Greetings and Salutations

I am in the process of buying a thing online. I get to the page where I am asked to enter my details. One of the required fields is ‘Salutation’.

The available salutations are as follows: “Mr, Miss, Mrs, Dr”.

This, gentle readers, is what we call a Conundrum. I go by Ms. Always have. Unless I get myself a PhD, I always will. I have no desire whatsoever for utter strangers to call me by a name which demonstrates, primarily, whether or not I am considered by polite society to be available to fuck.

This leaves out Miss and Mrs. My marital status is none of your goddamned business unless you want to marry me. In which case you hopefully know me well enough to know my marital status already.

The only other two are Dr and Mr. Given that I identify pretty strongly as female and have (so far) an MA as opposed to a PhD, neither of these is entirely honest, either. However, I am currently in a situation where I have no choice but to pick one.

The question, therefore, is this: Do I have more respect for the institutions of education and academia, or for those of arbitrarily-defined gender?

Mister it is, then.

Greetings and Salutations

20 thoughts on “Greetings and Salutations

  1. 1

    You could make life a difficult for the company in question. Under §6 of the Data Protection Act 1988, they must correct any incorrect personal data they hold on you. So you could write to them and tell them they have your down as “Mr” and they must correct it to “Ms”. They will then be commiting an offense if they do not change it.

    Them: “But our system only has Miss or Mrs!”

    You: “Irrelevant, Ms is the correct term”

    Them: “Can’t do it, our system only has Miss & Mrs”

    You: “Then you are breaking the law, I shall inform the Data Protection Commissioner.”

    Them: “Eeep”

    1. 1.1

      Now that I think about it, the Data Protection Act 1988 could be a great way to get this dinosaurs to change their act. If they ask for your maritial status (to choose Miss or Mrs), then that’s personal information, and under §2(c)(i) they may only store that for some specific purpose, and under §4(a)(ii)(iii) they must tell you what that purpose is.

      Watch as they try to come up with a “legal and proper” purpose for knowing if you’ve tied the knot. If they cannot do so, then they cannot store your marital status. Ergo if they ask “What’s your maritials status?” you reply with “It’s illegal for you to know that”. Then bring the conversation back to “Ms.” ☺

  2. 2

    I honestly think that Mrs. and Miss should not exist at all. It’s offensive to me to have to give my marital status anytime I’m introduced. I am married, but I will never go by Mrs. (ok, I did when I first got married, but I was really young and not yet a feminist) Now I go only by Ms. This seems to offend people in my former hometown/family/community since I was raised Christian and my parents (especially my dad) seem to find it amusing or funny when I take this stance or other feminist stances.

    If I’m at a job interview, technically they are not allowed to ask for the marital status of a prospective employee…but if I’m a woman, it’s on display if I go by Miss or Mrs. That leaves me open for discrimination if they feel like my marital status isn’t what they want from their employees.

    I’d like my doctorate someday. Maybe then it’ll be easier. But women shouldn’t have to get a PhD to be addressed without regards to their relationship status. What bullshit.

    I wonder if it will ever change. I really hope so.

    1. Stu

      The next stage is actually to produce a prefix title that doesn’t put your gender first. Or everyone could just become Mr as adopting the previously male-only title as the new standard seems to be the usual way.

      However, if a new title was devised, any ideas? 🙂 Answers on a postcard…

      1. Something in me doesn’t like taking the male title…I’d feel like getting their leftovers in a way. I think it’d have to be a whole new title, or get rid of titles all together.

        I don’t really have any good ideas for a replacement though, any I could think of just sound funny.

  3. 3

    All my systems currently allow: Mr, Ms, Mrs, Dr, Prof. That way they can decide for themselves what salutation they prefer. Running some quick stats, about 37% choose Ms. with the remainder choosing Mrs.

  4. Stu

    Ueber geek answer:

    Test if their database is vulnerable to an SQL injection attack then you could do something like INSERT INTO title (name) VALUES(‘Ms’)…..

  5. Jen

    Our local co-op gives out membership cards eagerly so I filled in the form, leaving my name to just initials-surname and no box ticked for title, cos I’m an awkward bugger happier that way.

    About 10 days later I got a membership card as Mrs [my name].

    Not only have they sorted out any remaining gender worries for me, they’ve even found me a husband. Now that’s customer service.

    Wonder what he’s called 8)

  6. 6

    I’ve said it before: you’re probably over thinking this.

    It pisses me off that huge numbers of online forms require a post code, ignoring the fact that some countries don’t even have them.

    the worst are forms which try to validate the post code and refuse to accept 0000. And that one actually costs businesses money. It probably isn’t out of malice or to decide how open you are to a date, merely lazy form writers.

    As far as O2 are concerned I was a “Ms” though that was just because they didn’t put my details in correctly. In that context Mr is probably the one you want since it tells them the least.

    if it really bothers you forget making up silly fake ones- just use different ones from one day to the next depending on how you feel. Mr, Ms, Mrs or if you’re feeling noble Lady or Dame. It devalues the titles entirely which is something “Ms” fails to do.

    Or go the techie route: open up the web page in a text editor, edit the form and submit your details with “Ms” or even . There’s a good chance it will just go through into the database with a bonus that it may subtly screw things up at their end when they try to process the data in future. Claim ignorance if anyone ever asks how it happened.

  7. 7

    It should also be noted that the main reason, the real reason isn’t anything to do with wanting to know if you’d be up for a roll in the sack.
    they want marketing data.

    Mrs gives them data. Miss gives them data. Ms gives them less data.

      1. I guess they’d want data from men too, but because they can’t really justify adding a question “are you married?”, and there are no different titles for men, they simply can’t get any data on them.

  8. 8

    I’ve heard some group up in Canada (or maybe somewhere in the UK; my memory is really failing me) has started putting “Mx.” as a gender-neutral title on their forms.


    Hm, only racing stuff.

    But I know it’s a thing somewhere! Personally, I like it. Pronounced “mix”, so it doesn’t even sound awkward.

  9. 9

    I like the idea of complaining under Data Protection laws. Personally, in this situation, I always just put Mr.

    A friend of mine was interviewed by the Daily Mail a few years ago and they insisted that on second reference in the article, she either had to be Mrs or Miss. She is married but did not take her husband’s name and from the way they dealt with the situation (“Hmm, you can’t really be Mrs Your Own Last Name, but you’re married so you’re not a Miss”) you would think they had never encountered this phenomenon before.

  10. 12

    I teach at a college in the Deep South of the U.S. Recently, a colleague in a faculty meeting defended the use of “Miss” to address someone (female) he didn’t know (in a document he was sharing). When I protested, he asserted that a preference for “Ms.” (or any alternative honorific) was absurdly politically correct and that he would continue to use– and teach his students to use– “Miss” and “Mrs.” for women, depending on their marital status. I was momentarily overwhelmed– surely it’s now a cultural given that calling any woman “Miss” (as in “Oh, Miss, can you get me a cup of coffee?”) was disapproved generally in about 1968. Perhaps, because of the reaction against feminism among right-wing American (mostly) men, we should revert to those other arcane terms for women and their sexual and marital status: maid, maiden, matron, mistress, ma’am, madam, your grace, my little pretty, etc. ad nauseum. When I further protested, Local Culture was invoked in support of “Miss”– an old tradition in Southern U.S. culture to refer to the mistress of the house with that honorific, regardless of her age. Since, however (I pointed out) that tradition was not just for any mistress but for the mistress of the plantation “big house” in a slave-owning culture, that was hardly a recommendation (hence, the nickname of a local university (University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss”). I somehow wound up offending all the traditionalists of every variety, of which there are apparently many.

Leave a Reply