One ring to rule them all

French feminists have begun agitating to ditch the title of ‘Mademoiselle’ (Miss) and call all women ‘Madame.’ A French organization called Les Chiennes de Garde (the Guard Dog Bitches) wrote:

“The option Madame/Mademoiselle means that a woman has to give an indication about her availability, in particular her sexual availability. A letterbox is not meant to be a dating agency…” [Link]

It’s similar to the shift to Ms. in the U.S.:

The use of Ms. as a title was conceived by Sheila Michaels in 1961… Michaels, who was illegitimate, and not adopted by her stepfather, had long grappled with finding a title which reflected her situation: not being owned by a father and not wishing to be owned by a husband… 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. [Link]

One feminist has a novel reason for the shift:

Emmanuele Peyret, wrote in the newspaper Libération that “the insidious passage from Mademoiselle to Madame is so painful that we may as well begin by being called Madame straight away, in the cradle”. [Link]

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p>I think that’s a fine idea. As you hold a naked, wailing baby upside down and give her the welcome whack, you can say, ‘Pardonnez-moi, madame.’ It’s the polite thing to do.

And why stop there? It is absolutely true that women bear the burden of being marked as property. In fact, the full burkha of devout Muslims angles for complete sexual control, but almost every culture has milder restraints: the bindi, the sindoor, the wedding ring.

I’m of a breed which dislikes wearing things on the skin. We live streamlined, unornamented and unscented. It’s not that I object to status markers, especially one so hard fought-for by women as the reciprocal, male wedding ring. It’s just that wearing rings bugs me.

But there are simple alternatives. By a happy coincidence, the Hindu color of auspiciousness is also the color of traffic lights; the red bindi is also the signal for Stop, She’s Taken. So give me a green bindi to signal Single. Or for my lapel, the slide latch from an airplane loo, set to Available.

Forget Ms., forget Madame, forget cell phone dating. To avoid crossed wires, all you need is one good sticker.

Related posts: The Gender Gap

76 thoughts on “One ring to rule them all

  1. In fact, the full burkha of devout Muslims angles for complete sexual control, but almost every culture has milder restraints: the bindi, the sindoor, the wedding ring.

    Absolutely correct. I think that either both genders should wear (possibly identical) “marital status” markers, or neither of them should.

  2. Maybe someone can correct me on this, but I’m not sure that bindis are used just by married women anymore.

    Anyway, total timepass post, manish :)

  3. ItÂ’s not that I object to status markers, especially one so hard fought-for by women as the reciprocal, male wedding ring

    Interesting…I had no idea that the male wedding ring was actually something hard-fought-for. Anyone tell me about the history of this?

  4. Well, for that matter, why should gender be relevant in all formal correspondence? I still remember reading a letter to the editor when I was in college that was shunning Ms. and Mr. altogether, in favor of Mx. The author of the letter did not consider themself to be of either gender… although, I’m not sure how they planned to pronounce “Mx.”

    I think Mx. is a somewhat silly idea, but then I’m sure people thought “Ms.” was “a silly idea” at one time.

    (This also reminds me of how, on the new Battlestar Galactica, people address the (female) President as both “Madame President” but also “Sir”.)

  5. Incidentally, on a somewhat related note, I was in a restaurant once, signaling to a young waitress, and I said, “Excuse me, Ma’am.” A friend of mine chided me for it, saying that it was offensive to call her “Ma’am” because it signified that she was old, and that it was more polite to call her “Miss”. But I’ve also heard that some women don’t like “Miss” because they think it’s diminuitive and offensive.

    Help!

  6. I like the idea of the green bindi what if the the bindi is wierd shaped like a zig-zag should that mean that the girl is really flexible? ;-)

  7. Ken: you could try “excuse me” or if she has a nametag, excuse me [her name]

    I find that both “miss” and “ma’am” have diminutive weight to them…

    Has anyone else ever had this happen to them? I called the desi grocery/movie store in my neighborhood, and since I don’t have an accent (unless really tired or a little drunk) the guy on the other end have me the most sardonic “ma’am” I’ve ever heard. If I’d been there in person, it would’ve been “beti” or maybe, “behnji” – so maybe I’m generalizing, but the ma’am (memsahib!) thing seems to be racially heavy too…

  8. I tend to use Ms. because I don’t feel like getting into it. I’m definitely not a Mrs., but I don’t mind if people use Miss – it just depends on the context. If someone happens to be using it to get an idea of my marital status, or to stress that I don’t have one, I insist on Ms. Otherwise, I don’t care so much.


