrs" is short for "Mistress," not a possessive.

Bootsandcats

@Ophelia Miss manners says you name is whatever you damn well want it to be- if you want to be Mrs. Birthname, that's fine. If you want to be Ms. Spousename, also fine. Basically, be kind to people and call them whatever they want to be called- because a well bred person would never presume to know the name of someone else without and introduction.

Ophelia

@SarahP Interesting! Way better than what I was told!

Gwdihw

It's actually still quite difficult to use, at least where I work; I can not convince my students to use "Ms." at all. It's either "Miss" or "Mrs." Even though I specifically explain to them my preference, they simply do not get it or do not choose to get it. Lately, I've just asked them to address me as "Professor" because it's gender-neutral and I am technically allowed to be addressed as such.

Very few, I'd say less than 10% of my students identify as feminist. Most don't really know what it means.

nonvolleyball

@l'esprit de l'escalier I had a highschool English teacher who was hardcore about being called Ms. (in a way that I loved). if you called her "Miss Montgomery" she'd interrupt you with a strong "MIZ" each & every time.

...this post hits me in the feelingsplace for a couple reasons. one, a while ago I had a weird facebook exchange with my sister-in-law & one of her friends who'd just gotten married; I called the friend "Ms. [something]," my SIL responded to say she was a "Mrs." & I was like, "but Ms. works for married ladies too!" & then as I was narrating this to my husband (who is totally a feminist), he was like, "but a lot of people don't know that 'Ms.' is marital-status neutral, or don't care" & I, like, started crying in the grocery store because I was so depressed to imagine a world where that was true.

& then also I was watching Family Feud the other day, & one of the fast-money categories was "name a woman who's empowered to other women." the first woman answered "Oprah," as did her friend, & then--after struggling to think of a different answer--she ended up saying, "Betsy Ross." meanwhile I was shouting "Gloria Steinem" at the TV, & my husband was all, "I would've said Betty Friedan."

anyways, in conclusion, feminism is always.

Dachelle@twitter

@l'esprit de l'escalier I work at a law school and have students call me "Mrs." all the time, even when I've corrected them. Unfortunately I'm not faculty so I can't do the Professor side-step. It feels really weird to be called "Mrs.", especially since I've never married. Mrs. Dachelle is my mom, not me!

Gwdihw

@nonvolleyball I cry at the grocery store too! And strangely enough for these very types of reasons! And I feel terrible for giving up on Ms. Just awful.

@Dachelle That is so super-impolite--especially since you've never married! Kids these days, I swear.

nonvolleyball

@l'esprit de l'escalier I forgot to even comment on the "less than 10% of my students identify as feminist" thing. my husband teaches college too, & it's such a struggle: "but isn't feminism, like...over? because women have rights now? & also I'm pretty sure racism isn't a thing anymore? because Obama?" ugh ugh ugh.

"I need feminism because no man has ever been moved to tears in the cheese aisle while discussing the importance of 'Mr.'"

highfivesforall

@l'esprit de l'escalier Schools make this difficult, since in most adults-talking-to-adults situations you can just use first names, but in front of students usually you can't. My parents have always worked in schools, and my mother did not change her name, so that was always interesting - when she worked at the elementary school that my brother and I went to, she was Mrs. Husbandslastname to the kids, because that was the only way for them to wrap their heads around her being our mother. However now she works in the same middle school as my dad, and she's Ms. Maidenname. This is confusing for the students especially because there is another teacher with my dad's last name, who is not related to us at all, but she's often assumed to be married to my dad.

Regardless of this annoyance I've witnessed all my life, there is no way I am changing my name - I have always had this name, and I always will. If I have to explain this very basic concept to everyone forever, so be it.

nonvolleyball

@highfivesforall one of the fun things about working in academia is that the vast majority of women don't change their names--so you get these periodic surprises of "oh, those two are married?! I had no idea!" (it also means that if you change your name, you're exposed to pretty much the opposite rhetoric that I imagine the name-keepers get out in the "real world"--our Dean, my boss's boss, gave me SO much shit about changing mine. it made me feel solidarity with my name-keeping sisters.)

Gwdihw

@nonvolleyball you know how the movie Crash reminded America that we still have racism? There needs to be a movie that reminds people that we still need feminism.

(But srsly, who could *forget* about racism? I guess people who got something out of Crash?)

Blushingflwr

@l'esprit de l'escalier I remember when I was in 5th grade, we had a main teacher, Mrs. Y. And for part of the year, we had Miss B, a student teacher. And there was a kid in my class who ALWAYS said "Miss Y" and "Mrs. B". I don't know that he wrote them wrong, but he always said them wrong (and had before Miss B showed up) and it drove me nuts. Granted, we were 10.

sevanetta

@nonvolleyball I am simultaneously fascinated and depressed by discussions of women's last names. this post/the comments are giving me a lot of FEELINGS!

OwlOfDerision

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that one of my reasons for doing a PhD is so that I can call myself 'Dr. OwlOfDerision' and completely sidestep the Miss/Ms/Mrs thing.

(though, until said PhD is complete, it's Ms OwlOfDerision all the way!)

questingbeast

@OwlOfDerision I was looking forward to being a 'Dr' for similar reasons, until I realised it sounds fine with my surname but is genuinely ridiculous with my first name. I've got one of those twee old-fashioned girly names (and beginning with D to boot); people are gonna think I'm an agony aunt.

anachronistique

@OwlOfDerision I work in academia so I get emails addressed to Dr. Anachronistique sometimes. This would be funnier if I hadn't had to give up my pursuit of a doctorate thanks to lack of funding.

Judith Slutler

@questingbeast That sounds excellent. I'd go around spouting advice to everyone, Mary Worth style.

Inkling

@questingbeast
Doctor Dolores?!

social theory

@OwlOfDerision yes, i cannot wait to be dr. theory!

VerityStandingStill

@OwlOfDerision
Yes, Dr. StandingStill all the way! Even my friends and boyfriend will have to call me that. Though we have joked about me being "Dr. Girlfriend."

TheBourneApproximation

@OwlOfDerision Speaking as someone who just got her PhD last year...yes. Yes it is the best.

I just wish that I could have gotten my PhD before I got married. When I was browsing cakes, I came across a design which had "Mr. and Mrs." written on the side. I really really wanted to do "Dr. and Dr." instead.

VDRE

@OwlOfDerision Bad news: my mom has a PhD AND didn't take my dad's last name and she still gets addressed as Mrs. MyDad'sLastName. It never goes away!

Tuna Surprise

@OwlOfDerision
My cousin and her husband, who both have PhD's, have a return address label that says: Dr. and Dr. Mrs. LastName. You can't double up! It's one or the other!!

you're a kitty!

@OwlOfDerision Also pretty excited about that, when I eventually get around to finishing. I can't wait for the first plane ticket I buy or whatever, where they ask for a prefix — I suspect that's when I'll feel like I've actually got the degree! And honestly, much as I hate it when people are really snooty about their degrees, I WILL appreciate the ability to easily shoot down condescending men who are mansplaining (especially in hardware stores, my god) while still being technically socially acceptable.

you're a kitty!

@VDRE I would freak. out. My mom did take my dad's last name and she still gets extremely angry when people call her Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname, like she stopped being a person when she got married. Ugh. Glad that isn't a done thing anymore, except by old people.

RationalHatter

@Tuna Surprise Are they German? Before I left work to start my PhD a German coworker told me that they keep all their titles, so as Fraulein RationalHatter I would become Frau Doktor Rational Hatter (so I guess that would be Mrs. Dr. instead of Dr. Mrs). And if I get an academic job, it'll be Frau Professor Doktor Rational Hatter (apparently once you get a doctorate no one calls you Fraulein anymore).

Judith Slutler

@RationalHatter You would be "Frau Doktor", but as we're discussing downthread, nobody calls you Fräulein anymore anyway.

social theory

@RationalHatter but part of getting to keep the "frau" (which is more like ms. than mrs. in this context) seems to be that german speakers need (*need*) to know what someone's gender is. but yes, the title stacking is fun and appealing. there's also a superscript "in" put after abbreviations for "professor" and "doctor" when the person holding that title is a woman. AND apparently, among the old-school viennese, wives are addressed with husbands' titles. (do with that what you will. i trick myself into thinking it's charming so i don't rage-explode.)

Judith Slutler

@social theory WHOA, that superscript thing? Wha?? Is this an Austrian deal? I've never seen that before!

social theory

@Emmanuelle Cunt yeah, it might just be an academic thing? i've seen it at conferences for some keynote speakers/panelists. my above fervor for the superscript did make it seem a bit more wide-ranging than it actually is :)

maiasaura

@VDRE My mother has a PhD and my dad doesn't, but even THE UNIVERSITY THAT GAVE MY MOTHER THE DEGREE has sent them mail addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Mylastname. Aggravating!

