Friday, July 16, 2010

It's So Liberating, Not Being A Feminist

Are you like me? Do you just hate having the vote and wish you could be excluded from education and the professional workplace, subjected to forced marriage and motherhood and violently attacked with impunity by men? What a fun bunch we are! Let's all meet for lunch, well those of us with permission to go outside on our own anyway, and read the Daily Male together!

Today's literary masterpiece (misspiece? missogynist crap?) is from one MISS Kelly Rose Bradford. Her point, in the face of the 6% rape conviction rate in the UK, is that she doesn't want to be called "Ms", she likes "Miss". Lets have a little line-by-line shall we, just for fun eh?

"This is quite straightforward: I am a Miss. I do not want to be addressed as Ms or have it as the only option (apart from Mrs or Mr) on forms."

Good for you - I have yet to see any forms that don't offer "Miss" as an option, though there are plenty without "Ms", and I have yet to hear anyone refuse to refer to someone as "Miss" when asked to. Should that become a problem though feel free to write "I'm not married" in big letters on your forehead.

"Miss sums me up wonderfully - it has connotations of youth and a footloose and fancy freeness. A Miss will have an impish smile and a head full of mischievous ideas,..."

Yes, that's actually half the problem - that impish smile and fancy freeness doesn't really say "C.E.O." to some people.

"...while the more staid Ms smacks of an arch-feminist devoid of fun and up for an argument."

Ewww icky no-fun feminists with their equal rights and their readyness to argue rather than put up with shit. Gosh I sure hope I'm not one of them.

"In any case, as an unmarried woman, I am a Miss."

Yes, you can look it up in any Victorian etiquette book. Also remember never to speak in public and never to refuse sex to your husband - after all - he's had a busy day. Why not dress in a fucking crinoline while you're at it!

"I have always been a Miss and, as far as I'm concerned, always will be. My stance causes outrage among my friends."

Really? It provokes mostly pity in me...

"One girlfriend - who tears up letters addressed to Miss and left her dental practice when its computer system refused to refer to her as Ms - thinks I should be addressing the issue of equality. She says I should be examining why women want to be called Ms rather than just dismissing it as a title used to cause provocation."

Good grief no. Examining women's reasons for making choices in their lives? Who does she think I am. I work for the Daily Male remember, my job is to keep it fluffy and submissive.

"Another claims it would be ridiculous for her to be a Miss at 48, especially as she's been married twice."

Yes because as you said "Miss" implies the impish smile and the footloose and fancy free air which she probably neither has nor wants.

"Yet I take untold pleasure in declaring myself a Miss at the age of almost 37. When 'Can I take your name, please?' is asked of me by receptionists and clerks, I proudly declare 'Miss Bradford', and immediately and firmly correct anyone who calls me otherwise."

No doubt when they ask "Would you like to vote in the election?" you proudly declare "Absolutely not!", "Would you like justice if you got raped?", "I would not!", "Would you like to be allowed to work as a journalist with a national paper?", "No way, Jose!"

"There's something endearing and fascinating about a Miss. Misses are characters, people you remember."

I hope that's not true - I'm already trying to blot you out.

"Age has nothing to do with it - could Miss Marple, Miss Havisham or Miss Ellie be retitled Ms? No, they would be entirely different."

Oh gosh Kelly, I hardly know how to tell you. They were all fictional characters. It's ok, you weren't to know. Have a biscuit.

"Misses run the gauntlet of femininity and female wiles: they are little girls in twirly frocks, beauty queens, the cunning and attractive Miss Scarlett in Cluedo and little old ladies with a mischievous glint in their eye and a longing for devilry."

Of course they're not Prime Ministers or Justices of the Peace or anything like that. But seriously - a "longing for devilry"?! I know your attitudes are medieval, why let that spread to your choice of language?

"Misses are the life and soul of the party, dancing and drinking champagne, while Ms stands dourly in the corner."

