Scrolling Headlines:

UMass students show lackluster attitude toward ‘Mullins Live!’ concert -

February 27, 2017

UMass women’s basketball loses in first round of Atlantic 10 Tournament -

February 27, 2017

Ryan Adams perfects his melancholy, widescreen take on 80s heartland rock on ‘Prisoner’ -

February 27, 2017

Exposing the horrific crime of modern-day slavery -

February 27, 2017

UMass men’s basketball successfully drops La Salle 84-71 in confidence-building win -

February 27, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse’s late rally falls short against Harvard -

February 27, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse struggles to find offense in loss to No. 5 Syracuse -

February 27, 2017

With Perez, Democrats remain in limbo -

February 27, 2017

UMass hockey competes hard, falls to No. 10 Providence College in overtime -

February 26, 2017

Overtime goal hands UMass hockey its 15th straight loss in regular season finale -

February 26, 2017

Former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous gives talk at UMass -

February 25, 2017

Anti-racism workshop teaches tactics to fight oppression in community -

February 25, 2017

Providence power play haunts UMass hockey in 6-2 loss -

February 25, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 10 Providence on Senior Night at the Mullins center -

February 25, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falters in the second half, falling to George Washington 83-67 Thursday -

February 24, 2017

UPDATE: SGA announces second and third artist for ‘Mullins Live!’ -

February 23, 2017

Divest UMass and STPEC host panel on building ‘solidarity economies’ in the Trump era -

February 23, 2017

UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI -

February 23, 2017

Sixth annual Advocacy Day set to take place March 1 -

February 23, 2017

Panel discusses racial, sexual and psychological violence in response to art exhibit -

February 23, 2017

Let’s stop defining sexism as a man’s issue

It’s 2016 and gender relations are the best they’ve been in American history. The wage gap between men and women is one of the smallest ever on record, we’re on the cusp of the first female presidency and more attention is being paid to issues that affect women. But despite progress, women make 80 cents on the dollar compared to men and sexual assault is a plague on college campuses. There is a long way to go until equality is realized and gigantic issues are addressed. The world can’t change in a day, but anyone can make small changes that make the world a better place, changes that alter language and representation regarding women. Let’s stop using language and practices that perpetuate male dominance.

Let’s stop calling women Miss.

Throughout English history, “Mrs.” and “Miss” were used as abbreviated terms for the word “mistress” just as “Mr.” an abbreviated term for the word “master” (a title problematic in its own right, but one I won’t delve into here). However, neither term originally designated marital status. Mrs. was often used as a term of reverence for a respected woman, maybe a woman of high social standing or an esteemed business career, not to denote that she was married. Most women were just called by their names and only the rich were given a prefix. In the 1700s, younger women began going by Miss almost as a fashion statement, a new fad used to avoid the more proper Mrs. It wasn’t until around 1900 that Mrs. became the designation for married women. These labels, so ubiquitous today, don’t have that long of a history.

Also beginning in the 1900s was the tradition of a married couple simply becoming the man: Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. The woman is consumed by the man she married and ceases to exist independently. This designation is falling out of practice quickly, but if you go to a wedding or thumb through a couple’s mail, you’re likely to find that Mr. and Mrs. Man is still fairly common.

Speaking of weddings, there is another bizarre practice that is one of the most romanticized aspects of the marital process: the giving away of the bride. Essentially, this addresses how a woman’s father owns her and then passes ownership of her to her husband immediately before marriage. Is there a stranger American tradition that no one talks about? Men aren’t owned by their mothers or wives. There is no grand display of a mother giving her boy away.

The fathers owning daughters phenomena is seen in other facets of society as well, starting in 1998 when purity balls came into vogue within the conservative Christian community. These balls are part of a larger movement involving girls around age 12 pledging their virginity to their fathers. Sometimes these dances involve a girl giving her father a key, which he then presents to her husband on her wedding day. The key exchange is literally a girl giving her father a metaphorical key to her vagina, which then her husband gains ownership of. The girl loses control of her own body before puberty.

The implication of these practices regarding fathers, husbands, women and girls is twofold. First, women, even those who hail from more liberal upbringings, are ultimately owned, and thus controlled, by men. Second, because of this ownership, women are taught to limit their behavior so the product (women) is not damaged when handed off to the second owner. Men have no such pressures and limitations on their bodies or lives.

So, if men have no change of prefix once they tie the knot, why should women? And since we have a prefix that already portrays marital ambiguity, why not just use that instead? Why are women owned and not men? Obviously it would be counterproductive to any feminist movement to coerce women to change their prefix, or their wedding day, if they don’t want to. Some women romanticize these deeply ingrained traditions and want to practice them, and they have every right to do so.

But these practices, along with the idea that women should change their names upon marriage, which is extremely uncommon, even outlawed, in places like Quebec, Italy, Korea, The Netherlands and Greece, are damaging to the women’s rights movement as a whole.

Women—do whatever you want: change your name, don’t, go by Mrs., Ms. or Miss, and pledge whatever to whomever. But men—start having conversations with your fiancées, girlfriends, and spouses about what they want; don’t assume anything. Just like any form of sexism, practices like these aren’t a woman’s job to change. Sexism is a man’s issue.

Evan Gaudette is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at egaudette@umass.edu.

Comments
3 Responses to “Let’s stop defining sexism as a man’s issue”
  1. Mike Constitution says:

    This is naked left-wing power politics.

    There is not a sexual assault epidemic on campus, it is a myth that has been debunked.

    Women are not paid less than men, women make different life choices than men.

    Because, women and men are different.

    Yes, it is true.

    Stop it you lying, power-mad, intolerant, violence-prone, ignorant, totalitarian monsters.

  2. Velma says:

    Really awesome article and take on traditonal marriage expectations.

  3. David Hunt 1990 says:

    I read this and a quote from Thomas Sowell comes to mine – paraphrased:

    Liberalism consists of taking what has evolved and developed over countless centuries of experimentation, and then replacing it with what “sounds good”.

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