MollyculeTheory

@social theory Do you guys seriously ask to be referred to as Dr. ____ outside of work on anything beside the odd address label?

a) It's more trouble than it's worth! You don't want to be an academic Dr. on a flight manifest if there's a medical emergency, and if you put Dr. as your title for anything affiliated with fundraising they think you actually have money and will never stop bothering you (cough, Carnegie Hall, cough.)

b) To me it seems unbearably pompous to come back with, "It's Doctor Theory, actually" in normal social settings. idk ):

social theory

@MollyculeTheory you raise good points. it's probably a good time to admit that, despite my being all over this comment thread, i'm fairly relaxed about titles. i want to be able to have it as a legit title (i.e. i successfully defended my dissertation), and also to joke around with friends and family ("trust me, i'm a doctor" or whatever). BUT, if i were in a professional setting and someone didn't use my proper title, i don't think it would be inherently pompous to correct them.

social theory

@social theory also, footnote to this entire thread: if miss manners [talk about titles!] were here, she would chastise all of the phd seekers/holders for calling themselves dr. the most correct title is apparently professor. since it's not a given i will get a job as a professor, if i can legitimately lay claim to *that* title, i will probably engineer some pretty slick ways to get as much mileage out of it as possible.

VerityStandingStill

@MollyculeTheory I wouldn't seriously insist on people calling me Dr. all the time, I just think it will be fun to mark the specialness of this accomplishment. It really is a BFD, as anyone who is going (or has gone) through it will tell you. Yes, it's just a piece of paper, but it is significant of a period of your life, and a great chunk of time and effort (and frustration and tears, usually). I'll probably only correct people ("It's *Doctor*, actually") if they were being dismissive.

MollyculeTheory

@VerityStandingStill Oh, I have a Ph.D., but looking at it from the other side of the defense, I noticed that after about a month the novelty wore off and the to use/not to use question became just another bomb in the minefield of social anxiety, so outside of work I decided to kind of be a secret/undercover doctor. It's usually a friend or my fiancé who gets defensive on my behalf, and I'm just like, ugh guys please.

VerityStandingStill

@MollyculeTheory I can see that. Undercover Dr. MollyculeTheory has a nice ring to it!

harebell

@social theory
Yeah, some academics have more than one doctorate, and in Germany & Austria (or at least Austria, which is old-fashioned) you have to say both titles in formal communications. E.g. "Frau Doktor Doktor X" or "Herr Professor Doktor Doktor Q." You can even abbreviate it DDr. It's kind of horrifying and awesome all at once.

social theory

@harebell horrifying and awesome and traditional: that basically sums up austria, land of my heart. and if i ever got back for that second doctorate, social climber that i am, i will have you to thank when they call me frau doktor doktor

OwlOfDerision

@VDRE I suspect this may be one of the few up-sides to my recently becoming as Single as a Pringle. Also, I'm going to get my PhD well before my ex-BF does, so HAHAHAHA

(sorry, off-topic)

questingbeast

@social theory Although important to remember that (like most etiquette things) that's only true on your home turf! If some 26 year old newly-qualified postdoc came over to the UK and tried calling themselves 'professor' it'd be knocked out of them pretty quickly.

social theory

@questingbeast yes, absolutely! not least because i'd most likely be hired as a lecturer, right? professor isn't even a standard title of address everywhere in the us. where i went to school for my BA, it was considered hopelessly pretentious. at my grad institution, it's a standard title of address even for graduate students who adjunct teach.

effystonem

@you're a kitty! My parents have been married for like 27 years and my mom's mother always addresses presents and stuff as "Mr. and Mrs. Dadfirstname Dadlastname" and it drives my mom NUTS. Yes, she did take my dad's last name when they got married, but like you say - she's still her own person! But this is seriously the only time I've ever seen someone do this in real life, thank God, because ew. So glad that tradition is mostly done with.

you're a kitty!

@MollyculeTheory In practice? No, it's absolutely not a done thing, at least in my field, to expect people to call you Doctor, even WITHIN academia. But on the other hand I'll be a young woman with a degree in a seriously male-dominated physical science, so I think that just being able to tell myself that I could come back at patronizing dudes with YEAH BUT DOCTOR will help me stay calm and... not do that?

One of my friends (in medieval studies) says that you should get one week after you defend where you get to be utterly insufferable about making people call you Doctor and, you know, perform one emergency ballpoint-pen tracheotomy, and after that you have to go back to being a normal person who obeys social conventions.

Faintly Macabre

@effystonem Same exact thing with my parents, though they've been married 28 years and my mom didn't even take my dad's last name. However, my grandmother is not a nice person and I think she mostly does it to be obnoxious.

fondue with cheddar

I chose to take my husband's last name when I got married, partly because it's What You Do, but also because it's a very rare name (I think I've met everyone in the world with the name) and there's family pride and all that. I went from Ms. to Mrs. because it just seemed right since I'd taken his name. But I regretted doing so (and not just because it's a weird name that nobody pronounced or spelled correctly). I was so happy when I got divorced and went back to my maiden name, and I don't plan on changing it when I get married again, even though I like my boyfriend's name. It's nobody's business whether or not I'm married. I will be Ms. MyBirthName until I die because that's my name!

Smallison

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I'm with you! It's less about the conventions of taking my man's name (and I know he'd be flattered if I did) than just keeping my name because it's my name. I've had it forever, I like it, call me Ms. The End.

fondue with cheddar

@Smallison My last name is the same as the second syllable of my boyfriend's last name with the exception of one letter. So we have a running joke that, when we get married, we'll both change our last names to HisFirstSyllableMyLastName.

Okay, that's confusing without actually saying the names. Pretend his name is Goldsmith and mine is Smurf. So we change our name to Goldsmurf.

Smallison

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Well, if you really could become a Goldsmurf, that might just be worth it! :)

fondue with cheddar

@Smallison Yeah, it's not as cool as Goldsmurf, unfortunately. Not that I couldn't change my name to Goldsmurf if I wanted to.

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325)

I really like the idea of combining names like that, but it does make me wonder about what I would do in the case of a divorce.

wee_ramekin

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325)

I think we've found a new userpic for you.... ;o)

wee_ramekin

@The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

Wouldn't you just go back to your maiden name?

fondue with cheddar

@wee_ramekin NOOOO NO MORE CHANGING! ;)

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

@wee_ramekin

Hah, yeah. I suppose you are right. I guess I am just imagining in my head that we would come up with a kickass moniker that I wouldn't want to give up.

sevanetta

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) your story made me cheer! (except for the divorce bit - more the realisation bit)

my mother has been married for 32 years and says she wishes she had not changed her name because she has never felt like she was part of my dad's family even with the name. she also says we have to put her maiden name on her headstone when she passes away!

fondue with cheddar

@sevanetta Oh, you would cheer about the divorce bit too if you knew the story. ;)

I'm sorry your mom doesn't feel like she's part of your dad's family. I think putting her maiden name on her headstone is a great idea!

maybe partying will help

I want to be, like, Right Honorable or something, but I suppose Ms-ing up the joint will do.

Alternately you may refer to me as Her Nibs.

Gwdihw

@maybe partying will help actually, instead of being called "Prof," I could totally handle being called "Your Grace"!

maybe partying will help

@l'esprit de l'escalier

Make it so. Put it on your letterhead and business cards!

When I taught, my students called me "Miss," which I didn't actually mind so much because most of them were older than me (continuing education ftw). HOWEVER the other day I got a younger dude at a restaurant calling me "Ma'am," and I was like, Am I old enough for "ma'am"? I'm only 25!

Mostly I just call people "dude" regardless of age or sex.

Ophelia

@l'esprit de l'escalier I think I'm going to go with "General," or "Your Eminence," but I do like "Your Grace."

Beatrix Kiddo

@l'esprit de l'escalier I prefer "Khaleesi."

questingbeast

@Beatrix Kiddo I prefer 'Ned Stark's bastard son'.

Bittersweet

@l'esprit de l'escalier My daughter and I are reading Miss Bianca, which features an evil old duchess with a posse of mechanical ladies-in-waiting who are programmed to say "as Your Grace pleases" every quarter hour.

So no Your Grace for me...Your Worship? Your Eminence? Mistress?

maybe partying will help

@Bittersweet

This is where I go all Glory and start thinking things like, Your Creamy Coolness.

Gwdihw

@Beatrix Kiddo

Only my husband gets to call me Khaleesi.

Well, he's the only one who anyway.

Ophelia

@Bittersweet When I was about 17, lifeguarding, the kids would usually call us by our first names, but one day one little kid said to his friend, "Ooh, don't do that or The Lady will yell at you." The Lady was definitely capitalized. I think perhaps I'll go with that.

bookfreak

@maybe partying will help I just got my Masters degree and really wish that there was a prefix akin to PhDs for it. I would love to be "Master [last name]", or "Mistress" I suppose, although that title has its own connotations.

tales

@maybe partying will help Everyone adult is old enough for ma'am! (At least to southerners.) I was an 18-year old ma'am, when I worked in a shop, I called teenagers ma'am. Ma'am is age-neutral but respectful. I think associating it with age means we lose out on being treated with full respect. If a man your age can be called sir, you deserve a ma'am instead of a miss (to southerners like me).

