Forget what you learned in French class about madame and mademoiselle. The French government now says womens marital status shouldnt matter,at least when it comes to the far-reaching bureaucracy.
A new circular from the prime ministers office Tuesday orders officials to phase out the use of mademoiselle on administrative documents. Until now,a woman has been required to identify herself as a married madame or an unmarried mademoiselle on everything from tax forms to insurance claims and voting cards. France offers no neutral option like the English Ms.
Men dont face this issue: Their only option is monsieur, married or not. Its all the more strange given that French young people widely shun matrimony,and more than half of French children are born to unmarried parents.
Feminist groups have been pushing for the abolition of the mademoiselle option for years and hailed the circular.
Everywhere we are asked to declare our marital status. This is not imposed on men,its not important whether they are married, said Julie Muret of the group Osez le Feminisme.
Still,proponents of the change said they were wary that the move was only aimed at vote-grabbing. Were not stupid,we know we are in an election campaign season, she said.
Her group and a sister movement,Chiennes de garde,are lobbying candidates for the presidential elections in April and May to sign on to other pledges such as reducing the pay gap between men and women.
They also urged private companies to follow the governments lead: even ordering groceries online in France requires a woman to identify herself as madame or mademoiselle.
The government has sought to reduce the use of the madame vs. mademoiselle tickboxes in the past,but to little avail. This weeks circular notes the persistence of terms referring,without justification or need,to womens matrimonial situation. It asks ministries and regional administrations to eliminate from their forms and letters the term mademoiselle,maiden name and references to a spouses last name.