Nobody asks men if they are married or divorced if they want to buy a credit card or mobile phone.

I don’t remember using Mrs or Miss for a long, long time, I had started using Ms in school when I first heard the term. However, a friend who had divorced two years ago, had to open a bank account and was asked if she was married or single.

When she said ‘Divorced’ the clerk in this bank (SBI) in Goa chewed his pen for sometime and then wrote ‘Miss’.

If he was in France today, he would not have had to worry so much. (Thanks for the news and the link @allytude)

France is bidding adieu to the  term ‘mademoiselle’ – on the grounds that it is ‘sexist’.

The Gallic equivalent of ‘Miss’ will  be abolished from all Government  documents because it suggests that a woman is available.

Prime minister Francois Fillon has also banned the phrase ‘nom de jeune fille’, meaning ‘maiden name’, from official paperwork because it is ‘archaic’ and has ‘connotations of virginity’.

To the delight of feminist campaigners, an order issued to all ministries and regional authorities on Tuesday said ‘mademoiselle’ must be replaced with ‘madame’ and should be not interpreted as an indication of marital status.

‘Maiden name’ must also be swapped for ‘family name’ or ‘name of usage’.  Read more: here.

France isn’t the first country to ban the discrimination.

English-speaking nations have largely replaced “Mrs.” and “Miss” with “Ms.”

In Germany, the term “fräulein” (“little woman”) is no longer in official use.

In Italy, honorifics are typically not used on official documents.

And in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, “madame” is used for all except the very young and those who insist on “mademoiselle.”

On state forms in France, the terms “maiden name,” “patronymic” and two expressions meaning “married name” are to be replaced by “family name” and “used name,”  Read more: Link

Language matters. It reinforces what is conveyed.

‘Men are never asked if they are married if they want a credit card or mobile phone.’ [French feminist campaigner Julie Muret -link]

Language says a lot about those who use it. For example, ‘Husband’ in Indian languages – Pati, Malak  (Thanks BIW), Swami, Pati-Parmeshwar and Patidev roughly translate to lord, owner, god and master.


“You’ve never wondered why we don’t call a single man ‘mondamoiseau,’ or even ‘young male virgin?’ ” [Read more].

Every blogger should mind their language?

Why does Gender Sensitivity in Legal Language matter.


105 thoughts on “Nobody asks men if they are married or divorced if they want to buy a credit card or mobile phone.

  1. The usage of Mademoiselle in France has dwindled a lot. I have hardly ever heard anyone use it. I work a lot with French speakers and not one has dared call me that, lol. It is usually Madame. The Government, of course, is a different thing.

    Also, what is it with the Husband / Father / Guardian’s name field in most forms in India? I generally put NA, because really it is really not applicable, as most times my dad has nothing to do with the said forms. Why doesn’t my dad have to write my mother’s name as well? There never is a wife’s name field in these forms.


    • Those forms always annoy me because it is as if I don’t have an identity of my own that exists outside that of my relation with a male (father, husband, whatever). My friends think its a very silly little thing to feel irritated about, but it just reinforces common perceptions and norms.


      • I think it’s not silly or trivial.

        At the very least, is it sexist and at worst, It is in direct violation of the Consitution which does not require an Indian citizen to be identified by his/her legitimacy/marital status.

        I have always wondered; what if the person filling the form is the child of a single mother — a prostitute for instance?

        What is such a person expected to put down against “father/guardian name”.

        The real absurdity is that my 67-year old father is required to put his father’s name — my grandfather has been dead for 21 years. 🙂


  2. In Norwegian, we seldom use any title in front of a name, so the question doesn’t even come up.

    If you go to the bank to open an account, the form will just say: “Name:”, and there’ll be neither Miss nor Ms, nor anything else.


  3. Interesting info! That’s nice and welcome.. It is the same thing why no bothers to ask – wife’s name, but there is either father’s name or wife’s name.. need to get away with all of this.. damn..everything. There is so much that needs to be done.


  4. I concur.
    We need to remove these distinctions.
    Mr and Mz are enough.
    What do we do for the desi terms?
    Shri is strightforward and simple for the male.
    Can we force ourseves to accept Shrimati for unmarried women too?
    I suggest Kumaari upto a certain age and Shrimathi later for women
    I suggest Kumaar upto a certain age and Shri later for the men
    Let not these titles be in any way indicative of marital status.

