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Activism - Mrs and Ms are fakes and don't work

Dear Ruplestilt

Thank you for your attention. Most companies I have contacted have already had some form of encouragement to address this issue and send me back a note to say, ‘Already added to list of things our programmers must attend to.’ And I am pleased to report that although at the start of a new year, or after some communication on my part with the various companies, I have occasionally reverted back to Ms, I pop through an email and am returned to my no-reference-to-marital-status status, over and over and over. (I have an infinite amount of patience in this regard.) I have had ongoing communications with several companies, and you have provided the most comprehensive response to my suggestion. Thank you.

Dear Fetsiboomsticks

As the IT manager for CENSORED, the CENSORED call centre has forwarded your communication to me for response. Thank you for your email and address update - your records will be updated accordingly.

Please be assured that your email address will never be sold to any third party. This has been and will remain the policy of the CENSORED program.

Your objection to the use of “Ms.” as a title is also noted - but I am in a bit of a quandary about how to rectify this particular issue for you alone on our system - as the system does indeed require something to be entered for a CENSORED member’s title. The current CENSORED membership count stands at over 400,000 members and I am sure you will accept that we communicate with these members on an ongoing basis - either via the printed medium or via electronic mail.

I am aware of this programming problem. However, I, and others like me, are trying to raise corporate awareness of this issue and the changes currently under way. You will find that CENSORED and CENSORED, among others, have an area where the client can choose what title, if any, to go by. I choose Fetsiboomsticks and it has been no problem, on the whole. The companies often have an area the data processor can actually key into, if they so wish, as opposed to being forced to choose what is socially acceptable, or corporately acceptable. My mail is addressed to Fetsiboomsticks and I am addressed in person as Fetsiboomsticks because the telephonist is alerted to what my preference is. When I phone I am impressed and excited to be addressed as Fetsiboomsticks and not by Fetsiboomsticks+marital status. As a potentially responsive company, you, as IT manager, might consider adding this suggestion to your list of items on your programs that would be tweaked over time. I realize that tweaking doesn’t happen daily, and that you might only have occasion to change this in the future, if you were considering changing it.

Either way, the communication is in the written form and, as professional communicators, we are very aware of the need to address members in a respectful and politically correct manner. To this end, and knowing that some controversy did exist around the correct form of address for women, we painstakingly researched the topic and came to the conclusion that “Ms.” was brought into practice specifically to eliminate the perceived sexist connotations of using either “Mrs.” or “Miss.” For your convenience, I have included some extracts of the material referred to while we were making every attempt to be politically correct in addressing our members.

Your and CENSORED’ efforts on behalf of me, and other women are noted. However, current thinking suggests that men do not designate themselves married or not with ‘Mr’, and no matter how hard we (who preferred to not designate marital status) try, some married women insist on using the ‘Mrs’ form, as is their right. This backlash has created the current situation where woman who truly choose ‘Ms’ asnondesignating -of-marital status, get relegated to ‘not married’. By CENSORED’ inclusion of Mrs and Miss there is already a suggestion that the 1970s intention behind the use of ‘Ms’ is not working, and that CENSORED is aware of the problem.

I would like to reiterate, however, that I am not suggesting that you should rid yourself of the sexism, I am merely asking that a ‘no title’ option be included. Currently, your data input people are forced to enter something into the ‘required’ field and the form will not go through otherwise (I assume) and, I am suggesting that you ADD ‘no title’ as an option that can actively be selected. Or add a field where the preference can be entered, e.g. Fetsiboomsticks.

In the text below, supplied by yourself, there is some passing interest in deferring to what a woman would prefer to be called, I would add that it should not be the establishment, social norms, corporates, the patriarchy or other women who dictate what an individual should prefer.

I believe that in supporting individuals that try to raise consciousness, if only in principle, that all our minds are opened, no matter what we would choose. Thus I would fight to the death for another woman’s right to choose to be called ‘Mrs’, and also for a man’s right to be called ‘Mr’, as long as it is their stated preference and not an assumption on their behalf.

I have noted that you ticked the box labelled “Other” on your application form. Our data capturers have been instructed to use “Mr.” for men and “Ms.” for women who have ticked the “Other” option in the Title field. In some instances, our call centre staff are required to make phone calls to certain members to ascertain their gender - so that we might not address, for example, a “TonyBloggs” as “Mr.” when the member may in fact be female - and, of course, vice a versa . I hope you will accept that our choice to address members in this fashion was made solely out of respect for our members and at no time do we take our communication with members lightly ... let alone purposely offend them by addressing them incorrectly. Please accept my sincere apologies if you were indeed offended by being addressed as “Ms.” ... it was, and remains, our policy to do nothing that will offend our members.

