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May 2, 2012

IconThe Mrs versus Ms debate

cryptorchidWith civil partnerships becoming increasingly common and fully fledged gay marriage close on the horizon, new precedents are being set for lesbians tying the knot. Will coupled lesbians choose the straight-sounding ‘Mrs’ as their title or opt for the more ambiguous ‘Ms’?

Mademoiselle banned in France

The French are currently leading the way, abolishing the word ‘Mademoiselle’ altogether so that women do not have to reveal their marital status in their title. Males are ‘Monsieur’ and women are ‘Madame’. It is neat, fair and simple. Is it not time that Britain followed suit?

The history of Ms

Since the 1960s, feminists have fought for the right to be referred to as ‘Ms’ rather than ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Both of these honorifics are derived from the word ‘Mistress’, not a word feminists are happy with, and rightly so.

The only problem lies in the fact that many married women, both gay and straight, enjoy being referred to a ‘Mrs’. For some women, the title ‘Ms’ even suggests a negative connotation.

What does Facebook think?

I put the ‘Mrs versus Ms’ debate out there on Facebook and asked all my female friends who are married or planning to marry if they choose to be called ‘Mrs’ or ‘Ms’. Within seconds, the notifications came pouring in.

Overwhelmingly, the straight women have opted for ‘Mrs’ while the lesbians lean towards ‘Ms’. Interestingly, or perhaps completely irrelevantly, the bisexuals declined to comment.

Madeleine, 29, has been married to her male partner for just over a year. She said, “I am a Mrs, I feel Ms is trying to make some kind if statement”.

Similarly, Louise, 28, who is planning to marry her boyfriend this June said, “I thought Ms was for old dears that never married. I will be Mrs”.

The other predominant reason for straight women becoming a ‘Mrs’ was to be romantic and to please their husbands.

Allison, 40, said that one of the main reasons for marrying her husband was to take his surname and Sharon, 34, said that she became a ‘Mrs’ because it meant a great deal to her husband.

Tom, 29, backed up their claims stating, “Married women, whether gay or straight, should be Mrs, as this is the title that tells people you’re married, and if you are married why hide it? To me traditionally Ms is an older woman who wants to be vague about their relationship status, usually because they are divorced or a spinster”.

Karen, 40, has been with her female partner for five years and they plan to have a civil partnership.  She said, “I will be Ms all the way, I’m nobodies Mrs! Even when my girlfriend and I get the civil partnership I will definitely be Ms. It’s a political thing for me”.

Donna, Cathy, Jane and Jacquee are all lesbians in serious relationships and will all unquestionably refer to themselves as ‘Ms’ even if they do have a civil partnership or marriage. They all stated it was for feminist reasons.

A couple of straight women also supported ‘Ms’ for the feminist cause. Rosie, 32, chooses to refer to herself as ‘Dr’ or ‘Ms’ for feminist reasons.

Similarly, Anna, 31, said, ‘Although I’m not married, getting married or a lesbian, I am a feminist. It drives me mad that I can’t do a simple thing like order something online without having to make a statement about myself as married, unmarried, or making a point of not letting people know by using a horrible title that people make judgements about anyway”.

Now what?

The ‘Mrs versus Ms’ debate does not affect gay or straight men and most straight, married women simply haven’t considered it.

It is a battle to be fought by single, lesbian and bisexual women and the negative connotation surrounding ‘Ms’ does not make it the obvious choice for coupled lesbians.

Unfortunately ‘Mrs’ is not ideal either as many lesbians consider it to sound straight and rather smug.

My girlfriend and I are having a civil partnership in July and I am still undecided. She is insistent on ‘Ms’ but I am a little tempted by ‘Mrs’, for equality reasons and because I will consider myself married. What do other Lesbilicious readers use?  

Of course, an alternative could be to purchase the title ‘Lady’ (see http://www.lordtitles.co.uk/).  It’s a snip at £18.95 and ensures form-filling is fun forever more.

5 Responses to The Mrs versus Ms debate

  1. Brittany says:

    Is Ms. Not also from the word Mistress. In fact isn’t it the more offending word by inferring that a woman is bellow acceptable status because she isn’t married. I intend to marry my female partner and I am female. I will choose Mrs. as a sign of commitment to my partner. I am proud of my relationship. Once we are married it is something I’d like to flaunt.

  2. Laura says:

    My wife and I both became Mrs after our civil partnership. When I was in my late teens, I went through a bit of a hardcore feminist phase and all my documentation from that time had me registered as Ms. However, whilst I still think it is sexist that men’s titles don’t reveal whether or not they are married, I am proud to be a Mrs these days, even if it does make people assume I have a husband not a wife.

  3. Fiona MacGregor says:

    Well this stirred up some discussion in my house. I have been in a same sex union for knocking 17 years…civil unioned for the last 6. My beloved is a staunch MS and I have in recent years insisted on Miss…but can’t tell you why. Having read this though…we engaged in some discourse and as a result I am leaning towards MS (really ironic as in recent years have been diagnosed with MS!!!) However, haveing done some research and discovered how old MS is and that Ms Mrs and Miss historically mean Mistress(now wouldn’t that be fun to be called routinely…or does that say something about me and my predelictions??!!!…perhaps)I am wondering why there isn’t a call to not use titles. I do not want to be defined by my relationship status…proud as I may be. Neither do I want my gender to define me and I can’t help but posit that if feminist values prevail that there should be no need to make a procalimation of gender which is what these titles do. In the interim I must say that I will go back to Ms or where I can not reveal as as I say I am leaning towards it not being relevant if equality is important. Really interested in other opinions.

  4. Sazzle says:

    I agree with Fiona, if I can get away with it I only put my first initial followed by my surname, if pushed i’ll opt for Ms. I feel I earned the right not to be a Miss when i left home just turned 18 and became independent in all aspects of my life and no longer under my father’s roof and therefore his to ‘give away’ to a Mr. My gf always uses Miss, she never questions this she says she’s not married and that’s what this means, no problems to her.

  5. monkeygrrl says:

    Myself and my wife both always use Mrs. I always thought Ms meant divorcee. learn something new i guess.

Rosie Hayes

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