    The age of change in title could be 18 perhaps?
    What say all of you?


    • Maybe we can just have Shri for everybody, male or female? I don’t know what Shri means per se though…I assume it was just a term of respect without a specific meaning that it should be used only for men.


        • Came here from a post’s Linked post.Shree is supposed to be used to address all married men.Unmarried men need not or should not use Shree before their name.If somebody asks Raju what his name is,as a bachelor he should reply ‘Raju’. But after marriage,as long as he has a wife, he should reply ‘my name is Shree Raju’.In Ramayan, Ram was called Shree Ram only after marrying Sita.
          Shree stands for Good fortune in the form of a lawfully wedded wife, wihout whose help a man can not perform his duties in this earthly abode in such a way that his soul can reach the heavenly abode after death.I heard this in a pravachan.
          And by duties, its meant to indicate being a good samaritan.Daily worship,being charitable,tidying up home,preparing food,making and raising babies and giving alms.For puja, wife is required because she cooks the prasad offered at the end of the puja.Basically,patriarchy at its best.Making the woman slave,and glamorising it by saying Oh Woman, without you Man is nothing.


      • All this banter reminds me of the dilemma our government and media faced when Pratibha Patil became President.
        Should she be referred to as Raashtrapati? or Rashtrapatni!! with all its deadly connotations!

        I suppose Ramya’s suggestion is good.
        Rather than redefining Kumaari to mean a young girl (with nothing about virginity or marital status impled) let us redefine Shri too mean some genderless prefix of honour applicable to all persons.
        But will our orthodox community agree to change a language to suit the views of a few?

        On another note, if Mr and Mz can denote gender, what about transexuals?

        I think I have just made a case for a prefix without any implied gender.
        The countries like Norway where they have dispensed with this title altogether for both males and females perhaps have a case!



      • Shree actually is Female and denotes Goddess Laxmi.

        In actual all names of Lord Vishnu is always pre-fixed with ‘Shri’ – Like Shri Vishnu, Shri Krishna- because he is always associated with his wife and always to be worshiped in his entirety.

        Where as, Goddess Laxmi, or Parvathi or Durga is never required to be associated with the male form to be worshipped!


      • @scribblehappy:

        Interesting. With that logic, I would have said that “shree” to be used for women (you know, Lakshmi being goddess of wealth and all) and “shreemati” for men (Vishnu being husband of Lakshmi and hence “possessor” of Lakshmi in patriarchal terms).


        Most transgender people would like to be addressed with the gender pronoun based on their gender (not sex). I think there are exceptions or some who might feel that gendered language makes them a target for discrimination and would like avoid gendered pronouns.


    • Why just mangalsutra, sindoor for the women alone? Men need something too!
      I suggest a nice tatoo the size of 25-paisa coin on the guy’s nose… as a symbol of marriage!! 😀 😀 😀


      • yeah.. on the point of mangalsutra and sindoor for women, many men are already sooo saddened by women ditching it. There was this particular ‘poem’ (with several pictures of working women smoking outside their office buildings) shared on Fb that completely got my goat.. pasting it here, for this reaffirms everything we protest against on this blog ..
        *** आदर्श भारतीय नारी (??) ***
        सर पे सिंदूर का “फैशन” नहीं है,
        गले मे मंगलसूत्र का “टेंशन” नहीं है !
        माथे पे बिंदी लगाना “आउटडेटेड” लगती है,
        तरह तरह की लिपस्टिक अब होंठो पे
        सजती है !
        आँखों में काजल और मस्कारा लगाती हैं,
        नकली पलकों से आँखो को खूब सजाती हैं !
        मूख ऐसा रंग लेती हैं की दूर से चमकता है,
        पर्फ्यूम इतना तेज की मीलों से महकता है !
        जो नथ कभी नाक की शोभा बढाती थी,
        आज होठ और जीभ पे लग नाक
        को ठेंगा दिखती हैं !
        बालों की “स्टाइल” जाने कैसी –
        कैसी हो गयी,
        वो बलखाती लंबी चोटी ना जाने
        कहाँ खो गयी !
        और परिधान तो ऐसे “डिज़ाइन” में आये हैं,
        कम से कम पहनना इन्हें खूब भाये है !
        आज अंग प्रदर्शन
        करना मजबूरी सी लगती है,
        सोचती है इसी मे
        इनकी खूबसूरती झलकती है !
        पर आज भी जब कोई भारतीय परिधान
        पहनती है,
        सच बताऊं सभी की आँखे उस पे ही अटकत हैं !
        सादगी, भोलापन और शर्म ही भारतीय
        स्त्री की पहचान है,
        मत त्यागो इन्हें यही हमारे देश
        का स्वाभिमान है !
        यदि अब भी हम सोच रहे है कि ये आने
        वाली माताएं हमारी आने वाली पीढ़ी में
        ‘भगत सिंह या नेताजी’ पैदा करेंगी, तो हम
        गलत सोच रहे हैं, पश्चिम की नक़ल करते
        करते हम पूरी तरह अंधे हो चुके है……जो अब
        लाइलाज बीमारी का रूप ले चुकी है……!!
        ॥ ईश्वर इन्हे सद्बुद्धि दे ॥
        जय हिन्द, जय भारत !!

