The Problem With Titles
The post at Talk With Desiree ruminated about the usage of titles, particularly when and when not to use them. I personally don’t think there is too much to worry about–I use titles when I don’t know the person and will continue using it unless that person specifies otherwise. Sure, if that other person is 70 years old, I’m going to feel very uncomfortable using a first name–I was raised to respect the elders–but after a while, people should just let it go. There are people who argue among themselves about the pronunciation of my name, but for some reason, I care very little about it. They can pronounce it however they want (of course, it’s only four letters and there are only so many ways one can mangle its pronunciation).
What bothers me is the kind of title that one is supposed to use. Men have it easy. They’re always Mr. I don’t understand why one must differentiate the marital status of women with Miss or Mrs. Does this relegate unmarried women to a different social class than married women? Do married women have more authority because they’re married? If you think about it, a Mrs. Smith would command more respect than a Miss Smith. You would automatically think that a Mrs. Smith is older and thus have more experience. Ms. somewhat solves the problem, but even though it looks more professional, it carries the baggage of being a feminist construct.
Aside: Out of the three (Miss, Ms., Mrs.), I dislike Mrs. the most. It implies ownership by one’s husband and loss of identity. It’s like eliminating your own family in order to be adopted by another one. I guess this is a rather sore point with me–I have relatives who are disappointed that my father and uncle only have daughters. In today’s patriarchal society, our last names will be lost unless we don’t follow the norm.
So which title do I prefer? Well, I would use Ms., no one would take me seriously if I used Miss. What I would really prefer is a gender neutral title with no marital modifications. In today’s world, does it really matter whether someone is married or not, male or female? (But wait a minute, maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get a real gender neutral title in a couple of years.)