European & International News

France: ’Mademoiselle’ status to be dropped from official documents

[The Guardian, London, 23 February 2012] French Government says honorific ’Mademoiselle’ is an unjustified and unnecessary reference to women’s marital status. After a campaign by feminist groups, the French prime minister’s office has issued a circular saying the Mademoiselle option should be removed from all administrative documents in the vast state bureaucracy.

Until now, women were required to identify themselves as married (Madame) or unmarried (Mademoiselle) on everything from tax forms to insurance claims and voting cards. There was no neutral option like the English Ms. Men only had to tick one option – Monsieur – whether married or not.

The government is advising that all women should be referred to as Madame, with no reference to whether they are married or not. The circular noted "the persistence of terms referring, without justification or need, to women’s matrimonial situation".

It asked ministries and regional administrations to "eliminate as much as possible from their forms and letters" the term Mademoiselle as well as requests for "maiden name" and references to a spouse’s surname.

Feminist groups, including Osez le féminisme and Les Chiennes de Garde, had run a long campaign against what they called the blatant discrimination against women on official forms.

Feminists approved the government’s new guidelines but warned they must now be put into practice with "concrete results". Previous guidelines on the issue had not led to Mademoiselle disappearing from forms.

"We’re not stupid, we know we are in an election campaign season. So we will be vigilant to see that it is in fact applied," said Julie Muret of Osez le féminisme.

Feminists now want private businesses to follow suit so women do not have to identify themselves as Mademoiselle or Madame for simple transactions like buying music online or booking an airline ticket.

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