So Misses are binge-drinkers? I thought the Daily Male was against young women who drink too much. Next they will be mysteriously getting pregnant all on their own.

"I realise I am very much alone in my views. My friends declare the title outdated and sexist, a term designed to label and oppress women. Most are appalled that I choose to use it."

'How can you bear being called Miss?' asks my friend Sophie, her face screwed up with horror and incredulity.

'It's a horrid, sexist invasion of privacy. You can't tell if a man is married or single from his title, so why should you be able to intrude into a woman's privacy this way?'"

Go Sophie! Get out of that one Kelly...

"While I see her point, I don't entirely get it."

We know.

"I want people to know I am unmarried. I am single and proud of it."

Then tell them. Try using the words "I'm", "not" and "married".

"'But it's a gender issue,' says another friend, Jo. 'I am always Ms. It's not that I mind people knowing whether I'm married or not. I just resent the fact that women are defined by it, but men aren't.'"

So you like being defined as unmarried do you Kelly? If not explain yourself!

"Dislike of the title Miss can lead to extreme reactions. 'I filled in an online form as Mr the other day because it was closest to the missing Ms option,' my colleague Eve tells me. 'But I am much happier not using a title at all.'"

And that's an extreme reaction? No extreme would be finding the guy who created the form and head-butting him. Ticking "Mr" is a pretty minor reaction in my world.

"I asked my friends if they judged me on my preferred prefix - if they thought my use of it immediately held me open to exploitation, sexist behaviour or inequality. It seemed not.
'You are the exception,' my pal Lindsay told me, a resolute user of Ms despite officially being a Mrs. 'You are the person for whom the word Miss was invented and you will be Miss Kelly until you're 92 and on your sixth husband.'"

First up - the whole point of "Ms" is that it replaces both "Miss" and "Mrs". There is no point at all in your friend Lindsay using "Ms" if she then changes it to "Mrs" when she gets married. She's not "officially" a "Mrs" - she's a "Ms", always has been, always will be, get over it. And part of the problem with "Miss" is that you can't keep using it when you're on your sixth husband - you can only use it between husbands or you will get corrected by everyone in sight.

"Excellent. Exactly what I'm striving for. Like I said, Misses are characters, from Miss Brahms to Miss Moneypenny, Miss Potter to (Driving) Miss Daisy. And me: Kelly Rose Bradford (Miss)."

Again, again Kelly, I have to tell you - those other Misses are FICTIONAL. Where as you're not. I wish you were though.

And really sadly what hasn't been addressed in this piece - but ironically applies directly to Miss Bradford - is the issue of unmarried women with children. The judgement passed on those who openly call themselves "Miss" and have a child in tow is enormous. "Ms" offers huge advantages for mothers who wish to protect themselves and their children from stigma surrounding single parenthood. But no, if it makes you feel like "Driving Miss Daisy" then you stick with it. In fact why not change your name to Daisy and hire a Nicolas Cage lookalike to drive you round all day? Or you could live in the real world.

Footnote: When I wrote this I wanted to include a picture of Miss Bradford. And I found one which showed her with her son in the Express. Which seemed relevant since the fact that she has a son massively impacts her choice of "Miss" over "Ms" - by instantly (thought in my view totally unjustly) stigmatising said child with the negative prejudices of single motherhood. The picture didn't have any watermark on it or copyright written near it, and I know lots of other bloggers have used Express photos and as along as a link is provided back from the photo then nobody ever seems to have had a problem. Well I heard from Kelly and the photographer. She was furious that I should have published a photo of her son. Of course a photo she has already published in a national paper (which probably has a slightly higher readership than Cru-blog!). Anyway I have great sympathy with people who are wary of privacy issues around small children. Certainly if Miss Bradford were my mother I would want to play it down a bit! So I removed the picture (though you can go see it on the Express website here). But then I read a little further down and get this... Apparently I can use the photo if I want provided I pay a £500 fee. Mmm. Is that protecting your kid or pimping him out? I just can't tell.