    And I don’t think the green bindi’d be a good idea, because it gives false hopes, and maybe the wrong idea, to certain men. :( “But she was wearing a green bindi… I just don’t understand why it wasn’t cool to unravel her sari in the midst of a crowded bazaar…. I know she was yelling ‘Bachao!’ and crying and stuff, but dude… if she didn’t want it she shouldn’t have worn that green bindi…” :P Or maybe, “Excuse me, Miss – I noticed you’re wearing a wavy green bindi… wanna do it?” :P

  9. Oh for crying out loud do we need anything at all? I mean when I’m at a party throwing come hither looks at some hottie do you think he’s going to ask if I’m a Miss or Ms or even a Mrs? Availability is so not defined by these superficial boundries. You see married guys with rings et all flirting openly all the time. And especially when I’m applying for a job, considering most desi names sound ambigious I’d prefer to not be known as any gender.

  10. why is it in school you call a male teacher, “Sir” and a female teacher “Miss”. Or was that just the schools I attended?

  11. Has anyone ever been to one of those traffic light parties? Wear red for taken, green for available, yellow for (to use Friendsterspeak) “it’s complicated”? (Yellow seems a little moot – you know it means “if you’re cute enough”) This has less to do with marital status and more to do with your openness to other people… which I think, as JOAT has pointed out, reflects the way things usually work anyway.

    I know it’s different in French, where you use “mademoiselle” ou “madame” or “monsieur” with much more frequency, but Miss/Ma’am/Ms – I can’t believe we’re still debating this… how often would you find yourself using either “ma’am” or “sir” these days anyway? I don’t think anyone could drag those words out of my mouth and as for “Miss”; bwaahahahaha.

  12. You see married guys with rings et all flirting openly all the time.

    Taz, Abhi and others who are in the LA area should check out Leykis 101 on 97.1 fm. He is all about getting men the most tail without spending money and he says that one of the best ways for a man to get ‘attention’ is by wearing a wedding ring. The story about the ‘mean and busy wife’ etc always seems to work according to him.

    In regards to ma’am, it doesn’t bother me too much now, being married to someone in the military who has to use that and ‘sir’ all the time. Mrs for a married woman doesn’t work these days with more women retaining their maiden names after marriage. I know..I know…that’s a whole other post right there. Anyways, I prefer Ms. It’s feminine and non confirming.

  13. What JoaT and Msichana said.

    Also, most married women I know use different names in different sitations, i.e. no title professionally, Ms. most of the time because they have kept their “maiden name” (argh, I hate that term. MAIDEN. Ick.) or have hypenated their name, and Mrs. in family settings.

  14. He is all about getting men the most tail without spending money and he says that one of the best ways for a man to get ‘attention’ is by wearing a wedding ring. The story about the ‘mean and busy wife’ etc always seems to work according to him.

    OMG that is so messed up that makes my blood boil. As if single women don’t have enough shit to deal with idiot single men that now we have to deal with idiot married men. Frankly something as blatant as a ring is a total turn off and a total waste of my time. My problem is the growing number of married guys pretending to be single that I seem to meet in the desi social scene these days. I mean we are all connected by 2 degrees of separation and even that doesn’t deter them for petessake!

  15. Also, most married women I know use different names in different sitations, i.e. no title professionally, Ms. most of the time because they have kept their “maiden name” (argh, I hate that term. MAIDEN. Ick.) or have hypenated their name, and Mrs. in family settings.

    I never knew what a huge deal this is for people until I saw close friends having a massive heated debate about it. She wanted to keep her name and he was quite hysterical about the prospects. What is the big deal about changing the name? If a woman doesn’t want to do it, for whatever reasons, why go guys get so riled up?

    Of course there are plenty of women that willing do it. I can see one of the most logical reasons why. Having a child with a different name can really screw things up. My mother has a different last name then me and immigration was a bitch dealing with that situation. We had to file 20 extra documents to prove that we really were related!!

  16. I don’t like the idea of wedding rings either – any sort of branding is a huge deterrant to me. Do you think your husband loves you less than Donald Trump loves Melania? Well, he must cuz have you seen that rock on her finger! Plus, it’s just so…. physical…. in addition to me not wanting to have ANYTHING to do with the blood diamond industry AND not caring about shiny pretty things either. And it’s not that I’m non-commital or anything. I just hate my ring-finger being checked out!! I can understand wanting to feel important and special, but rings – bah! What kinds of rituals (that you liked) have you guys heard of to take the place of this ring-exchange thing? (Other than tattooing, b/c that’s branding too!)

  17. OMG that is so messed up that makes my blood boil. As if single women don’t have enough shit to deal with idiot single men that now we have to deal with idiot married men

    .

    To be fair, married woman do stuff like that too. It’s a vicious cycle regardless of gender and or title.

    Ms Metric Ang, good point about the branding. I don’t know what your ethnicity is but a lot of cultures have other symbols associated with marriage etc. A lot of is being done away with but there are some traditional ideas that still prevail. For instance, married indian women are ‘adviced’ to wear earrings always, a necklace and to refrain from bare wrists. Some cultures have anklets and toe rings and most have the mandatory ‘mangal sutra’. Do you just dislike rings or do you consider the rest branding too?