        The poem ties patriotism and culture with women dressing/behaving in a certain way. rues the loss of long hair, innocence etc. etc. all the stereotypes in one place. And the poem title ..oh the title says it all already


    • Dude, wedding rings apply to men: I told my husband that he better wear a wedding ring on his left ring finger, or get a tattoo of a wedding ring on his left ring finger when he told me he was ‘iffy’ about wearing jewelry. Now, both of us wear wedding bands–nothing else.


      • Yes, but in India, a lot of people, both men and women, wear rings even if they aren’t married. Even on their left ring finger. So, many Indians don’t consider rings as a symbol of marriage, the way sindoor/bindi/mangalsutra are.


      • Since it is not required in Indian culture to wear a wedding ring, I do not wear one. I find it amusing when people assume that am either not married, or having some sort of trouble in marriage. Associating importance to these symbols seems universal.


        • At least the wedding band symbol is gender neutral… (however the engagement ring is not, only women get an engagement ring in the western countries)


    • @Haresh & other commenters in this thread:

      I don’t quite like this practice that women have to flaunt their marital status. I don’t think the way to go is to make men do the same. Who says that only married women can wear mangalsutras or sindoor or rings on their left ringfingers? Why can’t a single woman do the same without facing any judgement from other people? What I am saying is that we should all have the freedom to wear what we want irrespective of our marital status.


      • Of course I used to do that even before marriage!! I used to wear rings on whatever fingers I liked…. rings that suspiciously looked like wedding rings (but were not, actually…but then others didn’t know that!). And I’ve enjoyed the stares of people…especially relatives…loved smirking at them and asking what’s the big deal?? 😛


  5. Here is an interesting thing: I come from a country where in the official language the terms “Miss” and “Mrs” don’t exist. There is only “Ms” and there is literally no chance for the others to figure out if you are married or not, unless they pay attention to other clues or ask directly.

    It makes people totally insensitive to marital status issue in many public places. I cannot remember any single case when somebody would ask if I’m married or single – and I think it’s a great arrangement. After all, it’s nobody’s business and I couldn’t care less what others assume.


    • Intercultured, I have said this before. I truly think you are extremely lucky to belong to a society in which women are not defined almost entirely by their marital status.

      I wish I was as lucky! If I’d had a choice, I would have chosen to be born a man in (if in India).


      • Yes, some cultures are lucky. I do not know where intercultured lives, but I feel lucky here in Norway.

        Titles in front of names are not used so forms such as these will say only Name: and have no field for honorifics.

        But also, work-titles are genderless. My wife is German, and there work-titles are gendered. A female teacher is a “Lehrerin” while a male teacher is a “Lehrer” and so on. Not so in Norwegian, in Norway everyone is just a “lærer”.

        This is quite a new development, 2 generations ago we also used the gendered work-titles, but we stopped because we today find this to be sexist. There are a few job-titles where good gender-neutral names have yet to be found, but these are the exception.

        What is a good gender-neutral word for a “fireman” or a “midwife” ? Maybe one day we’ll find the right words for these too 😀


      • @agrajag

        Firefighter is now commonly used gender-neutral term. Also midwife is a gender-neutral term. It means “with the woman” in Old English (according to Wikipedia).