Bittersweet

@bookfreak I have a Masters too and would love to be called Master Bittersweet, but that title was used only for young boys in the old days, so maybe not.

Let's take back Mistress - it sounds so crack-the-whip/take-charge in comparison to Mrs.

MilesofMountains

@bookfreak I jokingly called myself "Mistress Mountain" for a couple of days after I got my Masters. I do wish that were a thing.

Renleigh

@MilesofMountains I tried to get people to call me Master when I got my M.S. in the spring. It didn't take, sadly. But one of my friends sent me a letter addressed to [my name], M.S., thus making him my favorite.

dj pomegranate

@Renleigh Since getting my Masters I have made many attempts to be addressed as Master Pomegranate. By "attempts," I mean, "indicating that my title is 'master' on all online forms." So far, it hasn't stuck.

MollyculeTheory

@Bittersweet Technically I think you guys are "magisters".

Gwdihw

@MilesofMountains I joked with one class about calling me "Mistress" and it didn't go so well--how can these people know about BDSM but not about feminism???

anachronistique

@MollyculeTheory Magistrix?

Verity

@maybe partying will help When I fill in forms online and they have lots of different options in the "Title" section, I always really want to pick something like "Admiral" or "Reverend". I am a coward and stick with "Ms", though.

Verity

@MollyculeTheory Or "magistras" (on the one hand, boo for gendered terms, but on the other, you get to be like Harriet Vane!).

questingbeast

@Verity 'Placetne?'

Everyone could just become a French lawyer- women are called 'maître', same as men (as I've learnt from Spiral).

Hot Doom

I prefer Ms. and started using it several years before I was married. While I enjoy the aesthetics of 'Miss' too, if given the choice, I always tried to opt for the slight ambiguity of whether I was married or not. As a teacher of young children, it was more so that creepy parents wouldn't get all in my personal business. Not that that really mattered, because people DO get all in one's personal business anyway and age and marital status, regardless of name.

Now that I am married, I have kept my name, but people still refer to me as 'Mrs. Husband's last (or first) name', which drives me a little nuts, because, guess what? That's not my name. It's Ms. LaBalc on all documents and in introductions from here on out.

Ellie

By the way, I have to admit, it drives me crazy when women who have changed their names when they get married want to be referred to as "Ms. [New last name that was originally husband's last name]." As in, "Ms. Hillary Clinton." To me this is just wrong and she would have to be either "Ms. Rodham" or "Mrs. Clinton." (This is just an example - the NYT does refer to Hillary as "Mrs. Clinton.") To me you should be Ms. only if you kept your last name.

Hot Doom

@Ellie Why? (Sorry, the brevity isn't meant to sound curt)

Bittersweet

@Ellie Ms. Clinton is a total badass and can do whatever she wants. As can the rest of us, even when we've done The Unforgivable Anti-Feminist Thing and taken our husband's last name.

TheclaAndTheSeals

@Ellie I'm changing my last name because I want for my husband and I to share a last name. To me, it symbolizes that we're creating our own family by getting married. I'll still use Ms. because I don't think my marital status needs to be advertised to strangers, especially people with whom I have a business relationship.

We can have a discussion about why I'm changing my last name instead of my fiance changing his, if you want, but I don't see a contradiction in being Ms. HisLastName.

Ellie

@LolaLaBalc In my mind, it's just wrong - to me you are only supposed to be "Mrs." when you have the same last name as your husband. If you're Harriet Smith married to John Doe, "Mrs. Smith" is your mom (if she changed her name). You can only be "Mrs. Doe" or "Ms. Smith." I know that many people don't necessarily adhere to this, but it's a personal stylistic thing . . . like the singular "they" which I also detest (way more than this particular grammar peeve) but most people accept.

Edited to add that this is JUST a grammar thing, to me, and not an ideological thing. I mean, maybe a little ideological in that I'm unwilling to let ideology trump grammar, but not more than that.

Cat named Virtute

@Ellie You know that singular they is employed both by people who wish to be inclusive and by (some) genderqueer folk who do not identify as either he or she, right? As someone with an English degree and a writer, I'm all for aesthetics, but not at the expense of accuracy for one, and more importantly, being an asshole about someone's gender.

supernintendochalmers

@Ellie But the point of Ms. is to not disclose your marital status, so then using it only for women who've kept their own last names renders it somewhat less effective, no?

Judith Slutler

@Ellie That's just kind of turning Ms. into the new "Miss" though. The whole point of Ms. is that all women can be Ms. Whatevs, no matter what their marital status.

Plus, Hillary Clinton's name is "Clinton". No matter where she got it from, it is hers.

nonvolleyball

@Cat named Virtute yeah, I'm a grammar pedant but I'm 100% on board with "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun (including, but not limited to, instances where it's someone's singular pronoun of choice), & I have major Feelings about Ms., too (see other comment).

I took my husband's last name because it's more awesome than my maiden was, but you can pry my Ms. from my cold, dead, er...personal-information form?

SibylDisobedience

@Ellie But the whole purpose of 'Ms.' was to make it so that your name doesn't have to advertise your marital status. If the standard was that you can't use it if you take your husband's last name, I think it loses a lot of its value.

hotdog

@TheclaAndTheSeals I'm confused then as to your reasoning. If you want your family to have the same last name, why is it inevitable that you would change only YOURS?

(edited because I just read your last sentence; let's discuss!)
(also edited because I wanted to add that 'Ms.' is a catchall, just like 'Mr.'. It knows no marital bounds. Mr. and Ms. I just solved everything)

City_Dater

@Ellie

You're just wrong, though.
Ms. was, and still is, simply meant to be the feminine version of Mr. -- a form of address that isn't tied to marital status.

MmeLibrarian

@hotdog Because... because she wanted to?

Look at it this way - a woman's unmarried name is, most likely, some man's last name, too. In my case, it's my pretty cool dad's last name, but it's also the last name of his father, who was something of a creeper. My husband, however, is awesome and his last name (now mine) is an AMAZING literary reference. I couldn't pass it up. And I've gotten sniffed at plenty by fellow feminists who want to question my cred for changing my name. There are good, legitimate reasons to do it that don't undermine one's status as a defender of ladies everywhere.

MissMushkila

@City_Dater I know! This is what is useful about it. You can write to a woman professionally without first inquiring whether or not she is married. No matter where her last name came from!

I also like the singular, gender neutral "they" though. I once printed a page from a number of grammar guides backing up my use of singular they when a teacher tried to detract from my grade for it.

I am a hardcore grammar descriptivist.

Ellie

If I were writing about a person who prefers not to identify with a particular gender, I would rearrange the sentence so it looked good with exclusively referring to the person by name as opposed to using a pronoun. There are perfectly reasonable ways to do this without using either a singular "they" or a made up word.

Ophelia

@City_Dater Exactly. "Mrs." doesn't go both ways, but "Ms." does.

nonvolleyball

@Ellie that works in a single sentence, but it gets unwieldy in longer passages of text: "Morgan went to the car wash and, with car freshly cleaned, drove to the bakery. Morgan's favorite kind of scones were in stock, so it was necessary to buy a box. Morgan then..." I mean, that was less than three sentences & I already got tired of reading the word Morgan.

plus, even the Chicago Manual of Style begrudgingly acknowledges the utility of "they," & given its long history in the English language, I think that's reason enough to embrace it.

supernintendochalmers

@MmeLibrarian Yes, so much this. Even if you keep your maiden name it's probably still some man's name anyway. Why not just go with what sounds good?

Beatrix Kiddo

@Ellie I hate "they" as a singular pronoun too, but as far as your point about "Ms." only being used with the last name you received at birth, I think the only title that doesn't make sense with your husband's last name is "Miss."

Bittersweet

@MmeLibrarian My husband asked me if I would do him the honor of taking his name. That decided me. Now I use my maiden name as my middle name.

hotdog

@MmeLibrarian I think you may have missed my point... My point is that the explanation doesn't work because it assumes that taking the husband's name to form a family is the only option. It isn't.

And while I don't care what someone does with their name, I also DO care that taking your husband's to be 'a family' appears to be the only option to a whoooooole lot of people. The argument has far less to do with women taking their husband's name and far more to do with the total reluctance of most men to do the same if put in the same situation!

She was a retail whore

@Bittersweet I've heard a lot of guys phrase it this way, and it's great when that's how the person being asks receives it. Harmony is a beautiful thing.

When I was engaged, this topic came up more often than I would have expected. Almost every time I heard the "families should have the same name" explanation, it originates with the person who will not have to change his name, all of his identification, documentation, and explain for the rest of his career why his degrees say one thing and his license says another. If families should have the same name, I think more consideration should be given to them going through the same amount of work to make it so.

