Thursday, I was shocked that when scanning the headlines of The New York Times, I saw an article entitled, “‘Mademoiselle’ Exits Official France” by Scott Sayare. Prime Minister François Fillon addressed a memo to state administrators across France and “ordered the honorific — akin to ‘damsel’ and the equivalent of ‘miss’ — banished from official forms and registries.”
Wonderful, I thought. Simply wonderful that France was finally doing what Gloria Steinman and others in the feminist movement of the 1970’s had managed to achieve. I still remember the day that a friend was walking toward me with a big smile on her face and a magazine in her hand. The first issue of MS. Magazine told the reader what being a Ms. and not a Miss or Mrs. meant and how it served to help gain the equality of women in the workplace and beyond.
I smiled thinking about the efforts that must have gone into the change in title for younger French women. There were two main feminist groups championing the demise of Mademoiselle but there was push back from other women who felt that the word should remain in use.
The French government has stacks of forms and other supplies that may not be able to be updated until all the existing paperwork is used so that they can save money. However, that means there will be time to decide just what will be the alternative French word or phrase that will replace a term that has been used since 1690. It will be a challenging but worthwhile process to find as clear a substitute as Ms.