        In a comment I mentioned that we still use “waiter” and “waitress” for the same job.


  6. That’s heartening. I hope we( in India) get there too, and soon. I remember, as a child back home, reading door signs (in a hospital campus) that read “Dr. X and Dr. Mrs. X” and wondering if the Mrs. was really needed. As if they called the husband “Dr. Mr. X”. Ridiculous!

    Maybe then single/divorced/widowed women will be harassed less when renting apartments, enrolling their children in school, etc etc.

    One little step at a time.


    • right on .. i have always seen this Dr. (Mrs.) X Y. It maybe argued that it helps in identifying lady doctors for women who feel uncomfy with male doctors (which is super weird btw except maybe for gynacs.), but then the name itself usually clarifies the sex of the doctor.


      • This is true, sometimes it is nice to know the gender of a person. Where I live this tends to be solved by printing both names, you can usually tell from the first name if someone is male or femals.

        The sign will say: “Dr. John Edwards” or “Dr. Samantha Smith”


  7. I agree. In a related way I asked my mom why does she have to suffix my dad’s name to her’s, and why i have only my dad’s name and surname and why not her name. There is no indication that I am her son. I hate the idea of carrying forward stupid surnames. The only form where I remember filling my mom’s name was my my board exam form (maiden name) a long time back. No other form even had a mention of mother’s name, especially when ti comes to financial matters like bank accounts etc.


  8. My mom still has the habit of calling some of her friends as Mrs. Mukherjee or Mrs. Patel…I have told her so many times to call them by their first names, but Amma is just not able to let go of her habit…

    Its so weird….

    For the wedding I went to recently, it was RD’s cousin sister’s wedding, my name was printed as Shri and Shrimati RD and I was fuming…then I realised its just the way the people of the older generation has been brought up…the bottom line was love for both of us…but somehow it did irritate me 😦

    I guess we should just stop addressing people with Mr/Ms/Shri/Shrimati or whatever…if you really want to show respect, you can perhaps add a -ji to the name like we do for GV-jee 🙂


    • Hey R’s Mom,

      That “jee” in vishwanathjee in my handle is just a coincidence.
      The real name is Vishwanath G and I merely chose to spell it as jee for novelty.
      The respect I get is an added bonus which I didn’t really plan.
      Thanks any way !


  9. I seriously don’t understand why we need to mention either our father’s name or husband’s on forms. It’s ridiculous. If you need to write next of kin it should be up to you whose name you want to mention – Father’s, mother’s brother’s husband’s,sister’s …. Whoever !
    A funny incident happened to me once – I went to a doc and he had this computerized system for writing prescriptions. He asked me Husband’s name and I said I am not married – and then he said oh sorry sorry so very sorry madam ok your father’s name please. What pissed me off was the way he was saying sorry as if not being married was a big tragedy and he felt sad for me or something. And for that matter why does he need to know my father’s name for writing a prescription for flu for god’s sake !


    • A woman’s marital status is of great significance while writing a prescription, or while diagnosing her.

      A woman’s body is changed unalterably by the mere addition of a ‘Mrs’ before her name.

      Every cell in her body metamorphoses once a noose, sorry ‘mangalsutra’ is tied around her neck. 🙂


  10. Glad they are making the move in France. It’s so annoying when every other application, even those for entrance exams require you to put either your dad’s or husbands name.


  11. whats the difference between madamesoille and madame or miss , I dont understand …

    as far as asking a man the questions.. well There is a Question on every FORM.. so what forms one is asking where such a question is not being asked.. maybe i am applying for wrong things ..


      • Good one, Bikram! Well really, I saw this on every single form irrespective of male or female filling it — bank account or credit card about Marital Status. And, I always use Ms. and saw no one raise an eyebrow. I mean even in school communication, they are using Parent’s name or Father’s name. If I fill the circular, I just strike across Father and put Mother. I think it is more convenience or convention than being judgmental. It is like many use his when speaking of a person out of habit. An Australian client of mine pointed out that it is politically correct in Australia to use their as a gender-neutral term. The awareness is slowly creeping here too.


