The subtleties of the assumptions of male superiority are so built in to the way that society functions that we may not even notice them. For instance, I became aware the other day, upon attempting to contact my political representatives online — something I have done with increasing frequency over the last two years — that my irritation with my *required* “salutation,” had blinded me to another more egregious issue.
The fact that I have to have “salutation” at all bothers me. Call me paranoid, but it feels as if somebody, somewhere, wants to know if I am male or female because, somehow, that matters. I don’t think, within such a general context that it should. Clearly someone else does.
I got over my personal irritation couple of days ago, when I realized that the salutation situation is actually more nuanced than I had thought because apparently somebody somewhere also needs to know if the woman in question is married or unmarried… that was my first thought. Then I realized that the salutation, “Mrs.”, looks a whole lot as if it means “Mr’s.”, as if the person using that particular salutation — “Mrs.” — actually belongs to someone using the salutation “Mr.” It seems, based on spelling alone, as if the word that we pronounce “missus” is being mispronounced. (How you get “missus” out of “Mrs.,” anyway, I don’t know.) Mrs., should be properly pronounced/extrapolated — if we are to go by it’s spelling, as we usually do — as “Mister’s.”
If “Mr” is “Mister” “then Mrs” is “Misters.)
So the common salutation for the wife of a man basically proclaims (minus an apostrophe) that she belongs to him.
Men? Their salutation status never changes… and why would that be exactly? Married or not, they are “Mr.”
I think we should sack “Mrs.” I think it’s demeaning.
And on the subject of demeaning: “Who gives this woman?????” Really????? Are you kidding me???? That too deserves sacking. Women are not chattel. And I don’t want to hear, “Oh, it’s so lovely, so old-fashioned.” Yeah, it’s way back in the day, is what it is, why too far back in the day.
My “required salutation” is Rev. I have been performing marriage ceremonies for over 20 years and I do bring the subject up when the couple and I are talking about the ceremony itself. I rarely get much pushback but when I do, but if parents re involved, I’ll sometimes hear, “It’s all about the bride,” or, “but all the focus is on her,”… yeah, as a piece of property that’s about to be transferred from one ownership to another.
Either the bride should walk down the aisle of her own volition or her whole family goes. I could maybe see that, a visual metaphor for spawning a new family, releasing a member of the tribe to go forth and form her own. That might work. 😉 Of course, ideally, his family would have to do the same thing. I haven’t presented that to anybody yet but most people these days get when I’m talking about when I point out the property issue.
If we don’t take note of these “little” things and get rid of them, these verbal identifiers and impliers that are now simply expected and accepted, they will continue to infect the language with the not-so-subtle tone of sexual discrimination that they carry, as they have for centuries, and in doing so, they will infect the minds of the people who use the language just as they also already have. It’s almost transparent by now, this insidious diminution of women as human beings is literally built in to the every-day language that we use.
You can’t build a solid building on a crap foundation. Our verbal foundation needs to be strengthened.
While we’re in the process of working out salutations for trans folks, we might as well sort them out for everybody.