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 LibÃ©ration 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]
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