Aurevoir, Mademoiselle !

The term “Mademoiselle” may soon be a thing of the past.

I’ve always rather liked the term “Mademoiselle”, the rather chic French equivalent of Miss.

In order to simplify the huge number of forms that the French authorities require, it has been suggested that the “Mademoiselle” ‘tick’ box is eliminated, so all women become Madame regardless of age or marital status.

However, I am not quite sure how much removing one small box from the very long and complicated French forms will simplify the bureaucratic process… but the issue actually goes a lot deeper than simple form filling, and goes back a lot further too.

An official directive

The French Prime Minister recently issued a ministerial letter aimed at removing the term “Mademoiselle” from all administrative documents in a bid to stop categorizing women according to their marital status.

Bride and groom wedding cake topper

According to some linguists who were interviewed on the matter, the term “Mademoiselle” helps to maintain the existence of a patriarchal society in which it is necessary to specify whether a woman is married or not. A woman’s marital status modifies her rights and status in society. In actual fact, if we go as far back as Napoleonic times, women were then deemed to be a minor for life: Mademoiselle depended on her father, and Madame depended on her husband. The institution of mariage intended to keep women under guardianship, passing from the authority of the father to that of the husband. From an administrative point of view, it was essential to mark the difference.

No male equivalent

Funnily enough, there is no official male equivalent of Mademoiselle. It isn’t possible to differentiate between a single man and a married one. In the middle ages, young unmarried men were called “Damoiseau”, but this term no longer exists in the current French language. A young man can be called “Jeune homme” instead (young man) but this has nothing to do with his marital status. Instead, it just reflects his young age. Nowadays, if a woman refers to herself as a Mademoiselle, once again it is more to do with her age rather than her marital status.

EDITORS NOTE:

It seems quite ironic, bearing in mind that the term Ms. exists in the English language and is aimed at describing any woman, regardless of her marital status. With Miss and Mrs, there are 3 different terms being used in English, whereas, with the disappearance of Mademoiselle, the French are just left with Madame.

UPDATE

10 years on, the term “Mademoiselle” hasn’t disappeared completely and still exists on some official forms. It is also still very much present in everyday language, but as mentioned above, it is more related to age than marital status.

Please help us!

If you found this useful, please let your friends know by sharing it here...