Marital titles for women outdated
By GEORGIA KELLY-BAKKER
For many today on International Women’s Day, the battle fought by women nearly 160 years ago is but a distant memory in history.
This is as the history books re-tell the demonstration by women worker’s in New York 1857, which prompted the first of today’s event.
Now after decades of demonstrations and movements, in many countries both women and men relish in the advantages that have come from equality.
But what if gender equality is less balanced then we have come to believe?
A local government in France in the suburb Cesson-Sévigné, has ruled that the female marital titles of Mademoiselle (Miss) and Madame (Mrs) are sexist.
As Head of Women’s Studies at Flinders University, Yvonne Corcoran-Nantes believes, it is just about catching up with the rest of the world.
“This is something that is so archaic”, she said.
Women in Cesson-Sévigné will no longer need to specify their marital status but instead just use Madame, similar to what has always been the status quo for men but with Mister.
With moves such as this taking place in other countries, is Australia’s title system meeting these equality standards?
“The words do have different connotations in France so it might not work in Australia in the same sense,” said Dr Corcoran-Nantes.
“Because in English we have so many more definitions and titles to describe ourselves, choice is what we need.”
Dr Corcoran-Nantes, who supports choice rather than a complete change as seen in Cesson-Sévigné, is mainly against the connotations implied in female titles.
“The actual meaning of Mrs is to be somebody’s wife,” she said.
“I find it incredibly offensive to be referred to like this and many people feel the same way.”
Dr Corcoran-Nantes, who often gets dismissed as “just a feminist” when discussing this issue believes that it needs to be discussed further in Australia.
“It is really important because it is about equality”, she said.
“Even our mailing system is sexist, with companies just assuming we are Mrs even if we have told them otherwise.”
But in the suburb of Cesson-Sévigné, women were not given the choice and some are unhappy about the change.
On French news website Ouest-France, one women complained that she could no longer use Mademoiselle.
“I am sorry to see that women can feel persecuted because they are called Miss,” she wrote.
“We must stop seeing evil everywhere.
“I am all for gender equality but I love to be called Miss, and will it soon stop the sale of the prestigious fragrance Mademoiselle Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel?”
However, others wrote in support of the change with one stating that she strongly believed this should be on a national level.
“France is far behind other Western Countries,” one woman said.
“Since 1979 Quebec has already abolished the term, but I am relieved to see that in France things can change.”
But in Australia, Dr Concoran-Nantes believes that playing politics is more important for governments than creating equality.
“I don’t think it is a coincidence that governments have refused to sign for choice and then it was signed on International Women’s day four years ago,” she said
Even with the politics involved, International Women’s Day still plays an important role.
“International Women’s Day is very important; it’s a good day to consider where we are, who we are, and where we want to be,” said Dr Concoran-Nantes.
Image by /Flickr – Causus’