  12. I would get a little more radical and say the usage any title in the name itself is irrelevant. Does it make any difference if Mr. Dr. Shri. Ms. is used or not?

    Ideally when gender and age is needed it is explicitly asked or displayed anyways..


  13. Yea, the whole father’s name thing is weird. And really, it does nothing to determine one’s identity. What about cultures like my husband’s where your last name is technically your dad’s first name? So he, his dad, and his granddad all have different last names.

    Also–I think India needs a social security/social insurance-esque identification number for people instead of taking a passport copy every time someone needs a new phone account or a bank account. I could technically run up a huge CC bill on a fake account (made with fake docs) and there’s nothing people could do to catch me.


    • I agree with Kay about the an identification number being allotted to everyone and for every child born. This would eliminate the need to put father’s or guardians name in every form. Of course if there has to be an exception if the documents are for some medical, legal or educational purposes.

      While, I don’t really care about the name thing so much, ( just feel there are bigger things we need to focus on right now) and feel that I will be me even if you call me EW123DRt576, but I understand where the people who are opposed to are coming from. Also I don’t see the need to include father’s /guardian’s name in every prescription, resume or government form.

      The only time this has bothered me was when a year ago my kindergartener upon learning to write everyone’s name asked why my name does not end like his, his dad’s or his sister’s.

      I’ve been married for close to a decade now, and haven’t changed my name yet. I am always me everywhere except at the my kid’s doctor’s office and school where they automatically call me as Mrs. X, using my son’s last name, as they know that his dad and I are married and live in the same home. I haven’t bothered to correct them so far.


  14. This name thing is SO annoying. Why I have to write the name of my father/husband in every bloody form, when it’s simply not relevant, is beyond my comprehension. My husband isn’t asked to write his mother or wife’s name, so why me? It makes me feel as if I do not have an identity of my own, it is tied to that of my father/husband. Gah!

    I always use Ms. If someone calls me on the phone and says Mrs. I make sure to correct them. Similarly, if anything (bills, letters, whatever) is addressed to me as Mrs. I make sure it is corrected to Ms. I don’t see why my marital status is relevant when I pay my phone bill or my credit card bill.

    Recently, I asked our family doctor for a health certificate in order to enroll in swimming classes. And he wrote, “Mrs. Ramya, wife of Mr. P Nike, is in fit condition to…..” I mean, how in the world is who I am married to (or not) relevant at all to take up swimming classes? If he said, “Ms.Ramya is in fit condition to…..” then would that change anything at all?

    I know people do this without thinking at all about the message they are sending out, not because they mean anything by it. But I think it’s time that changed, because the words and expressions we use can reinforce or challenge the beliefs and perceptions we hold.


  15. Fraulein is now used in joke or by very old people in Germany (to usually scold/check) and roughly translates to ‘young lady’ ! 🙂 They use Frau now, but when translated to english ..almost all official/company documents address you as Mrs. and not Ms, no matter if you’re unmarried. I have stopped bothering to check them and accept flight tickets, official letters etc. to me addressed as Mrs. without comment, thankful that they’re in english at least.
    In India, I have been using Ms. since Uni. days as I disliked the word Miss/kumari from the very beginning. This is a very relevant discussion, why should the simple act of writing my name, being addressed officially have to reveal my marital status?


  16. It’s definitely a welcome move.

    To be honest, I find titles tiresome.

    Like many on this space, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of interacting with people whose business cards hardly seem to be up to holding the weight of all their titles and distinctions. It’s no joke holding in your giggles as you chat up to “Advocate Dr. (Mrs) Smt. Abc Kumari Xyz, B.Com, BBA, LLB, LLM, MBA, PhD” and listen to her uniquely erudite and incisive commentaries on the universe and everything there is to it.

    I don’t even enjoy being called “Mr. Talwar” over and over on official paperwork. I’m not Mister Anything. Just Praveen Talwar, thank you, or any old combination of that which you happen to prefer. Mr is fine from strangers, but not from people you’ve been working with, and have known, for months.

    Increasingly, though, Mr and Ms is becoming standard practice in India these days (although the country just can’t seem to get rid of old habit of adding “Wife of”, or “Daughter of” ahead of a woman’s name). Government forms tend to use Sri/Smt., which is neutral enough.

