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.

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