MmeLibrarian

@hotdog If it's her explanation, it works for me.

Judith Slutler

@MissMushkila It's my understanding that both Shakespeare and the Bible use singular "they", if they can do it then so can I!

frigwiggin

@nonvolleyball I agree, when you try and talk around a pronoun altogether it's worse and more awkward than just caving and using "they" or, hey, whichever non-gender word this particular person prefers (zie, etc).

hotdog

@MmeLibrarian Again, not getting it. This is not about her choice to change her name. This is about her choice to change her name because she posits it as the only way to have a 'family name.'

Her explanation is entirely shaped by a ridiculously antiquarian and SEXIST notion that women need to change their names, not men, and that...well, that is fucked up. And nothing will change if everyone just throws up their hands and are like "oh well, it's my choice! Lalalala!"

Hot Doom

@She was a retail whore Word. I know a few couples who legally fused each of their last names into one long combo of their names, without a hyphen. I like this option the best, over taking his name, and in a lot of ways, over keeping my own. Or an awesome portmanteau of the two names? Yes to that.
Alas, my husband wasn't keen on changing his name, because *surprise!* it's a pain in the ass (despite being a little hurt that I wasn't going to take his name). I will probably be pushing for a portmanteau name til the end of time.

you're a kitty!

@MmeLibrarian re: amazing literary reference names — it's a long shot in the dark but if I ever marry a Wimsey I am CHANGING MY NAME.

frigwiggin

@LolaLaBalc I know a lesbian couple who did the portmanteau thing! Or, at least, I'm pretty sure they did? Because I know one wife's maiden name and it makes up about half of her and her wife's current surname. They made a pretty unusual name but I like it a lot.

Judith Slutler

@you're a kitty! Me too, and I'd order some embossed stationary with the Wimsey crest on it for sure.

Though I've always assumed I would change my name if I get married, it's kind of a crap name to be honest.

TheclaAndTheSeals

@hotdog I never said it was "the only way" to have a family name. I'm aware there are plenty of options - his taking my name, hyphenating, choosing a totally different name and both changing.

Hyphenating would mean a long and awkward-sounding name that I don't want. Choosing a totally different name wouldn't be as meaningful to me. The most appealing option for me is that one of us changes our name (emphasizing: for ME).

I care about both of us having the same name. This is less of a priority for my fiance. Though he identifies as a feminist, changing his last name is not something he's comfortable doing. His discomfort with the idea is almost certainly wrapped up in patriarchal ideas about gender roles-- how could it not be? (And my willingness to change my name is inevitably partially because of the patriarchy.) But the fact remains, he's not comfortable with this, and I am not going to pressure the person I love most to do something they don't want to, period.

In an ideal world, we'd both question our preconceptions, and come to a decision completely removed from our upbringing and culture.

But in this world, where I'm getting married in six months, here are the facts: I very much want us to have the same name; he doesn't care as much. I'm ok with changing my name; he's not ok with changing his. I could ask him to make what would feel like a big sacrifice to him, especially since this is not a priority for him-- it would be a totally selfless move on his part. Asking that of him would only be for the sake of Being A Good Feminist, though.

Your point that nothing will change if people aren't deliberate in their decisions is a fair one. But I don't feel obligated to do something that's not right for me solely to further the cause.

Bittersweet

@you're a kitty! Although per the naming rituals of the British aristocracy, if you married Lord Peter Wimsey, you'd be addressed as Lady Peter. Ugh. Wonder how Harriet put up with it.

queenofbithynia

@Ellie No, that's the precise usefulness of Ms., that it's the only correct prefix you can use in front of "Hillary Clinton."

It would be rule-breaking if it were Mrs. -- you're supposed to say Mrs. William Clinton -- but anything that is correct without an honorific is also correct with Ms., that's the beauty of it.

royaljunk

@Cat named Virtute "I'm all for aesthetics, but not at the expense of accuracy for one, and more importantly, being an asshole about someone's gender."

EXACTLY. The feelings of living breathing people who aren't included in and made uncomfortable by gender binary pronouns are a lot more important to me than maintaining strict rules of English grammar. Language evolves, people!!

queenofbithynia

@queenofbithynia I mean, this objection and the objection to singular "they" are NOT CORRECT OR TRADITIONAL. I only shout because it is unbearable to have people think they must choose between feminism and correct use of language, much less between feminism and being a pedantic asshole. You can do both and being good at either will make you better at being the other one.

Singular/generic "they" is both correct and traditional; Ms. Any Name is correct and, though not traditional, in complete harmony with the traditional rules of women's names; it does not conflict with Miss First Name Maiden Name or Mrs. Husband's Name. It does not violate those rules. This isn't a question with two answers.

Cat named Virtute

@queenofbithynia These are all fantastic points and also prompt a lot of questions about why we're so invested in there being "right" and "wrong" ways to talk about other people's gender, marital status, and linguistic expression. Language pedantry has been used to shame, belittle, and dismiss people for centuries. Why embrace prescriptivism in any context other than questions of clarity and accuracy? (and really, singular they is no more confusing that the employment of a gendered pronoun in a passage of writing that describes two or more people who use the same pronoun).

you're a kitty!

@Bittersweet Probably she dealt with it because it was a small price to pay for getting to be married to Peter Wimsey.

JUST SAYING

Elsajeni

@nonvolleyball Avoiding a pronoun like that also 1) prevents your readers from knowing how to refer to the person you're writing about, and 2) calls more attention to the fact that there's something unexpected going on in the pronoun department than just saying "they" and moving on would do.

Verity

@Bittersweet Yeah, just like Kate Middleton is technically "Princess William". It's unfortunate.

de Pizan

@Ellie Useless interjection to say that Hillary never actually legally changed her last name. She was always Hillary Rodham, until Bill's staffers complained that her having a different name might cost him the governorship, so she tacked on the Clinton socially. (And when she ordered her stationary White House stationary to have Hillary Rodham Clinton, and it came back without the Rodham, she sent it back until they got it right.)

TheJacqueline

@de Pizan Not useless! Because it made me love HR(C) even more

straw hat

This is so interesting! Over here in my French-speaking corner of Canada, and also in France (to a lesser degree I think), the complete opposite is happening : mademoiselle/Ms is losing ground and women are called "madame", which was traditionnally reserved to married ladies.
Probably because the male equivalent to Ms has been banned for a while, and also because the French "madame" doesn't have the possessive character that "Mrs" has?
Anyway I'll keep this in mind next time I'm being polite in English! Learning things!

maybe partying will help

@straw hat

I didn't even know there was a male equivalent to Ms! And now I am very interested in learning what it is, and why it was banned?

Ophelia

@maybe partying will help @straw hat Me too! Please share!!

Judith Slutler

@straw hat Yeah, in German all women are now just "Frau" instead of "Fräulein" for the unmarried ones - basically because Fräulein literally means "little woman" and is thus pretty infantalizing. I assume "Madamoiselle" carries similar connotations?

liverwortlaura

@Emmanuelle Cunt how true is this really with old/conservative people? is it just an amtsprache difference? i remember always being called mädel which I actually really liked (unless it was from lecherous old dudes)

SibylDisobedience

@straw hat I had been under the impression that mademoiselle was only used for younger, unmarried ladies. Can it be applied to anyone the way that Ms. can in English?

straw hat

@maybe partying will help @ophelia Well, it was "Damoiseau", and by a while ago I meant at least a century. The original use was for a squire that wasn't yet a knight, then it just indicated nobility. Maybe it was dropped from use because men stopped becoming knights, while "mademoiselle" stuck because women were still becoming wives? I don't really know, maybe I'll google it later and report back...

@Emmanuelle Cunt Yes, exactly.

Also semi-related fun fact : In Quebec you can't take your husband's name when you marry. If you want to, you have to ask for a legit name change. We don't kid around!

maybe partying will help

@all

My favorite thing about the Hairpin is that I usually learn something in the comment threads. Thanks, Hairpin!

She was a retail whore

@straw hat I had classmate at McGill who HATED this rule. She was from a different province, and had changed her name upon marriage, but Quebec didn't recognize the name change, since it hadn't been done all official-like through the courts. She loathed her maiden name, which is the whole reason she'd taken her husband's, and resented having to fill out paperwork and whatnot to change her name again to the name she'd already been using for more than a year. I'm actually not sure what she ended up doing.

I really liked Quebec's rule, though, and wish more places would adopt it.

The older I get, the less certain I am that I want to marry, but if I do, I will keep the name that I was born with, unless my spouse can convince me that we need to change our names together.

Judith Slutler

@liverwortlaura Yeah, words like "Mädel" are still often casually used for young women. I think that's a southern dialect thing, especially. I personally don't have a problem with it at all in that context but I don't know how it comes across to people who grew up speaking German!

