"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Friday, June 29, 2007

Feminism Friday: The Origins of "Ms."

Not just the magazine, but the title itself. It's something we tend to take for granted these days, but Eve Kay's new article in The Guardian gets us thinking again about what it means to call yourself "Ms.," how the idea came about, and what an important accomplishment it was for women when the title gained acceptance.
"Miss and Mrs are marks of the old world, reminders of women's second-class status as wives-to-be (Miss) or simply wives (Mrs). If you are a woman who doesn't use Ms - particularly a woman under 30 who has never even thought of it - then ponder this: how do you want to present yourself to the world? Are you an appendage or an appendage-in-waiting? Don't be branded and marked by old-world convention."
I've always liked the idea of Ms. There's just no good reason for women to have to be defined by their marital status while men are not. And both "Miss" and "Mrs." are too full of hidden meanings and connotations for my taste. Ever since I was a little girl, I turned up my nose at the idea of being defined as Mrs. so and so, ESPECIALLY when the title even deprives the female in the relationship of her FIRST name as well (e.g. Mrs. John Smith). Gross. "Miss" didn't bother me quite as much, but then again I was a CHILD. Something about that title now (even though I am not married) just seems so... infantilizing. I'll stick with the Ms., thank you.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog, which I like very much.

I do have a question for you: What are your thoughts as to the reason why many divorced women maintain the surnames of their ex-husbands?

Tracey said...


Honestly, I'm not sure what the reason for that might be. I suppose it's possible that it's just so much of a hassle to change the name back. Or maybe in some cases it's an attempt to not rock the boat too much. Once people get to know you as a certain name, it becomes complicated to suddenly change your name. Of course, I think the same complications apply when women change their names after getting married as well.

Anonymous said...

I was happily a Ms. before I got married, and I'm still a Ms., now. Trust me, it really pisses people off that I got by Ms. AND kept my own last name. I think that it often screams FEMINIST ALERT, but hey, that's fine with me :)