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Social titles – surely time to upgrade?

July 12, 2011

During the course of my working life (and by working life I am referring of course to the dreaded day-job) I’ve had to create and maintain many, many forms. Increasingly, I’m starting to notice just how many of these forms, even if they don’t require actual gender information, always ask for a social title, options being Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms and if particularly progressive, Other.

It makes me wonder just when this particular archaism will become outmoded and we’ll all just be seen as people.

Modern social titles originate a long time ago – the 1600s or roundabouts – when the terms Master and Mistress first became contracted to the more familiar appellations we use today. Around the turn of the last century, Ms was introduced, to allow an adult female to be respectfully addressed when her marital status was unknown – or, more recently, when she would prefer not to defer to it.

Why then do we not yet have a gender-neutral social title for those who prefer not to explicitly state their gender?

We’re so used to using them that the majority of people probably don’t spare a thought for social titles, yet if you do analyse them aren’t they essentially the equivalent of being labelled ‘Penis Smith’ or ‘Unmarried Vagina Jones’? It’s the same as that pesky, widespread gender question: appropriate perhaps on medical documentation, but do people really need to know which set of genitals someone possesses when all they want to do is buy some gig tickets? It should be irrelevant.

Mx Justin Vivian Bond suggests Mx as a gender neutral alternative to the traditional social titles. Surely it’s a basic human right to be seen as a – well, a human, rather than a man or a woman and it’s time that society caught onto that fact and at least offered people the choice.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2011 7:20 pm

    I especially dislike it when I only have the option to select ‘Ms’ as that combined with the Zs in my surname make me sound ridiculous! It would be nice to be done with the lot of it!

    • October 13, 2011 3:23 pm

      I just hate being forced to choose between a really small set of options that people insist on you choosing one of. I’ve started to sign up to some stuff as ‘Mr’. I don’t particularly want to be referred to as ‘Mr’ but I resent being railroaded into putting ~anything~! I never thought of ‘Ms’ relating to your surname, I can see why you don’t like that!

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