“Mademoiselle” is singing the blues. Mademoiselle has the blues. Mademoiselle has disappeared forever, at least from all official forms issued by the State in France. The removal of a supposedly discriminating title has caused quite some reactions in France, mainly against it.
For Lydia Guirous, founder of the association “Future, au féminin”, this is not at all a victory for feminists. She laments the fact that society is normalizing itself. Le Plus du Nouvel Observateur : « Tempête dans un verre d’eau, les féministes d’Osez Le Féminisme et les Chiennes de garde ont phosphoré de longues heures pour accoucher d’une souris : la suppression du mot mademoiselle de notre belle langue française. »
Others think that is a small step towards equality between men and women, and if we can’t achieve equal employment opportunity and income, at least we have made a small step forward… The gender-gap earning is real of course (the facts are shown below), and closing that gap is a worthwhile cause. But why remove a beautiful word from the French language in the process?
The 2008 edition of the Employment Outlook report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that while female employment rates have expanded considerably and the gender employment and wage gaps have narrowed virtually everywhere, women still have 20% less chance to have a job than men, on average, and they are paid 17% less than their male counterparts.
Now, I do need to explain to my English-speaking readers the reason behind this debate. In English, you got around it by introducing the neutral “Ms.”, equivalent to “Mr.”, and a compromise between “Miss” and “Mrs.” The issue is: why should women have to reveal their marital status (“état civil”), and men not? If we do this for women, then should we not do it for men? On my interpreting calls, I am often basically asked my marital status, when it is none of the caller’s business… usually from men because they are curious and they feel that they should use the right title.
– Merci Madame… Mademoiselle… l’interprète, je ne sais pas.
– Je vous en prie, Monsieur… Mondamoiseau… je ne sais pas.
(Cela ne vous regarde pas !)
The other issue with the question is that a « courtship » (or rather degrading set of questions…) usually ensues. The other day, I had to interpret “Je trouve que toutes les anglaises sont absolument magnifiques. Et je suis célibataire et je cherche une femme. Demandez-lui si ça l’intéresse?”… I managed to explain this to my client and end the call quickly. Do these types of men really think this “accroche” will lead them anywhere?
Today’s “mot rigolo” is extinct. “Mondamoiseau” would be the masculine form of “Mademoiselle”, but to make the distinction between a married man and a single man (both addressed as “Monsieur”) nowadays, you have to ask the question directly or ask if he is a “jeune homme” (even if he is 60). The same form is used for women: “What is your maiden name?” // “Quel est votre nom de jeune fille?”
« L’incertitude où j’étais s’il fallait lui dire madame ou mademoiselle me fit rougir » ~ Proust
Truthfully, both are out of date, because originally, if you are a “mademoiselle”, you are virgin. Once you get married (with all « benefits »), you are “madame”. So more than the marital status, it used to also signify your sexual status. Quite outdated in a society where marriage is just a form you fill out and vows you exchange before the mayor. You can have a companion and have the responsibility of being a mom without having a ring on your finger, and it does not mean you have not earned the “right” to be addressed as “Madam”.
Origine de Mademoiselle : Composition de mon et demoiselle. Mot du fonds primitif issu du latin populaire domnicella, ‘petite dame’.
Définition : Jeune fille noble ou femme mariée de petite noblesse, jusqu’au XIIIe siècle. Après, jeune fille ou femme célibataire. (Source : Dictionnaire Antidote)
Mademoiselle a le blues, et mondamoiseau passe aux oubliettes pour toujours. Mademoiselle risque de le rejoindre, mais pas de si tôt… Après tout, cela prendra bien longtemps pour qu’un serveur appelle une jeune fille de 12 ans « madame » au café du coin. Nous verrons bien si la réglementation prend le dessus sur l’usage, avec le temps, beaucoup de temps… 😦
What do you think about this topic: mademoiselle, madame, either?