I appreciate your efforts not to offend me, and they are well-noted, be assured of that. In fact, I would prefer to be called ‘Mr’, rather than be slated as ‘Ms’. Again, I realize that the quandary I put before you is unusual, but all activism and awareness starts with lone voices. I hope that you can understand my efforts on behalf of the consciousness of corporates, and women and men.

Your suggestion to use “Prof.”, “Dr.” or any title other than “Miss.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” can unfortunately not be used as it would as inappropriate as it would be factually incorrect and misleading. I will however discuss this matter internally with other management, and should it be deemed practical to change the entire database system to accommodate your request, we will attend to such changes without delay. Should you have any further queries in this regard, please don’t hesitate to communicate with me directly and I will make every effort to assist you with them.

I would just point out at this juncture, that ‘Ms’ can be considered not factual in some situations. Were I a person of many degrees, who chose to be called ‘Mrs’, would that constitute ‘factually incorrect’? I think you would not hunt down my degrees in the interest of fact. So, I have no objection to being ‘Mr’ as I am on many databases around our rainbow country, if you would prefer, and if you consider Professor or Doctor an EARNED title, as I do. Miss, Mrs and Ms are not earned but statements drawing attention to marital status. Mr has no such earned or marital status meanings and appeals to me the most. It does have a gender reference, as do some names, but that, I understand, is something to be tackled in the far future, perhaps by the next generation.

I trust that, if the above-mentioned (and the added ‘Note’ below in the text you attached) does not meet with your approval, that you will delete my name from your database altogether. Thank you for your keen interest in this issue and the comprehensive response you provided. Well noted - even if you do eventually decide to delete me.

Sincerely, and respectfully Froglet

Kind regards Ruplestilt



Ms. or Ms (pronounced /m_z/ or /m_z/) is a title used with the last name or full name of a woman. Unlike the more traditional titles Miss and Mrs., it does not bear any reference to the woman’s marital status, as Mr. does not for a man.

Its usage was championed as non-sexist language beginning in the 1970s, especially in business usage, by those who argue that a woman’s marital status is of no relevance in such a context. Starting in the 1970s, many women insisted on being called Ms. for political reasons, and a major feminist magazine is named Ms.

The Times (UK) states in its style guide that “Ms is nowadays fully acceptable NOTE when a woman wants to be called thus NOTE, or when it is not known for certain if she is Mrs or Miss.”

The Guardian (UK) states in its style guide that: “We use whichever the woman in question prefers: with most women in public life (Ms Booth, Mrs May, MissWiddecombe) that preference is well known; if you don’t know, try to find out; if that proves impossible, use Ms.”

Although some socially conservative women object to the use of Ms., the title is now standard, especially in business—and where one may not know or find relevant the marital status of the woman so addressed. The default use of Ms. is championed by a number of etiquette writers, including Judith Martin (Miss Manners).”

And this from the writings of Linda Elizabeth Alexander ... a business writer specializing in web and sales copy.

“Biased language can alienate any potential reader. If you alienate your readers, you lose credibility. Without their faith in your words, you have lost your audience and cannot make your argument. Therefore, avoiding sexism in your writing benefits everyone.

Here are some tips for avoiding common mistakes regarding sexist language.

Ms./Miss/Mrs.

Miss refers to an unmarried woman. Mrs. Refers to a married woman. Ms. is a universally accepted form of addressing a woman regardless of her marital status. This should be adopted whenever possible.

However, there are women who indicate a preference for either Miss or Mrs., and that preference should be honored if known. When addressing general audiences, or if you are not sure of the woman’s marital status, always use Ms.”

Dear CENSORED

I would like to inform you that I hereby submit my email address for you to contact me with. It is not for sale to any company. This statement constitutes a binding contract.

I object to the use of the title Ms. On the form that I filled out I deliberately left that blank. I find the use of this title sexist in the extreme. If your computer programme will not allow you to leave off a title, please eeny-meeny and put in Professor, Doctor, or anything else, excluding Mrs, Ms, Miss.

My PO Box number has changed from 501 to 127.

If you don’t feel like addressing any of these issues, I expect an emailed note from a manager to inform me so, with individualised contact details of that manager so that I can verify the position of the manager.

Also, in the event that you will not respect the issues above, you may cancel my CENSORED card. Cancellation must please be accompanied by a managerial authorization to cancel it, and individualised contact details of that manager so that I can verify the position of the manager.

I look forward to observing the company policy in operation at CENSORED.

Tanya Pretorius

CENSORED
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