But you wouldn't be listed as "Fräulein" on your mail, or anything like that. I actually don't have the background in this country to know whether old grandmas might still hang on to the etiquette distinction between "Frau" and "Fräulein" though.

harebell

@liverwortlaura But Mädel is just a joke/affectionate/slangy. It's not a form of address, really, like Frau/Fräulein. (For non-German-speakers -- it's a dialect word that I'd translate as being, sort of, "dear maid").

You absolutely can't call anyone "Fräulein" now, unless they are under 12 years of age. It very much either means "little girl" or "servant woman." I think it was phased out very fast because it has such a heavy class connotation - servants were called that regardless of marital status -- it is really, really insulting to call someone "Fräulein." Never ever do that!

"Mademoiselle" is a little different because sometimes shopkeepers will flirt with you by calling you "mademoiselle" to imply how young you look, as a compliment. But that's also a sort of flirt/joke. In reality, you call any woman you don't know "madame" to be polite. "Mademoiselle" is also really starting to be phased out. It's also heavily contextual. You might call someone you encounter on the street "mademoiselle," but you never, ever call a woman something other than "Madame" in a professional context, regardless of marital status.

Wow, I hadn't seen the word "Fräulein" in a long time. It really raises the hackles! This is where translation is cultural, and dictionary definitions can seriously lead you astray!

Judith Slutler

@harebell Ooh, I knew of the class connotation from reading old novels where the servants are all called "Fräulein" but I didn't know it was that intense! Do you know how long it was used as a form of address for unmarried women?

Faintly Macabre

@straw hat I've been trying to think of what people usually call me in France, and I think I get "madame" a lot/most of the time. (I'm 23 and most definitely not married.) Most instances of mademoiselle that I can remember were older men doing that weird French-man-creeper-thing. I think older women in administrative contexts mademoiselle me, too, though, since it's a young woman asking them for help. I will have to pay more attention to this!

harebell

@Emmanuelle Cunt
ah, that's an interesting question. I don't know when the switch really took. I'd guess the 1960s, just because a lot of language-use changes happened then, but it might have been earlier.

straw hat

@SibylDisobedience Oops, I forgot to refresh before hitting reply!

You are right, I mixed it up in my first post, "mademoiselle" would be more like Miss and not Ms, so that's why it's not applicable to everyone. So, in French there's no specific word that is neutral re: marital status, the trend is to take the existing "madame" and make it neutral.
Sorry about the confusion! I blame the lack of caffeine.

Bittersweet

We've come a long way since married ladies were automatically called "Mrs. John Smith," huh? Right after I got married, my grandmother would send me letters using "Mrs." and my husband's name, which always made me smile.

Bridget Smith@twitter

@Bittersweet Whenever I sent thank you notes to my grandmother, the envelope had to be addressed as "Mrs. [Husband's Name]." I thought it was strange since her husband had long since passed (long before I was born, in fact). It took a while for me to realize that maybe she preferred that style not just because she was old-fashioned, but as a way of remembering him.

TheclaAndTheSeals

In elementary school, all the teachers were Mrs./Miss (only one Mr.) except for one second grade teacher who went by Ms. I thought it was very mysterious and a little bit glamorous.

area@twitter

It astounds me when I realize how recent all these advances are. My mom told me the other day that upon applying for a store credit card many years ago, she was told that her father or husband would have to co-sign with her. She had a job and lived independently! Needless to say, she gave the store a sizeable piece of her mind.

Faintly Macabre

@area@twitter I think they're even more recent elsewhere--a family friend who is Swiss said that she waited to register her marriage in Switzerland (she got married in America) because otherwise they would have made her take her husband to do all the papers/signing when she bought or leased property there. This was probably in the mid-late 1980s.

Judith Slutler

@Faintly Macabre Women couldn't vote in all the Swiss cantons until the 1970s. It is kinda nuts.

rosaline

@Emmanuelle Cunt Close, but it's actually even worse! All Swiss women got the right to vote on federal issues in the 1970s. The final Swiss canton--Appenzell Innerrhoden--only gave women the right to vote on local issues in 1991. NINETEEN-NINETY-ONE. And it only happened because some Appenzeller women filed suit in a federal court.

It boggles the mind.

Judith Slutler

@rosaline ... wut

LaLoba

I am called "Mrs." only when using my Safeway grocery club card phone number, whose account apparently actually belongs to a Joshua Hildebrandt (nothing close to my actual name whatsoever). The cashier is supposed to look at the name on the receipt to thank you politely for using your club card, so they politely refer to me as "Mrs. Hildebrandt."

Ophelia

@LaLoba HAHAHA. On my Safeway card, I am Kethleen Saunders, who apparently is the mother of the girl that lived in my Sophomore year dorm room the year before me.

Mira

@LaLoba I'm so glad I'm not the only person with a random (male) stranger's name on my Safeway card!

I love "Ms." and plan to use it until I die, whatever my marital status may be.

dj pomegranate

@LaLoba My Safeway card is connected to a Xia Chen. I am totally white. The Safeway clerks always look at it, sighs, and says, "Thanks Mrs....Eexcheng."

Brunhilde

@LaLoba I get to be "Mrs. Ferguson" at Safeway.

Saskquatch

@LaLoba For the three years I lived in Banff I was known to the Safeway as Sachiko Sasaki. The account was linked to phone number of the first (of many) places I crashed after moving there. Everyone who passed through that house all went to the Safeway as Sachiko- it was such a well known number some cashiers knew it by heart. I hope it confused the hell out of the tracking software, dozens of different people buying their respective groceries under one name.

sarah girl

Amusing story about "ma'am": I was in a fast food drive-thru the other day (sue me), and the young man over the speaker referred to me as "ma'am" during the transaction. Whatever, I don't care. But, when I got to the window, he started to say "Your total is [whatever], ma'am," then actually turned toward me and started a little, and said "Oh sorry, you're not a ma'am!"

?! I... thank you? How dare you? What? I'm 28, for the record, but I look a lot younger. I just had no idea how to even take that.

SarahP

@Sarah H. Maybe you misheard and he said "man."

("You're not a ma'am" is hilarious.)

wee_ramekin

@SarahP Hahaha no, that doesn't work, because that would mean that he had said "Your total is $5.28, man". Which, unless you're in Austin or California, is probably not the way cashiers address customers.

maiasaura

@wee_ramekin I live in California and was getting ready to totally disagree with you about whether cashiers would say "man," but then I noticed you were all over that. :-) SF cashiers /totally/ call me "man" sometimes!

somethingobscure

When I was a little kid trying to understand the difference between Miss, Ms, and Mrs, I was so confused by it. WHY, I wondered, were there title changes for unmarried/married women but not for men? Why did we still call my very elderly, single music teacher "miss" when "mrs" clearly suited her so much better? And why wasn't there a special term for old, married men that was more formidable and elderly, like Meister? Or Maestro?

Once I was a bit older and really "got it," I became increasingly infuriated by this inequality. Even now, it still irks me that Mrs/Miss even exist! At the very most, there should be one term for men, one term for women. But even that ignores those who don't associate with either gender or don't feel well suited to the term that is assigned their particular sex, which begs the question, why have a term like this at all and will there ever be an adequate gender neutral equivalent that everyone can use? Bahh humbug.

I'm getting married very soon, and I am not changing my name, nor do I intend to use the title "Mrs." I am just about ready to full-on eat the next person who assumes I am about to become Mrs. HisLastName. No one ever asks him if he's excited to be Mss. HerLastName!

Beatrix Kiddo

@somethingobscure I was at a wedding recently, and while my boyfriend was busy talking to a friend, the waitress asked me, "would your husband like more wine?" It was all I could do not to flip out on her, so I definitely wouldn't be able to handle all the sexist questions if I were engaged!

JessicaLovejoy

@Beatrix Kiddo Ha! I'd be all "Remus Lupin/Bobby Goren/Simon from Misfits is here?!? HELL YEAH HE'D LIKE MORE WINE."

somethingobscure

@Beatrix Kiddo Ah yes, the old "your HUSBAND" trick. I've gotten this a bunch of times at my OBGYN's office, even though I don't wear an engagement ring and I'm pretty sure my chart still says single. But they all refer to him as my husband when he comes in, because DUH, unmarried women can't get pregnant -- because they don't have sex!!! It's a foolproof system. Just like birth control pills.

And you can keep your shotgun wedding jokes to yourselves.

somethingobscure

@somethingobscure

You know what they say: A woman needs a man like a fish needs health insurance, if, you know, that fish required thousands of dollars of medical care and it's tiny start-up company's pathetic, expensive insurance plan didn't offer maternity coverage.