    Don’t get the “first names are too informal” thing at all, though. Why the holy terror of using someone’s first name?
    Hey, it’s just my name. There’s nothing informal or formal about it. Go ahead and use it when you want to refer to me. That’s the whole point of having a name, isn’t it?


  17. Even on personal letters in Marathi, the title ‘Chi’ (for chiranjeev(i), meaning person blessed with long life) is used to refer to anyone younger in age than the letter-writer.

    There is an intermediate title in Marathi for women who are engaged to be married: ‘Chi. Sou. Ka’ for “Chiranjeevi Soubhagya Kankshini”, the one who is blessed with a long life but who aspires to have the fortune of marriage.

    For married women, irrespective of their age, the title is ‘Sou’ for Soubhagyavati.

    It shows how a woman is expected to give up on the blessing of a long life in order to have the fortune of marriage.


  18. This post reminded me of what my friend went through. It’s with great difficulty that many divorced women get back to their lives. Why do people want to remind them of the pain they went through? I have never been able to understand what anybodies martial status have to do with phone and credit cards and jobs. What would people in live in relations write? Why so much intrusion into someones extremely private affair? I hope such laws come in India too. Waiting for that day.


  19. Car insurance companies ask people whether they’re married or not and increase the rates for non married people. This is very open and transparent and they state statistics showing that married people drive more safely than non married ones!


      • Why is that so surprising? In the US the premium for car insurance for smokers is more than that for non smokers..why? Because if inspite of knowing that smoking is dangerous, if you choose to go ahead and smoke, it means that you are more willing to take risks and try something dangerous.
        I guess similarly, if you know you have a spouse/family waiting for you at home, you are more careful in your driving. Honestly in my own case, ever since my little one was born, I am that much more careful because I know I have a tiny person dependent on me.


  20. In a discussion on the BBC, one of the presenters commented that when someone asks if they should refer to her as Mrs Reid or Ms Reid, she simply responds, “just call me Susanna”. Since there are few situations these days in which we are not operating on first name terms, this seems like a pretty good response. If we could just appropriate the culture of countries where the Mrs/Ms debate is a non-issue (as intercultured mentioned above), we could all stop fretting about who is the property of whom and allow women to be citizens in their own right.


  21. IHM as I was discussing with you on mail yesterday, this whole Mrs. Miss, Ms. distinction has started irking me a lot. Combine it with the default assumption that if you mention a husband, you must have taken his last name. Granted it is not a huge deal- not as big as some other feminist priorities are, but it is a disturbing pointer to the idea that women have no identity of their own.

    I have a problem with double last names too-not hyphenated ones. You know when married women ( called AX) add on their significant other’s name (becoming AXY). I have rarely seen the marital name added on as a middle name( not many people become AYX). Men rarely need to change their identities (Swaminanthan Iyer the columnist is a notable exception). In the scheme of things a name is not such a big deal, nor the title society invests you with (which is why calling a PhD or an MD Dr. is something I like, they earned it). But it does rankle that keeping your own last name, which you have grown up with which has become part of you, is such a political decision, one which you have to fight for. As is the whole deal about having to explain that you are Ms. so and so, not Mrs. because that is probably what your mother is called and not Miss because you are married. There are bigger battles to fight, but these minor irritants can be disconcerting.

    I think this nomenclature is a reminder of how the default gender is always supposed to be male. That assumption is disturbing, it is like the other half of humanity is somehow not important enough, And while it may not seem to be much in the grand scheme of things, these names and words have a lot of innate power- and unless we learn to understand that we cannot really make any difference in the way things are.


    • At my university, we had 2 professors who combined their last names into a “joint” last name. Made for a very interesting one, as one of them was French, and the other Turkish. 😀


  22. Being married, especially in our society, seems to be some sort of a status symbol, or achievement, or something to be very, very proud of, so women are automatically expected to not only show off their marital status to all and sundry, but bask in its glory and go out of their way to let it be known somehow. I’ve seen so many instances of couples being referred to as Mr and Mrs. (husband’s full name). Years ago, a neighbour of mine was getting engaged and married, so having known them for years we went over to help them with addressing the invitations. Half of them were written out like that.

