Do We Still Need Miss./Mrs. Titles?

In the past, titles allowed society to distinguish whether women were married or single. Single women had the title of “Miss.” If they were married, the distinction changed to “Mrs.” These terms still hold true today — however, the term “Ms.” is acceptable for both married and unmarried women.

Of course, men weren’t and still aren’t subjected to the same type of naming conventions, and most of the time they use the title “Mr.” — though there is some historical information showing boys under a certain age could be referred to as “Master” until they reached adulthood.

In general, the whole naming convention can be incredibly confusing and unnecessary. After all, why is it important for a doctor to know whether or not a female patient is married or single to treat them? For that matter, why does any company need to know a woman’s marital status to offer them any service at all? And how do these titles apply to lesbian, transgender or non-binary individuals? Do they see and define themselves in the same way these terms want them to define themselves? Does anyone define themselves in the way these terms want them to?

Language is a way for people to communicate with one another, but it can also be a means of control and oppression. Name-calling and hate speech are two particularly vicious examples. It’s also possible that continuing to label women with terms that define marital status is a way to exercise control through language.

We live in an age where women earn money, pay for their own lives and make independent life decisions. Women are no longer extensions of their husbands, but separate and self-sufficient entities. In fact, more men are opting to take their wives’ last names for a variety of reasons, overturning the tradition of wives taking husbands’ last names. The most common practice is still for a woman to take her husband’s last name, but it’s also acceptable for women to keep their maiden names, hyphenate two names or even for couples to decide on a brand-new last name that both change to. The decision rests with the couple.

Since the decision of how a person wants to be addressed is so personal, it seems demanding and oppressive that women should have to choose a prefix from a list of terms they may or may not identify with, especially when society doesn’t hold men to the same standards.

Attempting to change English to be more inclusive and less oppressive isn’t a new proposal, but it is problematic and difficult to accomplish. However, one of the first steps to making a change is to recognize that a problem exists, and to call out those using oppressive language. In time, perhaps society will change how we address women and men, along with minorities, the LBGTQ community and anyone who feels mistreated, stereotyped or unable to define themselves accurately through existing language.

Times have changed, but we are still holding on to an outdated form of defining women’s identity. Granted, some women and men still believe in keeping with tradition and hanging on to these naming conventions, which may be part of the reason they’ve endured so long. But at some point, shouldn’t we all agree to update them?

Let’s Celebrate Life

I have reached an age where my friends are starting to get engaged, some of them even have one or two kids. I have reached an age where other people start expecting certain things from me.

Whenever I open my Facebook or Instagram news feeds, all I can see are pictures of hands with gorgeous diamond rings, and everyone is so thrilled by the news that the comments sections keep refreshing by the minute. As I observe the reactions towards this, I begin wondering why there are so few pictures posted online about promotions at work, or other huge life milestones like buying a first home or graduating from a Master’s Degree?

Why it is that getting married and having kids are still considered to be the epitomes of success for women?

Are they accomplishments? Yes.

Are they the only accomplishment worth celebrating? Definitely not.

Whenever I catch up with old friends or people I haven’t seen for a while, it seems the only relevant question to ask me is when I am tying the knot. Does the same thing happens to my brother or my boyfriend? I am pretty sure it doesn’t, at least not this often.

It seems outrageous to me that given the time we live in, getting married is still more respected than any other professional, academic or entrepreneurial achievement for women. For the record, I am not undermining the idea of marriage – it is a beautiful commitment. I am simply stressing how important it is to celebrate other accomplishments as well.

I can see why this was once considered the milestone in life, since not so long ago this was all women were allowed to aspire to. Let’s be frank, though, this changed many years ago and yet we are still defined above all else as someone’s wife, mother or girlfriend.

I want to be able to share and celebrate my job promotion, my future master’s degree, the launch of my own business, and the amazing trips I plan to make with my friends and loved ones. I want these milestones to be received with the same enthusiasm and acknowledgment as an engagement announcement.

The marriage pressure women are under is still huge, and it has got to stop. Specially in Mexico – an often sexist country – it is still hard to believe a woman can be full or truly happy without a man.

I want to stress how important this is. It is important for all of us who have ever felt there is something wrong with us if we are single, and for all of us who have worried that it’s strange to feel truly happy and blessed without being in a relationship. It’s important for all of us who have been in an abusive relationship but were too scared to walk away due to social stigma, and for all women who feel attracted to other women but cannot say so because society works so hard to make us think that the best answer is always having a man by our side.

It’s okay if you are single, it’s okay if you don’t want to have children, it’s okay to live your life in any way that makes you happy. It’s ok to live life on your own terms. Go and do what you love, there is no such thing as a ticking clock. Let’s work together to change this perception and help society move towards being more equal.

I encourage you to share this thought with the women in your life and discuss it with them.

Does it Actually Matter if Shoes are Sexist?

British footwear company Clarks has been exposed, not for the first time, as being openly sexist and discriminatory in its product range and branding. This time, the company has been called out for a dubbing a range of girls’ school shoes ‘Dolly Babe‘, while the boys’ equivalent range is called ‘Leader‘.

I am sure that many people would hope or believe that the reasons this is problematic are self-evident, and that the reasons it’s unacceptable are patently obvious. I certainly did at first, but now I’m starting to think again.

These shoes have sat, and continue to sit, both on shop shelves on and website pages. (Clarks claims to have pulled ‘Dolly Babe’ shoes, but ‘Leader’ shoes remain on sale and a quick Google search shows me that I could easily buy a pair of ‘Dolly Babe’ girls’ shoes right now from a selection of other websites like Amazon).