MmeLibrarian

The only person allowed to call me Mrs. is my husband. Because it's funny. Otherwise, I'm Ms., unless you're my student, and then you will call me professor no matter how many times I explain that I am not a professor even though this is college and, really, please just call me Ms. or by my first name. It's fine. Whatever you're more comfortable with.

liverwortlaura

When I was a wee liverwortlaura my father would always send all the kids postcards when he was away on business trips and he always addressed them with titles: mr. for my brother, miss for my little sister, and ms. for me. it's as if he knew from a very early age that i was a raging feminist! he still sends them every now and then, and they're still addressed to ms. liverwortlaura maidenname, except SOMETIMES he addresses them to ms. liverwortlaura maidenname husband'slastname, which irks me beyond belief!

liverwortlaura

@liverwortlaura i should clarify that it irks me not because i think the ms. needs to be tied to my maiden name, but because i did not take my husband's last name.

cuminafterall

"When I call her imma be like 'ayyyeee'
or should I be like 'Darling'
or should I call her 'Beautiful,' something nice
you know, that sweet shit
or should I be like 'Bitch'
like...how bout 'Miss?' 'Miss.' OK.

-Lil Wayne

Slutface

I got divorced at 25 and embraced that "Ms" like the soothing glass of white wine it was.

effystonem

@Slutface Ha! When I was a kid I thought "Ms." was the term you used for divorced women, because in the first grade my teacher was "Ms." and I'd never heard that before so I asked her about it, and she told me she used to be married but she was now divorced.

Springtime for Voldemort

@effystonem My mother told me that Ms. was for divorced women. Given the lipcurl she got when she said "divorced women", I spent several years not understanding why any woman would so fragrantly advertise her divorced state when she could simply go back to "Miss" or keep "Mrs." (since it's not like the state decides for you). And then I assumed that my 6th grade Social Studies teacher - the one with the "I am Woman, hear me roar" bumper sticker on her cabinets - was divorced, and promptly realized my mistake.

MissMushkila

I find myself teaching Spanish by some weird, universal mistake. I did not study spanish at all in college. And today in my class we were talking about señora vs señorita. I heard that in many spanish-speaking countries señora is now the accepted business standard for women regardless of whether they are married. Not really having ever studied or lived in a Spanish-speaking country, I was wondering if anyone out there had more insight?

Mira

@MissMushkila I'm always called señora by Spanish-speaking colleagues when I'm in Spanish-speaking countries for work (though usually addressed as señorita on the street, in bars, etc). I'm 26, for reference, and look younger. I don't know what the "proper" way to do it is and I've only worked in Latin America, so take it with a grain of salt! But señora as the business standard has been my experience.

damselfish

@MissMushkila Not in a Spanish speaking country, but Miami, where Spanish is fairly standard: Senora (ugh why can't I make a ~ on my mac) is what I hear women referred to as in business. I've also been senora'd, despite being under 30 and unmarried. But that could be American sensibilities.

Tam
Tam

@MissMushkila (Mexican here) Señorita (or muchacha in the north) is the standard in the street for a young woman, though I sometimes get addressed as señora (I'm 24, but I guess I look older). But, in a professional setting we are very much into using professional titles (licenciada, contadora, ingeniera, etc), so it would be perfectly normal for someone to call you Accountant MissMushkila, for example.

@damselfish on a mac you hit alt + n + n

MissMushkila

@Mira Okay, good, so I did not horribly mislead my Spanish 1 students on that count. I know the spanish teachers at a local school automatically referred to me as Srta., which is cool, but made me doubt my mad internet research skills.(which I did because I insist on Ms. in English and wondered how that was dealt with by actual Spanish speakers)

Tam
Tam

@MissMushkila I would probably just call my teacher (is this high school or younger?) Profesora (profe for short) or Maestra X.

Kulojam

@MissMushkila I live in Chile would agree with what you taught. Usually only elderly men and women (and creepers) call me Senorita; most everyone else who is roughly my age or younger says Senora. (I'm 33.)

TheJacqueline

@MissMushkila OK but now I need you to elaborate on how you are teaching Spanish!? Do you speak it..?

panquecito

@MissMushkila // I live in Guatemala, and I am a 23 year old not-married teacher, and my students call me (and all of my fellow teachers-who-are-women) Seño. Just Seño, minus the -ra or -rita, which kind of avoids the issue? Seño is the standard for teachers here, but I don't know if it applies to bidness ladies (being that I am very far from a bidness lady, myself).

mezzanine

@MissMushkila at least in Spain, señorita is getting stamped out, at least professionally! you're supposed to go with señora – apparently since there's no diminutive for señor, it's condescending/sexist to call someone (again, in a professional setting) señorita. or so i've been told/called? (i still get called señorita out in the world sometimes though)!

MissMushkila

This is fascinating! Thank you everyone.

@TheJacqueline So. I am 23 and I am in my third year of teaching. I started when I was a senior in college, because a high school I had worked at as a tutor hired me to teach Arabic. They wanted me to stay on the next year (my first year after graduation) to help phase out the program, because I was hired on a community expert license and they still couldn't find a permanently licensed teacher for Arabic in our state. I agreed to stay on, permitting that they could find something else for me to do, since the Arabic teaching was not full time. We had discussed my supervising study hall.

Then, right before my second year of teaching started, the school lost a part-time middle school Spanish teacher. They called me up and told me they didn't actually have a study hall for me, and oh, could I teach Spanish? I basically had the opposite of a job interview in that I tried to talk them out of hiring me for it, but I couldn't just turn it down flat because I had rent to pay etc.

Fast forward to this school year, I applied for a new job as an administrative assistant at a local private school. They interviewed me, turned me down, but asked if I would come back to interview for a teaching position in Arabic and ELL. I agreed.

I show up for the interview, and the receptionist asks me if I'm there for the Spanish interview. I tell her I hope not. It turns out, they just lost their Spanish teacher and want me to teach Arabic and Spanish. I reiterate that I know only basic Spanish. They hire me anyway.

So anyway, I'm glad to offer advice in my forthcoming book, "How to Repeatedly Be Hired as a Spanish Teacher Without Trying"

(I KIND of know Spanish, in that I studied it from 4th grade through senior year of high school)(but not really)

Gwdihw

Ladies: do you remember Dee-Lite? Did you find Lady Miss Kier's moniker to be confusing?

As a budding feminist, I wondered why she did not go by Lady Ms. Kier!

Decca

@l'esprit de l'escalier And I for one have never been able to locate Ladies Gaga, Sovereign or Antebellum in Debrett's.

anachronistique

@l'esprit de l'escalier GROOVE IS IN THE HEAAAAAAART

OwlOfDerision

@Decca Or Marmalade, come to that.

Verity

@Decca Didn't Lady Redesdale say something along those lines about Lady Bird Johnson?

Ophelia

It's also good to insert a little humor sometimes - we addressed a wedding invitation to one set of friends as Mr. and Ms. Johnson(1 + Smith) ...and they burst out laughing when we explained that rather than write out Mr. Johnson and Ms. Smith-Johnson, we had simply factored out a Johnson.

kfizz

@Ophelia Yesss! You are my nerdery hero :D

hahahaha, ja.

@Ophelia: I'm going to add "must have a common factor with my last name" to the list of "attributes I am looking for in a future partner."

entangled

@Ophelia this is amazing, especially the phrase "factored out a johnson."

fondue with cheddar

I just rewatched all of Freaks and Geeks with my boyfriend because he'd never seen it (which is especially a travesty as he would have been close to the characters' ages at the time). Anyway, it just occurred to me that Mr. Rosso the hippie guidance counselor calls Lindsay "Ms. Weir" even though he knows her marital status. That's pretty cool.

datalass

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Mr. Rosso was such a strong character all around. Best Mr. Rosso episode: the one where the vice president is going to visit.

fondue with cheddar

@datalass YEEEESSSS. I was so happy that Lindsay started to see him as a cool guy at that point, too.

I also love the one where he tells the bunch about the time he was in the South and a bunch of guys started bullying him. They made him get on his hands and knees and bark like a dog. "Then what happened?" "It doesn't matter..."

I totally want to be Mr. Rosso's friend IRL.

Plant Fire

I prefer Ms. to Miss just because I think the 'zzz' sound sounds a little more badass and works well with my last name. But I don't have super strong feelings about either as long as you don't call me Mrs.

However, one thing I do care about is Ma'am. I ADORE being called Ma'am. I don't get it all the time, probably because I'm 22 and just got a haircut that makes me look younger than I usually do, but I've had it used around me most of the time since I was 19 or so and I love it so much.

dj pomegranate

@Sea Ermine The main reason I want to change my name when I get married is that the "z" in Ms. will sound awesome with the "z" in my future last name.

social theory

@Sea Ermine i also don't mind being called ma'am. maybe it's because i'm from the south. but i generally don't argue with people when they're trying to show me respect.

tales

@social theory OH MY GOSH YES. Miss seems mega-condescending to me. Ma'am is what I call everyone that is not actually a child. Miss is what, when I was fifteen, my 60 year old boss called me. My boss who had what I like to call "little missy" syndrome. As in, any time you do anything, you get "here let me get that, little missy". (This is all in the south)

social theory

@tales i'm from the south enough that i will allow children to refer to me as "miss" (regardless of my age at the time) and continue doing so even after they grow up, but if a shopkeeper or someone else did it, we would have a problem on our hands.

