Miss or Missus?

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2007 at 2:41 pm

I was browsing around the internet this afternoon. Didn’t know what got into me when I typed ‘feminism’ in the Google search box. I got a lot of links but as a Wikipedia fan, I clicked on the Wiki link and got a lengthy explanation of the word. Very informative indeed. But there is something that immediately caught my eyes. Apparently, feminism affects languages and here is the explanation taken from the section:

English-speaking feminists are often proponents of what they consider to be non-sexist language, using “Ms.” to refer to both married and unmarried women, or “he or she” (or other gender-neutral pronouns) in place of “he” where the gender is unknown. Feminists are also often proponents of using gender-inclusive language, such as “humanity” instead of “mankind”. Feminists in most cases advance their desired use of language either in the interest of equal and respectful treatment of women or in order to affect the tone of political discourse. These feminists argue that language directly affects perception of reality (compare Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis), and move to change language which may be viewed as imbued with sexism, for example the case in the English language in which the word for the general pronoun is “he” or “his” (The child should have his paper and pencils), which is the same as the masculine pronoun (The boy and his truck).

In postcolonial feminism the issue of language is often less emphasized as many non-Indo-European languages do not have grammatical gender.[citation needed]

A different tendency can be seen in feminism-inspired changes to the French language. Grammatical gender is much more pervasive in French than in English, making it virtually impossible to create inclusive language. Instead, nouns that originally had only a masculine form have had feminine counterparts created for them. “Professeur” (“teacher”), once always masculine regardless of the teacher’s sex, now has a parallel feminine form “Professeure”. In cases where separate masculine and feminine forms have always existed, it was once standard practice for a group containing both men and women to be referred to using the masculine plural. Nowadays, forms such as “Tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes” (“all Canadians”, or literally “all the male Canadians and female Canadians”) are becoming more common. Such phrasing is common in Canada and in France, where President Jacques Chirac routinely uses “Françaises et Français” (French women and French men) in political speeches, but is practically unknown in other French-speaking countries.

An equivalent tendency in Germany, where male and female terms are both required in the plural, is to use the male term followed by the female plural ending. An example of this is, instead of the bulky phrase sehr geehrte Kollegen und Kolleginnen, meaning dear male colleagues and female colleagues, one uses sehr geehrte KollegInnen, which expresses the plurality of both genders.


I kinda agree with the French, the Canadians and the Germans, but I’ve never realized that my kind of feminism isn’t actually the feminism explained in Wiki. To me, not changing the title from Ms. to Mrs. is somewhat weird. I’d go with the ‘hyphen’ situation where I’d keep my last name, put a hyphen before my husband’s name because that way I’d still keep my identity. But staying Ms. Wreksono for the rest of my life isn’t really what I have in mind.

Gee, apparently nowadays it makes me a non-feminist feminist.

Too much information is mind-boggling and belief-shaking, sometimes.

Am I miss-ing something here?


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