Soon you may be able to forget what you learned in French class about when to call a woman "madame," and when to use "mademoiselle" (if you haven't already forgotten every lesson from high school French). Two French feminist groups have launched a new campaign to do away with titles that refer to a woman's age and marital status.
In France men remain monsieur throughout their lives, but young, unmarried women are called "mademoiselle," then switch to "madame," when they're older. The use of the two terms has been called into question many times, and Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that the groups Osez le Feminisme (Dare to be Feminist) and Chiennes de Garde (Watch Bitches) are now calling for "madame" to be the default for women. Juliet Muret, spokeswoman for Osez le Feminisme asks, "Did you ever ask whether a young man was a Mr. or a Squire?"
Just as "Ms." became popular in the U.S. in the '70s, official forms in Britain use the more neutral term, and according to The Connexion, madame is standard in Potugal, Denmark, and Germany. In addition to intruding into women's personal lives, it creates confusion for women who don't fit neatly into either category. Journalist Laurence Waki says that though she has three children, she's been told not to use "madame" because she's unmarried.
Some say that in light of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sandal, the groups should be focusing more on sexual assault, rather than having "mademoiselle" removed from official documents. Marie-Noelle Bas, president of Chiennes de Garde, defended their effort, saying, "It's about everyday, trivialized sexism. The more we act on the little things, the more the big things will follow."