    It’s as if, somehow, the wife is some sort of appendage who is attached to the husband and becomes ‘his’ after marriage, to do with as he pleases, someone who is merely expected to assimilate into his family and way of life, no questions asked, without him reciprocating in the least.

    This isn’t just with regard to marriage, though – on most school/college related forms, too, there’s a little field for ‘Father’s Name’. Mother’s name? Not asked for at all. And just by default, even if you do not have a middle name, your father’s name will become your middle name on all sorts of legal documents. I’m currently in my final year of college though, and I found it a welcome change that the only field they asked for in the past 2 years with regards to my family was ‘mother’s name’. Baby steps, but steps nevertheless 🙂


    • Ironically it says -“Modern Indian school “. It says Doha/Qatar, so I believe it is because of the even more conservative environment there.


    • Agree with UmmOn, Muslim women do not have to take on their husband’s name after marriage, but they are still identified through the father. Their names usually go like “X bin Y” where bin means son of and “A binte Y ” with binte meaning daughter of and Y being the father.
      And just throwing out a not very well known fact about islam. On the day of judgement people will be identified based on who their mother is. Ancestry will run through the maternal side.


  23. Havent read all comments but…

    I am pretty much sure even we have to always write whether we are married or single at almost all places… Bank forms investment forms !


    • Really Hitchy?! And also write the wife’s name, unless of course its a nominee or next of kin or something?? Will you have to mention your married status if you join some class tomorrow, like pottery or something, and mention your wife’s name in the form?


      • Shail, I did my B.Ed. from Lucknow University after I got married, and they never once wanted to know whether or not I was married–neither in the application form nor at the time of admission.(I must admit I was surprised). They only asked for the father’s name AND the mother’s name along with the local and permanent address, apart from educational details. Even my i-card bore the name of BOTH my parents (it pleased me no end). Marital status/ name of the spouse was not spelt out at all 🙂


  24. And what is the big deal if the form asks for father’s name? Doesn’t the child belong equally to the father too? And, it is only discriminatory if a child is refused admission in a school because father’s details are not provided or if a bank account is not opened for not providing this information or not accepting mother’s details. Even passport takes both mother’s and father’s names. Are we nitpicking a lot these days?


    • Let’s say lady is divorced and have custody of the kid as well. Now, she is going to get her ward admitted to the school. Isn’t it uneasy for her now to fill the father’s name? Just a hypothetical case, I can think of. It is not really nitpicking, the fact is that this is not just about asking just father’s there is a discrimination involved.


      • Rachna, The problem is not that the form asks for the father’s name, but that it doesn’t ask for the mother’s name. It’s like a mom is just a machine to crank out the kid and once that’s done, she is kicked to the curb.

        Anil, I don’t see why a woman should have any problem filling in details about her ex-husband if he is the childs father to get the child admitted to school or vice versa. She might indicate that she has legal and physical custody, so the school knows which parent to contact for any decision making.

        Divorce just means that the couple does not get along, it does not change the relationships of the children with their parents. I know many men abandon their families after divorce and there are deadbeat dads here too. But for most men, divorce does not mean that they cut off their relationship with their children.

        In my son’s school they ask for the names of both parents, and or a guardians name in case the kid is not living with the parents anymore. They also ask if the child lived with both parents and if not who has custody.

        I think the solution to this problem would be to provide two fields with “parent/guardian” and “relationship” under each name. That way they everyone is covered. I know its not common in India, but gay and lesbian couples too have families and sometimes the kid might have 2 dads or 2 moms.


      • This has happened to my step mom who has a son from her first marriage. She did not want to keep the dad’s name but was forced to do so because of the school’s forms.

        Like the mother isn’t important enough!


      • Desi Woman replied aptly to what you asked Anil. The relationship with the father will not change even if the husband and wife are divorced. And, if the form callously asks for only father’s name, either insert a column or strike that and write mother’s name. I don’t think school management will fuss over that. If they do, you can gently correct their perception. In my kids’ school, I remember seeing fields for both parents and in the school diary too.


  25. France has a lot of issues with gender discrimination and just removing the references to a woman’s marital status is really not going to change much, when there are politicians like DSK who have blatantly abused their power to take advantage of women. Feminists need to focus on more important issues. It’s not just what you write, it’s what’s in your mind that will make a difference in the end.