Apparently she doesn't like the rest of my article either (colour me surprised). Apparently I'm quoting too much of her article. Honestly Kelly I wouldn't have if it weren't that ever single line is so deserving of my twisted sarcasm. I just had to... [Or to put it another way - no-one is reading my blog rather than buying the Daily Male]. Next time though rather than trying to charge me for photos of your kid or bully me in to retracting my article, why not just write some decent quality journalism in the first place?


Leia Organa said...

Oh Kate, I do so love your takedowns of 'news' articles.

I've been a Ms since I discovered the word aged about twenty, and will remain Ms Anji Capes if and when my partner and I choose to marry. My marital status is nobody's business but my own (and obviously my partner's!).

V said...

Related question: Do I have to go through any official procedure to change my title to Ms, or just start ticking that box on forms? Anyone know? Anyway, great piece. On the whole 'impish smile' issue, equally shallow tho it is, I think Ms is sexier. Strong, mysterious and unknowable.

Cruella said...

Assuming you're in the UK (or US) V, no, just start ticking Ms. And if it makes you feel sexier, great!

Emma said...

I LOVE this post. I would go in to discussing the Ms/Miss issue in depth, but you have done it so beautifully - thank you. I hate it when people ask, 'Miss or Mrs', only to give you a "you're being awkward" look when you say 'Ms, actually'...

JSlayerUK said...

I'm afraid I disagree with both of you. I am a feminist, and I use Miss. I choose Miss. I respect others decision to use Ms or Mrs, to take their husband's name or not. It's about choice. The author can choose to be called Miss and you can choose to be called Ms. Neither of you should be disparaging about the other and their decisions.

Proud Maisie said...

Thank you for this post. It brightened my morning. I have been a Ms since I was around 14/15 years old. I went to an all girls school, where most of the teachers used Ms. I was inspired by them and their reasoning.

Jilly said...

I think it's a matter of personal choice. Technically I'm Mrs but I tend not to use any sort of title where it's not needed and just introduce myself with first name and surname.

cathy said...

Glad there was no picture as the image in my mind is of a 1970s drag act called Dick Emery who you are probably too young to remember but must still exist on Youtube somewhere.

I was once asked if "Ms" meant I was divorced.

annajcook said...

I don't think you can be quoting "too much" of the article when you're doing satire -- isn't that protected as a particular form of free speech?

Anyway, I read your post last night and was thinking again this morning how clearly her discomfort with "Ms." is tied to her discomfort with feminist ideas and/or women who identify as feminist. I'm also wondering if it isn't all tangled up with misogyny specifically toward older women. Her sense of grievence, as if someone is taking "Miss" away from her despite its continued prevelence on forms and in public to identify young women. Makes it seem less about the loss of the title but rather her defensiveness about the fact that people have stopped using it to speak about adult women. Which, in my opinion, is a healthy thing: it means we're more willing to treat single women as serious adults -- as just, well, WOMEN, rather than either debutants or spinsters.

Loraine Despres said...

Hilarious. And so true. Hope your shows in Sweden and Edinburgh kill.

WTF said...

I have always thought that 'Miss' could basically be a 'for sale' sign on a women's forehead generated from 19 century courting practises. 'Ms' is an awkward sounding but very necessary title option to equal "Mr' - interestingly enough in a recent job interview I was asked if I would mind be called Mrs rather than Ms as it might send out confusing messages to the youth I would be teaching. I was surprised at how easily I gave up Ms but only because I know that I am a very modern Mrs who needs to feed her two kids by working. And...I'm subversive enough that I'll enlighten those kids regardless of my title.

Unknown said...

Cruella, I fear you've paid insufficient attention to your studies in Victorian etiquette. On getting divorced, a woman's name changes from, for example, Mrs Charles Windsor to Mrs Diana Spencer. Whereas if she's widowed she remains Mrs Charles Windsor. Once married, a woman is never again a Miss.

All nonsense, of course, but internally consistent nonsense.