Friday, 7 January 2011

"Ms? Oh right, you're one of them"


It seems that as a feminist you have two options. You can either be angry, man hating, up tight and probably a lesbian (not a hot lesbian though. Oh no, an angry, man hating, up tight lesbian - most likely with facial hair). Or, worse yet, you can be a Spice girl.

I have been asked whether or not I was a lesbian twice in my life. The first was in response to a suggestion I made at the tender age of 17 that maybe, just maybe, there was a case to increase the age men can apply for a driving license. The second, when I cut my hair. I have, however, been called a feminist on more than one occasion. I hint at the need for equal pay; I sigh at the lack of child facilities; I have the audacity to let slip a smidgen of my growing despair at being bombarded with images of emaciated woman telling me I can “lose that extra ten pounds” and what am I met with? A roll of the eyes, a smug little chuckle, followed by the inevitably “oh we’re a “feminist” are we”. Apparently it’s cute that a little blonde girl has an opinion. You have to give it to them though. It is amazing how people instinctively understand that by using “the F word” they can embarrass most into silences. Nobody wants to be seen as taking life too seriously. As not “getting” the joke.

One area in particular that inspires such accusations of feminism concerns what, in the bigger scheme of things, is really a rather minor point. My name. Or more precisely, my title.

I feel strangely attached to “Ms”. It represents not only my independences within society, but also a stage in my life where I took control of my own identity. I used my right to choose my name. At the time, I had no idea the impact it would have on those around me. Hence, my surprise to discover that correcting someone for calling you “Miss” is the height of rudeness. And rude I have been called for doing so. Along with “snob”, “aggressive” and of course, the dreaded feminist. On the whole, I do not mean it aggressively. I simply do it automatically, as you would were someone to mispronounce your name. Do I find it somewhat patronising as a fully fledge woman to be referred to as “Miss”? Well, yes, but I don’t hold a grudge and sadly it’s so ingrained in society that I wouldn’t expect anything else. Yet, the hostility I experience in response still leaves me bemused. From what I can gather, people seem to feel that I am imposing some grand statement on them. That I am creating a fight where there need not be one. That there exists some implicit criticism towards men within the title. In short, that I, like all other good feminists, simply do not like the male sex.

To dismiss Feminism as a shallow vendetta against men conveniently undermines the ideology and its supporters. The resentment such a little word evokes reveals the true significant of the movement as a potential threat to the status quo. The intense resistance that “Ms” inspires should encourage its use rather than shame us into discarding the simple privilege that is bestowed upon the male sex automatically with age. 

In short, I shall continue to use the title “Ms” and I shall continue to smile sweetly at the sniggers as I do so. 


  1. For some reason 'Ms' is seen as the title of a divorcee - no idea why. In other language cultures we have recently seen a move towards using what was previously the title of married women (e.g. 'Frau' in German, 'Madame' in French) for all women - thus 'Fraulein' and 'Mademoiselle' are only used for young girls, and thus Frau and Madame become the exact equivalents of Herr or Monsieur.
    Although I prefer to try not to use titles at all. What purpose do they serve? Or fill in title boxes on forms with squiggles a la Prince, like §, or non-titles like Mx.

  2. I know you'll probably delete this but, are you really getting upset over being called Ms? It's like addressing a man as Sir. Would you prefer someone to call you ma'am? And to assume men get some sort of free pass when we reach puberty is laughably naive. We fight for every scrap of respect we earn from other men. You sound like another Entitled,angry,uninformed feminist. Sigh. I love strong women I grew up with a single mom. She was a feminist just not a man hater.

    1. yea shes faffin abit aint she. im a feminist but i get frustrated with the ever present prevailing mysogony,not titles!

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  4. I use 'Ms', for a few reasons, one being that I'm married but separated so neither 'Miss' nor 'Mrs' seems totally accurate, but mostly because when, as a teenager, I asked my mother why she used Ms, she said she didn't understand why most forms etc even ask women to clarify. There is (basically) 'Mr' for men, with no marital status implied in that title. This seemed perfectly logical to me, not combative or implying any sort of man hating or attempt to be 'difficult'.
    Besides, I have decided that one day I'll have a PHD so Dr will suit me just fine :)