Across the Capitol, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, is referred to as Mrs. Clinton at every roll call. Yet the women in the Senate are split: seven use Mrs., but the other six go by Ms., including three who are married: Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine; Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana; and Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.This is an old topic that you don't see discussed much anymore. I remember when "Ms." first came out -- both the magazine and the idea of coming up with a marriage-neutral form of address for women. Oddly, people eagerly adopted "Ms." It wasn't just a matter of acceding to feminist demands. It made life easier. People were already slurring "Miss" and "Mrs." together into "Miz" to cover up ignorance about a woman's marital status.
The linked article doesn't raise any of the old debates. It mostly just notes that women in politics have different preferences -- as between "Mrs." and "Ms.," that is. There's no discussion of whether any politician embraces the proud "Miss."
Yesterday, I was making a reservation at an American hotel, filling out the form on line, and I was surprised at the variety of forms of address I was offered to put in front of my name:
Mr.Hey, no "Professor"! (And what's with all those Italian choices, giving the feminine version of everything but "Professore"?) So I went with the usual "Ms." Even when I was married, I couldn't use "Mrs.," because I never took on a new last name. "Ms." was a good convenience for a married woman who kept her maiden name.
Signor e Signora
But why not "Miss"? There's something delightfully imperious about Miss, something diva-ish for the older woman, don't you think? I like the sibilance. There's sibilance in Ms., but it's lazy sibilance. I like the crisp Miss. My mother used to call me "Miss Ann" sometimes -- probably if she thought I was out of line. That's a positive now. And then there's the Little Richard song:
Oh, oh, oh, Miss Ann, you're doin' something no one can,Ha ha.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Miss Ann, you're doin' something no one can,
Because believin' and deceivin', it's drivin' me to grievin' now.