I have been pondering the news item I posted earlier today about the French phasing out “Mademoiselle” and I’m left wondering why we need gendered honorifics at all?
Honorifics seem to be a way of differentiating ourselves from others — recognizing a social distance that may be temporary but in initial meetings seems to legitimately exist.
Honorifics as a way of enforcing social class and inequality I find distasteful. While this is the main intention of their use, they’ve become somewhat less important.
In the case of Ms. Mrs. Mr. or the Mlle. Mme. M distinction – why should we care about marital status? We don’t and so chuck the convention for what it is – a way of marginalizing those who do not choose to live mainstream lives.
So can we keep the honorific but strip it of its role as a tool of inequality. Empty it of gendered content? I’ve ponedered some alternaitves.
Citizen: I dislike because it excludes non-citizens
Person: Seems to be awkward
Sor: I made this one up as an amalgamation of Sir/Sister/Sir and/or Madam; It would require general acceptance and I just don’t have that kind of pull.
Stranger: Like “Hey Stranger …” contexturally it may be appropriate but I might not want to use it in applying for a job.
Job Title: Carpenter Bob, Barrista Katie, maybe? But this requires you know what the person does and so is not sufficiently general.
Sister/Brother: Gendered. No good.
Comrade: Ok in that it is general and gender/classless BUT comes with ideological baggage that might or rather has ensured its marginalization.
All in all I’m left pondering this one. I feel its important in some way to find a solution. But what that may be is utterly beyond me this afternoon.