One of our librarians was leading the class through the process of setting up and accessing their accounts. When she saw what I had titled my drop box, she asked, “Why are people going back to Miss? Do you know how long it took us to get rid of it?”
Yes, I do. I fully understand and appreciate the fight for creating a title that would be the female equivalent of Mr. I understand why many women felt and still feel that it is inappropriate for men’s marital status to be indeterminable from their title while women’s titles are based on their marital status. I get it. I fully support women who choose to use Ms. But I choose to use Miss and here’s why.
First, let me acknowledge that while Ms. is the default when you don’t know a woman’s marital status, it is also often used as the default when a woman is known to be single. That means that Ms. now equals Miss. As I walk around telling my students to type “Miss Mead” in the assignment drop box, they inevitably type Ms. or sometimes Mrs, because, honestly, many students today don’t know the difference between those two, let alone Ms. and Miss.
So, if Ms. essentially means the same as Miss now, why do I care which I am called? There are a couple of factors involved in my continual insistence on Miss. One is aesthetics. Miss is more pleasant sounding than Ms. and has a more youthful feel to it that captures my ‘young-at-heartness.’ Miss Mead also looks better than Ms. Mead, the four letters of Miss creating a nice symmetry to the four letters of Mead.
The second is that I not only don’t mind if people know I’m single; I want them to know I’m single because I’m not ashamed of it. The argument for the creation of Ms. is that it shouldn’t matter what a woman’s marital status is. And one argument for keeping Miss is that it shouldn’t matter what a woman’s marital status is. There is no liability for being single in my profession, so it offers no advantage to go by Ms. In fact, my profession is another reason I go by Miss. I did part of my student teaching in Australia. There, students don’t address their teachers as Mr. Whosits and Ms. Whatsherface. They address males as Sir and females as Miss. At the start of my career, I became accustomed to being called Miss as a term of respect.
I will use Ms. one day. When I marry, I intend to keep my name, so then it won’t be correct to call me Miss Mead. Mrs. Mead would imply that my husband’s name is Mead. So I will go by Ms. Mead. In the meantime, I don’t get upset when someone who doesn’t know me uses Ms. That’s the safest option when you don’t know. However, once I communicate that I prefer Miss, that choice should be respected just as much as if I chose Ms. Using Miss does not make me less of a feminist.