Decca

Is this the documentary where Steinem tap-dances? I want to see that clip so badly.

She was a retail whore

It occurs to me that when I address things to my friends, I either leave off a title, or use Ms., regardless of their marital status. I just think that addressing adult women as Miss is weird (unless it's their stated preference) and that Mrs. reminds me of super old people.

Megasus

I don't like being called "miss" "ms" "mrs" OR "ma'am". They ALL make me feel old! And I don't like how any of them sound. Just call me Lady, I guess?

elbows on the table

@Megano! "Lady Megano!"? I could get behind this, but Lady Elbows on the Table is a mouthful!

lora.bee

@elbows on the table That sounds like something my mum would have called me for having my elbows on the table at dinner.

ALSO: was this faux pas in anyone else's family??

suchagoodone

@lora.bee "____, _____; strong and able, get your elbows off the table" was heard many times each week at the dinner table in my house. We also had lengthy discussions on other table manners (thank you, gigantic and hilarious tomes of Miss Manners) and had the dinner time rules of No Singing At The Table and No Quoting The Simpsons At The Table.
Table, table, table.

sandwiches

@lora.bee My mom used to gently poke our elbows with her fork if we had them on the table; after a number of years, my dad (who did not grow up in so formal a household) started putting his elbows on the table, at which point I and my sister started gleefully poking his elbows with our forks (and we still will, because it stuck with us, and also... it's still fun).

Elbow, elbow, elbow; fork, fork, fork.

elbows on the table

@sandwiches oh man, I love all these stories! My mom was never terribly upset by this (but then my family had/has a habit of eating dinner in the living room, watching tv, and talking together... not a lot of tables-that-could-hold-elbows there.)

Nocs

I just call people by their first names OR just their last names. But then, I work in sports (sometimes), so that's totally normal.

area@twitter

I'd like my title to be "High Empress of the Funkatronic".

OwlOfDerision

@area@twitter Can we shorten it to HEF?

SuperGogo

I learned a super obscure language through my Peace Corps service (Georgian), and one thing I really appreciated about the language was that there was a formal/informal split for forms of address and pronouns. However, they applied to both men and women only in terms of whether they had seniority (by age or position) to you. So all the kids and peers you interacted with, male or female, were addressed with the informal usage, whereas the school supervisor or town mayor or grandmother received the formal usage. It still reinforces some classist crap, of course, but it was super egalitarian in terms of gender and marital status.

SuperGogo

@SuperGogo Here's another fun fact related to Georgian forms of address: Not only did the actual words change to denote formal/informal usage, but the word order changes too. You can say "your daughter" or "your son" but formal usage required "grandmother your" or "father your." In fact, one of the rudest things you can say to someone in Georgian is "your mother" which has exactly the disrespectful tone of our "yo mama.." jokes.

kfizz

I am so, so grateful to all of the generations of women snapping Ms. at bank tellers and the DMV. I'm sure it was shitty, and we're all benefitting now, and you are my heroes.

miss olsen

A good solution to any conflicting feelings you may have about modes of address is to live in the deep South where all female titles elide to Miz, and ma'am is used so promiscuously you'd be exhausted if you thought about it every time it was applied to you.

social theory

@miss olsen well put.

Kulojam

@miss olsen This. I grew up in Alabama and said "Miz" from the day I could talk - it is just my accent so it sidesteps the issue. Same thing with ma'am - i still have to stop myself from using it - it was (figuratively) beaten into me growing up.

celeec4@twitter

@miss olsen From my experience, this tendency oozes as far north as Maryland, where in elementary school, all my teachers with Miz LastName. Unless they were Dr. LastName.

cee
cee

A friend of mine was recently doing some volunteering which required working around children, so in accordance with UK law she had to get a Criminal Records Bureau check done (to make sure she's got no previous convictions that would render her ineligible to work with kids). So she filled out the application form and sent it to the volunteering org to send on to the police.

A fortnight or so later she rang them up to find out the progress of the application and they said, oh, well, yes, there is a problem: you didn't put your married name on it. I'm not married, she said, I've never been married. Oh, they said, but you've selected "Ms" as your title? She thought she'd ticked the wrong box, said, right, it should be Ms, not Mrs, that's what it is. Yes, said the person on the other end of the line, so we need to have your married name on it as well, your former name?

Aaaanyway it turned out that this person thought "Ms" was only for divorced women.

wee_ramekin

@cee Oh Jesus Christ. Come on people. Seriously!

El Grande Fluffio

@cee I got that too in the UK when I opened a bank account. Checked married, filled in my name, and husband's name: NotFluffio. Bank teller asked how could I still be married if I had written Ms Fluffio?

Verity

@cee I commented about this below! It's a CRB thing, and it's infuriating.

Verity

@cee Yes! Well, I work for a small charity too, so it could theoretically be the same one, and they could be to blame - but it's a fairly right-on charity made up almost exclusively of women (we provide support for victims of domestic abuse), so I would expect better. (Also, the HR person I talked to told me it was the CRB itself that refused to accept "Ms" if you weren't divorced.)

cee
cee

@Verity oh, different charity, this is working with kids with learning disabilities. But also I googled it and apparently yes, it's the CRB, and if you want to use Ms despite not being divorced you must submit a note to that effect on a separate piece of paper. (so i guess i knew what i'm doing if i ever need to get a CRB check done)

()
()

I had a professor in college whose grad students addressed all emails to him as "Your Majesty".

Miss Maszkerádi

I actually slightly prefer Miss to Ms. Mostly because I'm a giant sucker for all manner of rhetorical details old-fashioned and flourishy, but also due to my brash contrarian streak that enjoys proudly trumpeting my unmarried status and watching people squirm ever so slightly. (Plus it beats all the ma'ams I've been getting i assume due to chronic bitchface making me look like an ancient sour hag.)

Once I get my doctorate though, all honorifics besides "Dr." will be out the window.
I'm pretty sure that in my second homeland, there are still some dusty corners of academia where one can get away with being called the equivalent of "Magister" with only so much as a master's degree, though I suspect only the theology/philosophy people are sufficiently batty and grandiose to pull it off.

dj pomegranate

@CountessMaritza Even better if you keep the "Countess" in there! Magister Countess Maritza.

Miss Maszkerádi

@dj pomegranate yeah, it hit me right as I posted that the entire thing was rendered mighty ironic by my handle :-D

leonstj

Ms. is dope, says a dude who overthinks every interaction. It's a really nice way to telegraph "Your marital status is not relevant to me, we are interacting as two people in a context where your personal life is not relevant."

That is great, because it frees up Miss for kickin' it exclusively. Like, I would never call a single female friend "miss" 'for real', but it is delightful fun, when flirting, to be all "Excuse me, miss..."

Kira-Lynn@twitter

@leon s you are a fuckin' delight

()
()

Relatedly (to this thread, that is), while working at Girl Scout camp, I started addressing groups of girls ~11 or older as "ladies". Because I'm trying to make "ladies" work the way "guys" does.

She was a retail whore

@() I will forever be a "ladies"-er. That's how I address emails to multiple girl buds, or greet multiple (woman) friends at once, and I just like the way it sounds. I'm from NJ, though, so I do occasionally call groups of women "guys," because to me that's just a collective pronoun, and not necessarily indicative of anybody's sex.

Decca

@() I had this problem while waitressing, how do I address a group of women? I know a lot of women don't like being called "guys", but to me, whenever I said "ladies" I sounded either sarcastic or lecherous. Hello, ladeeez.

Mira

@Decca Pretend you're a Southerner! This is why "y'all" was invented.

wee_ramekin

@Decca Extend one arm out dramatically and in your best Chartlon Heston voice, say "Let my people go". Then ask if anyone would like more water.

permanentbitchface

@Decca I usually go with "hey gurl, HEEYYY!"

My 3 lady roommates and I used to do this to each other every time we walked in the house. I miss that house.

RNL
RNL

@Decca This is why I sort of tried to make y'all happen, but it sounds pretty affected in the pacific northwest.

mustelid

@Mira YEP. I'm not Southern (well I'm from Maryland where we pretend we're not Southern/plenty of people don't actually realize we're a Southern state), but I use y'all pretty much exclusively for it's badass gender inclusiveness.

TheclaAndTheSeals

@() I've been working "ladies" for years now. It's pretty foolproof. And my good friends and I use "lady" as a term of endearment. "Lady" singular is generally weird, though. And now I'm pondering why "Excuse me, miss/ma'am/sir" is accepted and "Excuse me lady/guy" is not...

@permanentbitchface My old roommate and I still greet each other with HAI GIR HAI. Major nostalgia over here.

packedsuitcase

@mustelid I didn't appreciate "y'all" until I started studying Spanish and everything was so gendered that "y'all" became a gleaming bastion of inclusiveness.

darklingplain

@TheclaAndTheSeals Yeah, "Hey lady" has a completely different connotation, at least in the New York area where it's basically just a rude way to get a woman's attention.

