[I originally wrote this piece for the rather excellent on-line feminist magazine ‘The Vagenda’ but they didn’t want it. Bloody feminists – emancipation’s too good for them!]
So it seems that the issue of what ought to be the correct term of formal address for women has recently caught the attention of the public, thanks to the French abolishing ‘mademoiselle’ after months of campaigning by two feminist organisations who objected to females being defined according to their marital status.
In Britain, of course, the terms Miss, Mrs and Ms have traditionally been used to differentiate between women who are single, women who are married and women who are fat, man-hating lesbians; but, more recently, this usage has become confused (not least because the latter two categories often overlap so seamlessly with each other as to appear virtually synonymous). Such a system has never been thought to be required for men because we always tend to think of ourselves as single (no matter how much we profess to the contrary), most of us don’t notice or tend to ignore the fact that we’ve become fat, we generally tend to deny or conceal any ambiguity in our sexuality, and many of us seem to passively hate women – treating them with an almost unconscious contempt that defies any rational explanation. Except for me, of course: I’m a thoroughly modern-thinking bloke with no repressed insecurities whatsoever.
Another major issue, still largely unaddressed in the public arena, is the outmoded idea that a woman should take her husband’s surname upon marriage. To me, this has always seemed an odd and distinctly uncomfortable move: the woman is expected to surrender her identity and individuality while the man effectively dilutes and then ultimately abandons his own – and all of this only in the name of making it abundantly clear to the rest of the world that neither of them is up for a random shag anymore. This is quite unnecessary: after six months of marriage, both parties generally appear so utterly defeated and wantonly neglectful of themselves that there can surely be nobody expressing any kind of an interest in either one of them.
In truth, of course, the woman taking the title Mrs and changing her surname originally indicated the transfer of her ownership, from a not-so-distant age when females were considered to be little more than commodities to be exchanged in their youth via a transaction conducted in a church in the ceremony of marriage – possibly the most convoluted ritual ever conceived to legitimise servitude through subjugation and conceal what was, in many cases, effectively child abuse (but that’s a whole other article). This, incredibly, was packaged and sold as if it were every young woman’s dream. “Step into my parlour,” said the spider to the fly…
Indeed, the only time that surnames really ought to become an issue these days is when there are children involved: should the kids take the name of the woman who bore them for nine months – sacrificing her health, her body, her looks and her mental well-being – or should they take the name of the organ lender (not even a donor, note – and since when did organ recipients ever change their names?) who merely gave it his best shot, albeit after perhaps a good forty-seven second run-up? Hmm, that’s certainly a tough call.
Surely all we really need in contemporary society is some kind of a label that makes it clear to ‘browsers’ exactly what it is that we might be looking for. In this age of smartphones, maybe there’s a call for us all to simply bear barcodes so that anyone with a passing interest can easily scan us to determine our relationship status and sexual orientation – not that the latter has ever mattered to me: face-up or face-down, I’ll take whatever I can get.
Seriously, though, do any of us really still feel the need to define ourselves through our relationships? I don’t want to possess another human being and I certainly wouldn’t want to feel owned. We are who we are – surely that should be enough. Women don’t need to be categorised and only a Msogynist would disagree.