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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Please don’t call me “Ms.”

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Miss Hepburn Miss Hepburn
Why do so many “conservatives” use the title “Ms.” before a woman’s name? Some time ago, I was interviewed and was introduced as “Ms. White” by a prominent member of the traditional Catholic internet world. Before we got into any of the hot topics of the day, I took a moment to correct my friend saying, “No, it’s ‘Miss White.’ ‘Miss’ is the correct honourific in the English language for an unmarried woman dating to the 17th century. ‘Ms.’ is a loathsome neologism invented by militant Marxists as part of their multi-generational campaign to destroy the family and the traditions of Christian society.”

My friend was somewhat taken aback by my insistence on this point and asked what was so important. I responded, “Are you really asking me what is so important about symbols?” But this was a younger person who had never heard this distinction made and had no personal memory of how this particular artifact of the Revolution was installed. But in the 1970s, feminists considered it so important that changing this usage was a major front of their early campaigns.

Indeed, even the Wikipedia entry on the subject makes an indirect admission that the neologism was introduced specifically to shame modern well-intentioned, polite people into kow-towing to the Revolution’s work against marriage:

“Twenty-first century etiquette honors an adult woman’s personal preference of title. However, if the preference is not known, ‘Ms.’ is used. ‘Ms.’ is the preferred choice as the female title in business. It is the equivalent to the male title ‘Mr.’ as neither is marital status specific.”

Its adoption as a central battleground of the feminist movement in the early 1970s is recorded by the New York Times, which says that it was first introduced for its current use in 1961 by early feminist agitator Sheila Michaels, the “fiercely independent,” “civil rights worker” who “abhorred having her identity defined by marriage.” Michaels was “looking for a title for a woman who did not ‘belong’ to a man.” In 1971, her quest came to the attention of uber-feminist icon Gloria Steinem who used it as the title of her new feminist magazine.

A small note here about “preference:” those who prefer not to participate in this cultural sham are not really given a choice in the matter. By the early ‘00s, for instance, married female Canadian parliamentarians who wanted to be addressed as “Mrs.” in official correspondence were out of luck. They were told by the government’s administrators that “Ms.” was the only option available. The feminist ratchet has moved forward and there is no going back.

Now that it has been universally adopted, however, its origins, and the creepy vehemence used to enforce it, is being erased from the cultural memory. It’s amazing how many times I’ve had to explain this “Ms/Miss” thing within the world of Catholic conservatism, and even Catholic traditionalism. So much of our world was changed, quite deliberately and incredibly rapidly, in the 1970s that many younger people don’t remember how it was done. And perhaps older people who lived through this cataclysm were so deluged with changes that they could not pay close enough attention at the time to all the details. Either way, the result is that the tenets of the Revolution have been absorbed unconsciously in large ways and small.

This, of course, was exactly the plan; erase your tracks. Make sure no one is consciously aware of what has been changed or why, but make sure they all know the rules without having to think about it. Make it impossible for a counter-revolutionary thought to cross their minds. Remember Orwell’s memory holes? He knew that changing a culture was a matter not of adding but of subtracting knowledge. Particularly historical knowledge.

The revolutionaries knew very well the power of symbols and one of their early slogans was “language matters.” And they were right. When I was attending my hippie (communist) “free school” in the early 1970s, one of the things we were taught was that the minutiae of language was of utmost importance. We had it instilled in us in every possible way that boys and girls and young people and older people shouldn’t be thought of as radically distinct. Shouldn’t be thought of at all. Everyone was the same, and using “Mr.” “Mrs.” or “Miss” before a teacher’s name was banned. We were all to be one big happy first-name-basis tribe of equals, fighting authoritarianism together.

The installation of “Ms.” through the dogged application of this victimhood narrative in every conceivable venue was in fact a direct shot at marriage, taken from the Marxist priorities of Mr. Engels’ who wrote against the “monogamous family,” in one of his weird works of revisionist history titled, “Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State.” The semi-autonomous unit of a man and woman united in matrimony producing, protecting and raising children within the enclosure of the family has always been one of the principal targets for demolition in the construction of the glorious workers’ paradise. Engels’ idea was that in an enlightened communist society, all such subordinate institutions would die off by themselves. Later followers realised that the family was looking stronger than ever after the wars of the early 20th century, and decided it needed some help into its grave.

“Ms.” is just a tiny little two-letter word. How can it possibly be important? It reminds me of a discussion I once had, in a friendly way, with a Canadian archbishop about the practice of reception of Communion in the hand. He brushed it aside with a wave of the hand and said, “Oh, there are so many more important things going on in the Church.”

I said yes, of course, but how do you think we got to this state? Little, unimportant thing by little unimportant thing, patiently changed by intelligent revolutionaries who knew more about the significance of symbols than their opponents. And now that the battle is won, those same revolutionaries who fought for the social and cultural changes one little alteration at a time will now fight like rabid dogs to ensure that these tiny, insignificant changes stay good and changed.

They will tell you that such trivia is beneath an intelligent person’s notice, and at the same time go into apoplexy at the sight of someone refusing to go along with their new tiny and insignificant thing. “If it is so unimportant, why was there so much effort put into changing it?” My friend the archbishop changed the subject.

Symbols count, and everyone knows it. So, please don’t call me “Ms.” I oppose what it means. One might argue that it is a small thing, but try to change it and see what happens.

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Last modified on Saturday, August 22, 2015
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.