A Gender-free Honorific?

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.


One thought on “A Gender-free Honorific?

  1. J. Hossie says:

    Interesting, and something the trans-gender community regularly comes up against and redefines…

    Sexuality aside, those who don’t like gendered words for any reason struggle in our world. I know one person who dislikes any gendered pronouns, and prefers to be referred to as “it”.

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