Blushingflwr

@Decca I do like "ladies", but some women I know don't like "lady" because it has certain expectations that come to it (I was drunk once and said "I have to go to the Ladies' Room, because they don't have a 'dirty sluts room'").

I'm a Yankee, but I've lived (just barely) south of the Mason-Dixon line for the past 8 years. I love "y'all" because every language needs a good second-person plural pronoun. If you can't pull it off, "you folks" is a better alternative to "you guys" e.g. "what can I get you folks started out with today?"

TheclaAndTheSeals

@darklingplain I can't read "Hey lady" without hearing it in a Beastie Boys voice. It's fun in my head, but I'd punch anybody who said "Hey lady" in that voice in real life.

frigwiggin

@darklingplain HEYYYY LAYYYYY-DEEEEE

sevanetta

@() Last year I was head of a residential school for teenagers for a couple of days, never having had any experience to do so, and this whole other personality for me mutated out of nowhere. Part of this personality was that I suddenly found myself addressing the groups of girls thus: 'hey ladies', 'hey lovelies', 'hey beautifuls'. What the. I am Australian btw.

Springtime for Voldemort

@() I loathed ladies growing up, because it had all these connotations about having to be super-polite and well-mannered in a sexist way, as if you were the Queen of England, to the point of being actively and extremely harmful in relationships, and never being able to set boundaries because you might be rude. And then I found the 'Pin, and have grown to love ladies (pronounced "lay-deeeeeezzz") with it's entirely new connotation.

@Blushingflwr There should be a Dirty Sluts Room. I would just chill out in there, all the time.

mustelid

@Blushingflwr Oh yes! I love "folks" too.

Baby Fish Mouth

I mostly use Ms. to address women until I establish their preference. What would you do for a woman that is recently widowed? If they've gone by Mrs. for a long time, I don't want the Ms. to be unnecessarily pointing out that they are now widowed. I run into this a lot for my job so I'm not trying to be morbid.

wee_ramekin

@Wiscowhitney If they had used Mrs., I would continue to call them Mrs., especially if you're running into them after they are recently widowed.

Baby Fish Mouth

@wee_ramekin Yeah, sorry I mean if you weren't sure of what she went by prior to her husband's death. I usually err on the side of Mrs. because I'd rather she be offended as a feminist than she think that I'm using Ms. to mean her widowhood. Honestly, I thought Ms. just meant divorced or widowed for a long time because of what we were taught in elementary school.

wee_ramekin

@Wiscowhitney Ah! I see.

Hmmmm, that's a good question. I think I too would err on the side of Mrs., my argument being that even if they went by Ms. during their marriage, if they have been recently widowed, they may appreciate that you're linking them to their husband. I'd say do that unless you see on someone's paperwork that her last name is different than her husband's, in which case I'd definitely go with Ms.

I think that this will probably change in the next 10 - 20 years. Since most of us young folk grew up in a time when Ms. was perfectly acceptable and, in fact, has become a default in many places (it honestly surprises me when I see someone use Mrs.), I think that eventually people won't perceive any imagined slight or callousness in being addressed as Ms., even if they are recently widowed.

Slapfight

Just call me J.B.

tales

Preferring "miss" to "ma'am" and "girl" to "woman" both seem anti-feminist to me. (I'm not saying it makes anyone not a feminist! Sometimes we like anti-femme things) When you do this, you're valuing youth over respect. I mean, women being told that being or looking young (and, presumably, more attractive) is more important than getting respect is kind of patriarchy, right?

Miss Maszkerádi

@tales I don't really think there's one catch-all way (at least in terms of honorifics) to respect women, though. Are being young and being respectable mutually exclusive, say? Or beautiful and respectable? As I mentioned upthread, I like "Miss" for myself partly because I like to be a little subversive about openly declaring my unmarried, partner-less status (and then letting my independence and human completeness without a man make its own points from there.)

Slightly off topic but I read this great (maybe apocryphal) quote from Cervantes somewhere: "A true Lady is a woman so determined to be respected she can make herself so even among a company of rude soldiers," or something to that effect. Demand respect with whatever words you prefer, ladies :-)

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

I'm not even a huge fan of my last name, but part of me wants to find a guy who will take my name. Just because that would probably make him the most awesome person ever -- and that's the only kind of man I want to marry.

fondue with cheddar

@The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak Hm...I wonder if my boyfriend would consider taking my name, because he loves my family more than his and also because he's got the same last name as a famous assassin and he hates being associated with that guy.

fondue with cheddar

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) aaaand I've just given lots of clues in this post to what my real name is. So much for anonymity. ;)

The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325)

It never hurts to ask!

The other plus side is that we come a lot closer to creating a world in which a woman's decision to take her husband's name can be more easily extricated from historic/current patriarchal bullshit if we have men taking their wives' names as well. In that world, everyone can just choose whichever name or portmanteau they prefer.

Another plus side -- society gets an increased concentration of cool names!

Verity

@The Frozen Head of Dorothy Zbornak My boyfriend has said that he would be happy to take my surname, as he knows I don't want to change mine. (When I told my parents this, they argued that maybe he shouldn't, as his mum might be upset. My mum wouldn't be upset if I changed my name! Why shouldn't he?)

kate.m

I've noticed that a few of my hipstery dude friends have started using Miss as a kind of innocent-flirty way to address ladies, and I don't think I like it. It's like "hey Miss" or "I'll see you later Miss" -- for reasons I can't identify, it makes me uncomfortable. Next time, I'mma tell 'em they can call me Ms., please.

Kira-Lynn@twitter

@kate.m I just said above that I liked it but now I'm re-thinking it!

RNL
RNL

I got in a huge fight with my bank when they put "Miss" on my credit card. Like, why? I didn't check it off, I can assure you. The told me I needed an appellation (what, why?), and that Miss was default. Rage rage. I wrote a very long complaint letter, and did not get an apology.

I assure you, they are no longer my bank. Ok, it's true that my new bank offers a half a point lower rate on my student line of credit, but they also put just my plain old first and last name on my credit card, like a normal human being. So I no longer feel like Scarlett deep south O'Hara ordering things online.

She was a retail whore

@RobotsNeedLove That's...really strange. Glad you found a more reasonable (in many ways) bank.

Kira-Lynn@twitter

@RobotsNeedLove ME TOOO! But it was my cheques. I was 20 and needed to write cheques to companies I was already having trouble with getting them to take me seriously.... ugh. I walked into the bank and I was like "Yo, why do my cheques say Little Miss Kira on them?"

Elsajeni

@RobotsNeedLove What?! "Oh, we thought maybe you were one of the younger Bennet sisters. Was that not correct?"

Faintly Macabre

@RobotsNeedLove I just got a French debit card and your comment made me check--yup, I'm MLE FAINTLY MACABRE. I'll have to inspect everyone else's cards now to see if all banks here do this!

Decca

You? Can call me Al.

fondue with cheddar

@Decca I'll be your bodyguard if you call me Betty.

celeec4@twitter

@miss olsen From my experience, this tendency oozes as far north as Maryland, where in elementary school, all my teachers with Miz LastName. Unless they were Dr. LastName.

Verity

I love "Ms", and am very grateful to all the women who insisted on it and made it become accepted. Some people still react weirdly to it, though; there is work yet to be done. (Example: when aged about 17, I gave my details to someone collecting for charity who ambushed me with a clipboard. Him: "Ms? Doesn't that mean you're divorced"? Oh! That reminds me - the Criminal Records Bureau doesn't like Ms either. I was having a CRB check done for my job, and mentioned to the HR department that I had put "Ms" on the form but it had come back with "Miss". Apparently when entering details on the system, it will not allow "Ms" unless you put "Divorced" as your marital status. What?)

Inconceivable!

I actually think aesthetically, of the three, my last name sounds better with Miss, but since my marital state has fuck all to do with my professional life, and indeed most of my day to day interactions, Ms. it is.

Ellen Hodgkin@twitter

I teach high school, am unmarried, and 30 years old, though I look 18. I hear every mix of M-titles, but much prefer to be called by just my last name.

thenewbrunette

What really annoys me is when people say that having the extra option of 'Ms' overcomplicates things when, duh, it simplifies things enormously. If in doubt, default to Ms. They can always correct you if they prefer Miss or Mrs.

When I worked in retail, a woman asked me to reserve something behind the counter for her. She gave me her last name only, so I wrote down 'Ms Lastname'. My boss said I should have put 'Mrs' as she was older and she might therefore get offended at being called Ms. He didn't seem to get that assuming a woman is married just because she's older might be just as offensive, as well as, um, incorrect. At least with Ms you aren't making any assumptions about their marital status - it will always be technically correct as long as the person is female.

My boss was kind of a clueless douche though.

Hamza Khan@facebook

I appreciated that everyone was doing it out of politeness so I let it slide.ebrandz review

pama

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