Parents have taken home shoeboxes with those names written on the sides. The woman who posted a complaint about the difference in quality between shoes for girls and shoes for boys on Clarks’ Facebook page last year attracted considerable trolling about the frivolity of her argument. A group of functioning adults have, in the recent past, sat in a meeting room in an office and nodded their heads in agreement that ‘Dolly Babe’ was a great piece of branding. I’m starting to wonder if we need to start spelling things out.

A doll is a small model of a human figure.

A dolly is a inanimate toy for children to play with.

A dolly is a term used informally to describe a young woman who is perceived to be sexy but unintelligent.

A babe is a physically attractive person.

A babe is a term used informally to describe or address a person you find sexually attractive.

Calling shoes for female children Dolly Babe is not merely silly. It’s not merely offensive or outdated or misguided. It is a double whammy of dehumanisation and sexualisation of children that is revolting.

Calling shoes for male children Leader is damaging too. Boxing all small boys into hyper-masculinity is as problematic as boxing all small girls into hyper-femininity. The dichotomy does as much of a disservice to our boys as it does to our girls.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, described the situation as “almost beyond belief” in 2017.

According to the BBC, Clarks has removed the ‘Dolly Babe’ range from its website following “customer feedback” about the name. They said, “We are working hard to ensure our ranges reflect our gender-neutral ethos“, and “We apologise for any unintended offence caused“.

We read the articles, we tut and shake our heads and say, “isn’t that shocking. In 2017!”. We turn the page of our paper. And we wonder why change happens so painfully slowly. Yes, it’s a great step that this kind of gender discrimination is being called out on social media, and it’s great that it makes it into the newspapers, but it’s not enough anymore to be shocked, or offended, or incredulous.

At a moment like this, a company like Clarks has an incredible opportunity to push forward genuine change. To be real leaders themselves. What if, instead of stiffly saying that they are “sorry for any offence caused” and crossing their fingers that the British public will soon find something else to talk about, they came forward and said “there’s a real problem here with the gender biases we impose on 3 and 4 year old children, and the impact this has on society as a whole shouldn’t be underestimated”?

What if they were transparent and said, “we don’t have all the answers but we’re working hard to make sure that we are neither creating nor enforcing any discriminatory stereotypes through our products”? What if they used the media attention they’re receiving to be bold? What if they launched a new range, for all children, designed for running and jumping and keeping small toes dry?

So ok, I’ll admit, this is hardly a life-or-death situation. There is plenty else going on in the world today deserving of our attention, worry and brainpower. But the problems we face on a global scale require a generation of smart, strong, confident, thoughtful and inclusive young people to solve them. A generation split into Dolly Babes and Leaders from the age of 4 aren’t going to be up to that task. The branding of these school shoes matters, because the ideas we plant into children’s brains directly determine the kind of people they grow to be. And the kind of people who make up the world really, really matters.

The Wonders of Wonder Woman

In an interview at the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in the movies Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeWonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League, shared a story about her five year old daughter. While they were playing in a park, her daughter told the parents of other kids that her mother was Wonder Woman. When the parents looked at Gadot, not recognizing her, she told them, “You know, every mother is a Wonder Woman!”

The funny part of this story is, of course, that Gadot is actually Wonder Woman in the movie. However, the sentiment behind her response of “every mother is a Wonder Woman” may be the main reason why the film Wonder Woman has gotten so much positive feedback: the fact that Wonder Woman embodies the truth that women have the power to make a positive impact – whether that’s saving the world from villains, or being a caring mother and wife.

Unlike so many female characters, Wonder Woman is a multidimensional and complex character. She’s naive about basic social norms, such as dress codes in World War I England, the fact that women are not allowed in some places, to how to dance with a man. She’s also extremely tough and physically strong, surprising men throughout the movie with her incredible fighting skills. Emotionally, she shows hate towards evil, but also an ability to see the good even in people considered evil by others. She is a total idealist, wanting to help everyone along the way, but her idealism and kindness towards others is based on her own strong convictions and belief that there is indeed good among the bad.

Despite positive reviews, the movie has received some criticism regarding its attempt to be a feminist movie, citing, for example, Gadot’s model-beauty as perpetuating a stereotype that female heroines must be physically attractive. However, I believe the movie has more positive than negative aspects, perhaps best exemplified in Gadot’s own life as a model, wife, and mother of two (she even filmed part of the movie while pregnant!), who served two years the Israel Defense Forces.

Women can be intelligent and athletic, sexy and caring, all at the same time. Gadot’s own life is proof of all that women are capable of, and the complexities that make us as human as men.

It’s also worth mentioning that the movie was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins – the first woman to direct a movie that had a budget of more than 100 million US dollars.

In October 2016, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first appearance in comics, the United Nations appointed her as UN honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls, a controversial decision that ultimately led to the end of Wonder Woman’s role representing the UN.

On this controversy, Gadot stated: “There are so many horrible things that are going on in the world, and this is what you’re protesting, seriously?” […] When people argue that Wonder Woman should ‘cover up,’ I don’t quite get it. They say, ‘If she’s smart and strong, she can’t also be sexy.’ That’s not fair. Why can’t she be all of the above?

I would be cautious to call Wonder Woman a “feminist” movie—she is, after all, a fictional character, portrayed by a white model-actress. But I would still praise it for the positive and hopeful message it gives about humanity as a whole— that we shouldn’t give up on the good humans are capable of just because at times humans can be evil. The main message I left the movie with is this: regardless of gender, race, social status, talents and abilities, we are capable of making the world a better place – and that can include sexy and physically strong women too.