    As a footnote, my mom dislikes ‘branding’ as well. She says that ‘sindoor’ and the ‘mangal sutra’ are similar to a parking decal.

  18. if i’m having to wear a green bendy bindi….i think the boys should have to wear ties or something of “appropriate length” that, uh, zig-zag if they’re flexible ;)

    kidding aside, i’m not a big fan the Sr/Sra/Srta titles, but i do think they’re needed in the school system….both of my parentals teach, and i don’t think my mum (or i, for that matter) would appreciate a 7 year-old calling her by her first name. especially the belligerent kiddos.

    and rings are over-rated. awful status symbols. and what a waste of money! could’ve gone towards a trip to chile…

  19. Speaking of mangal sutra’s I’m noticing that a whole lot of second generation desi women are wearing them on a regular basis. Some of these women I know and even their moms don’t generally wear them on a daily basis but I’ve seen the chikas them wearing it at clubs when they are dressed half naked :-) not that there is anything wrong with it just wondering if anyone else has noticed it.

  20. Speaking of mangal sutra’s I’m noticing that a whole lot of second generation desi women are wearing them on a regular basis. Some of these women I know and even their moms don’t generally wear them on a daily basis but I’ve seen the chikas them wearing it at clubs when they are dressed half naked :-) not that there is anything wrong with it just wondering if anyone else has noticed it.

    Yes!! I attribute some of it to the brainwashing courtesy those stupid Zee, Sony and StarPlus soap operas. Suddenly it’s become fashionable to don the mangatsutra and do a token red mark on the forehead. Ugh.

  21. similar to a parking decal

    haa haa haa, u have a witty mom…

    the mrs (she rather likes the title) and i have best-friend charms from disney (mickey and mini) we’ve been wearing for a while, long before we got ‘married’, more meaningful then actual ring i think…

  22. Tom Leykis? Puhleez. I’m a Kevin and Bean kindof a girl. And they just mentioned the rallies in Bagalore over Raj Kumar’s death…

    When asked her name, my mother still refers to herself as Mrs. Ahmed at the oddest times- like, to the telemarketers that call the house. I think it’s quaint.

    As far as ring, now that I’m older, it’s the first place my eyes go when I’m at a bar; directly to the ring finger. And then I run in the other direction. Who are these women that puppy dog these guys- I’ve never heard of any woman say how they find wedding rings attractive. Urban myth.

  23. Mschiana,

    Thanks for your input! To answer your question, I think I’m pretty much dead set against any kind of branding for all of the reasons stated above – we, both men and women, aren’t property. I almost like the idea of mangal sutra – you can put it away and look at it whenever you please – but again, there’s a monetary value associated with it. If you think about it the process of exchanging rings, mangal sutra etc. is a ritual – can’t this ritual be replaced with something of a more symbolic nature rather than purely monetary? I understand that the process of saving for something so bloody expensive is a ritual unto itself (unless you’re rich)- thus, I think the hard work and and extra hours at the office that goes into “saving” can go into making something or doing something special for the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.

    That’s why I’m wondering if anyone’s heard of anything truly inspiring and not too cheezy.

  24. As far as ring, now that I’m older, it’s the first place my eyes go when I’m at a bar; directly to the ring finger. And then I run in the other direction. Who are these women that puppy dog these guys- I’ve never heard of any woman say how they find wedding rings attractive. Urban myth.

    Amen…I’ve never heard of that either. Only hookers are sympathetic towards a man with the “mean and busy wife”. This radio man is misleading men into bullshit situations. hehe

  25. hollieee $433t, i was only keedeen!!!!

    and i’ll give u a ring later, hows about 3:00pm?!

  26. Green bindi is one of the worst ideas that one can come up with ;-) There is absolutely no need to send signals about ones status. If someone is genuinely interested in you, then he/she will have to make an attempt to talk to you and inquire about your ‘status’ (albeit in a ‘beating around the bush’ kind of way). If they don’t make this attempt, then you can be assured that they’re not “that interested”. Why bother sending any singals to such people.

    Something totally unrealted: The other day it struck me that desi matrimonial websites (like http://www.Shaadi.com) are much ahead of the dating/relationship websites in US (match.com etc). By ‘ahead’ I mean…the next step.

  27. The other day it struck me that desi matrimonial websites (like http://www.Shaadi.com) are much ahead of the dating/relationship websites in US (match.com etc). By ‘ahead’ I mean…the next step.