    • France has more gender issues than does India?

      Nobody is claiming that France is a leader in gender equity as is Sweden or Norway.

      We are all aware that the French feminist movement did not have as wide-ranging an impact as did second wave feminism in the US or the UK.

      Frankly, as an Indian woman, I can honestly say that Frenchwomen don’t have it as bad as do we in India.


  26. Sexism is hardwired into so many aspects of language. How many people stop to think about the connotations of a bride’s father “giving her away” for instance? It just drips with assumptions of ownership and power of men over women.

    The worst I have come across, though, has to be in Korean where there are a number of words meaning “wife”, one of which is “jip-saram” which translates literally as “house-person”. It was commonly used when I lived in Seoul and people seemed quite surprised when I pointed out that it could be perceived as sexist!


    • Some people do. The symbolism is really strong.

      The man is not “given away” by anyone, because he is not property, he is an independent person in charge of himself. The bride however, is a sort of property that formerly “belonged” to the father, but now “belongs” to the groom. Thus the father follows her to the altar and “gives her away” to the groom.

      The more you think of the symbolism of this, the more horrible it is.

      When I married, we rejected this. Instead we walked in together, hand in hand, as two adult independent human beings who don’t need to be “given” by anyone, because we don’t belong to anyone.


  27. I hate this practice of using Mrs. and Miss. Where I live now (Germany), I am glad that they scraped the ridiculous “Fräulein”. Most often when someone uses Miss or Fräulein, they tend to be dismissive of women. That being said, sometimes when Germans address me in English they use “Mrs.” equivalent of “Frau” and that really annoys me. I think to myself, “Haven’t they heard of Ms.?”

    And why do we even need such a distinction (Mr/Ms; Herr/Frau; Shri/Shrimati; Monsieur/Madame)? Why can’t we have something gender-neutral? Oh, I also hate that there are different words for men and women in German for the same job/status/etc–for instance Arzt/Ärztin(doctor), Ingenieur/Ingenieurin(engineer), Anwalt/Anwaltin(lawyer), Student/Studentin(student), Kunde/Kundin(customer). English is not completely devoid of such gendered language–for example, waitress/waiter, actor/actress, stewardess (actress and stewardess are used less often though).

    And when can we stop the practice of giving out one’s father’s or husband’s name in official forms in India? To subvert it (in a minor insignificant way), I filled out my mother’s name instead of my father’s in one of the forms at the bank last time I was in India (about two months back).


    • We can do fine without those. We used to have those in Norway 2 generations ago. Today we simply use Anwalt for everyone who is one, without regard for the gender. (notice: it was always the women who got the -in on the end, sort of as if they are the “exception”)

      True, there’s some parts of this left in english too, but less than in german.

      I think this shows that change is possible, but takes some time, I’m sure people at first thought it was weird to refer to a female lawyer simply as “anwalt”, but relly, there’s no problem with it.

      The only problem is words where gender is part of the job-title directly. Such as fireman or mid-wife. fire-person ? sounds odd ! mid-person ? Doesnt work at all !



      • @agrajag:

        I wonder how the gendered definite article in German (der/die/das–a night mare to master) will be used if we get rid of the gender differentiation in professions (der Anwalt / die Anwältin). I don’t expect you to know this. I am just thinking out loud. I don’t know if there are gendered definite articles in Norwegian.

        The only problem is words where gender is part of the job-title directly. Such as fireman or mid-wife. fire-person ? sounds odd ! mid-person ? Doesnt work at all !

        I replied to this in your previous comment. Firefighter is a commonly used gender-neutral term nowadays. And midwife is a gender-neutral term according to Wikipedia and some other midwifery websites I came up with from Google.

        Also nowadays in the US (at least in academia) people don’t use the terms chairman or chairwoman (or even chairperson) anymore. They just say chair of so-and-so committee.


  28. Insensitive questions like these abound. Just hope everyone gets the wit to say “None of your ** business” after they have been stunned into silence the first time over…


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  30. Pingback: ‘I hear things like “Good luck for your bleak future” and “Drop charges, else no man will ever remarry you”…’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  31. Pingback: “He wants divorce. She wants to know what wrong she did to be treated this way, why he chose her, but repents his decision immediately after marriage.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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