About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the problem with titles and how we make things confusing by unnecessarily differentiating unmarried women (bearing the title of ‘Miss’) from married women (bearing the title of ‘Mrs’). Well, I’m back again with another post about women and titles.
A few weeks back, I attended an event in which my mum and dad were both recognised. Everyone introduced my dad properly as the Founding Executive Director of the organisation and visioner of the school, but about four out of five people introduced my mum as just his wife. The problem was that she is not just his wife, but also the co-visioner of the school AND a faculty member. Only one person recognised that.
It probably would not have been that bad if they had recognised her as the co-visioner, a faculty member, and my dad’s wife. But the fact that they only recognised her as his wife was curious to me. It is almost as if once you get married, all your other identities become subsumed into the title of ‘wife’.
To make matters worse, one person even referred to the duo as ‘Dr and Mrs Otive Igbuzor’, despite the fact that my mum is also a PhD holder. I suppose referring to them as ‘Drs Ejiro and Otive Igbuzor’ felt too strange.
And no, I’m not just writing this post because I love my mum too much and I want her to be adequately recognised. This was a trend that I noticed even with other women present that day. The Chair of the occasion, a woman, was referred to as the ‘Chairman’ one too many times, and of course you cannot blame the MC for referring to her as a ‘he’ until he was corrected. I must confess that even when I first saw her designation as the ‘Chairman’ of the occassion, I also immediately assumed that it was a man. This is why I insist on using gender-neutral language because sometimes you don’t know whether the person you are addressing is a man or a woman. If the word ‘Chair’ had been used instead of ‘Chairman’, perhaps we would not have automatically assumed that the person was a man.
Yet again, when the Governor of the set of graduating students was being introduced, the MC introduced her as a ‘he’ until he was corrected. Surely, you can see that these mistakes happen too often for them to be a mere coincidence. They are reflective of a wider issue that perpetuates male dominance in our society.
Again, I feel obligated to state that I’m not trying to throw blames by writing this post. I, too, still fall into the trap of using masculine language sometimes, and I am desperately trying to unlearn these lessons that have been subtly ingrained into us since childhood. I hope that by making this post, I can encourage other people to make a conscious effort to do the same.
- ‘Miss’, ‘Ms’, and ‘Mrs’: The Problem with Titles and How We Use Them
- To Whom it may Concern: Please Stop Calling Women “Sir”
- How to be More Gender-Inclusive in Your Language
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