    What do you mean? That the reason people are there is to get married? EHarmony is pushing itself in that direction. By the way the “marriage minded” is just a guise on the desi websites. People for the most part at least in the west are still using it to date. :-)

  28. eharmony is there for mostly for marriage…and is a better medium since it uses more of a personality test to pair you up…which i think imakes more sense…whereas shaadi.com or indiandating.com, or those other million websites are more caste, job, diet status, and if you’re a citizen or H-1 visa card member ;) ..just labeling you into one of the many in the herd..

    taz: i miss kevin & bean… how are my kroq boys… ahh.. the days of loveline and dr. dru and poorman… those were the days…

    mschiana: i used to listen to tom lykis for humors sake… on the long commute on the dreaded 91 freeway… it’s flash friday…. :)

  29. janeofalltrades – What I meant was the “arranged marriage” was usually scorned as a ‘backward’ concept and people (in the west) used to look at it with shock. Desi matrimonial websites are nothing but portals to failitate arranged marriages…kind of like dating websites (which are supposed to be a “western” concept in a progressive society).

  30. eharmony is there for mostly for marriage…and is a better medium since it uses more of a personality test to pair you up…which i think imakes more sense…whereas shaadi.com or indiandating.com, or those other million websites are more caste, job, diet status, and if you’re a citizen or H-1 visa card member ;) ..just labeling you into one of the many in the herd

    chick_pea – That’s true. But I’ll always trust my gut instinct over a software tools that “matches” my profile with someone else’s profile :) I’ve never used these websites..but if I were to, then I wouldn’t mind matching the food habits, education status etc.

  31. I think the use of sir and ma’am is reasonably common. I certainly prefer to refer to people that I don’t know (ans ocassionally people I do know) that way. Its good manners.

  32. taz: much thanks..but the computer at work allows no sound….i just remember they bs’d a story on air about some crime…and were on probhation for a few months a few years ago.. heck their story even made ‘unsolved mysteries’… (do you remember that fiasco?)

    puneet: agreed when trying to find a match a diet compatibility might be important to some..and the income/degree status… but beyond that, personality will ultimately be the deciding factor… you could both be carnivorous computer juggarnauts but if you can’t stand to be in the same room together…what’s the point? i think that eharmony also asks you dietary questions, lifestyle, and how important education/etc is as well.. (don’t know personally, but am surmising here…)..overall i think that they have an edge on the matchmaking business/venture/cupid playing role…

  33. i think that eharmony also asks you dietary questions, lifestyle, and how important education/etc is as well.. (don’t know personally, but am surmising here…)..overall i think that they have an edge on the matchmaking business/venture/cupid playing role…

    Eharmony might work for the general American folks who are sick of match.com but it’s certainly not geared towards other cultures. For example I had a profile on there and I was East Indian Hindu seeking the same or at least I had thought that is what it would do. They kept referring Muslim guys to me. Apparently if they listed themselves as East Indian but skipped the religion (which can be somewhat unimportant to non desi folks) they were a match for me! Go figure.

    No software anywhere, nor even someone describing themselves to the T can surpass personal chemistry in determining if two people would work out or not :-) .

  34. chickpea

    (don’t know personally, but am surmising here…)..

    not that there is anything wrong with it, right joat (and damn i forget your handle, fellow seinfeld fan)…

    i can never make it on any of these sites. though i am not ahem unsuccessful otherwise if i may say so. a little short to stand out on a webpage but not in real life. so i definitely, definitely agree with joat.

  35. As the topic goes more into Dating, how many are members on Ratedesi.com. Pretty interesting site. I have been lurking there for quite sometime, like I do here in SM:)

    I am waiting for a separate tab here on SM for Sepia Dating. When will that be admins?

  36. agreed. chemistry 101 between the 2 is what is the deciding factor…

    Is is just the ‘Physical’ Chemistry that you’re talking about..or does Organic and Inorganic Chmistry matter too :D

  37. As the topic goes more into Dating, how many are members on Ratedesi.com.

    hey whats this site about, what does it do, what do you like about it, and how is it like SM? sorry can’t access it from work

  38. re: maiden name vs. mrs.

    my partner and i combined last names to avoid hyphenation, being the oldest and only son his parents where not very excited, but it felt like it reflected us and how our lives/cultures have gotten mixed (he: Bombay Gujarati, me: Washington state white trash). plus it gives him some pretty serious feminist cred :)

  39. As the topic goes more into Dating, how many are members on Ratedesi.com. Pretty interesting site. I have been lurking there for quite sometime, like I do here in SM:)

    Why did you have to bring that to my attention?? There goes all my productivity for the rest of the day. THANKS. :)

  40. Damn I hadn’t even heard of ratedesi.com. If it’s anything like hotornot.com it’s filled with a bunch of 18 year olds.

    I am waiting for a separate tab here on SM for Sepia Dating. When will that be admins?

    I’m waiting for that damn tab too and hopefully the single gods of SM put themselves on that tab. I have a massive crush on one elusive one.

  41. I’ll be sure to tell my single girlfriends to be on the lookout for a guy wearing a green “available” pin on his lapel.