What’s the feminine of ‘Sir’? And what is ‘Women Power’?

Do you think ‘Ben’ or ma’am are equivalent to ‘Sir’ or ‘Saheb’? Why not use ‘Sir’ (or ‘Saheb’) as a gender neutral term?

(‘Ben’ translates to ‘sister’ and is generally used address women in Gujarat).

Ben hogi teri sis: Homely tag enrages women cops

Manjita Vanzara, a probationer DSP posted in Ahmedabad, adds, “Besides calling me ‘ben’, juniors often ask me to sit down while they took care of the rest during a field trip. I have to make them understand that they should address me according to protocol.”

“As children, we have been taught that ‘sir’ or ‘saheb’ is someone with power. Earlier, there were very few women in top positions in police, which has now changed,” he says. “Since the police force is inextricably linked to power, women demand that they be accorded the same respect as men and be called ‘sir’, not ben.”

Do you agree with this comment,

“Can’t it be Mam or Madam!!! Y only Sir??? That means she is shy or ungrateful of being a Women? I think she should be proud of what she is & sud not show what she is not!!! BY this she can also encourage women power!!!”

Do women need to be ‘grateful’ or ‘proud’ that they are born as women? (Does this, then apply to men also?)

And what is Women Power? Then do we also need terms like Men-Power?

How do terms like ‘Ben’ ‘encourage women power’?

Do women need to be seen as sisters (Ben) to be respected, or can they just be officers/people?

Why must any Police officer be addressed in terms that might indicate, not just gender but frequently also their marital status?

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74 thoughts on “What’s the feminine of ‘Sir’? And what is ‘Women Power’?

  1. In gujarat, it is common for people to address men as bhai and women as ben as a show of respect. This is the gujurati way of addressing people.. Unless you are on a first name basis with someone, people address them as bhai or ben. Even in offices , the formal address is bhai and ben.

    • I don’t think that there is any problem with being addressed as ben. In my workplace many people who work below me or report to me used to address me as Hrishi/ Hrishikesh Bhai.

      Hence she shouldn’t have any problem when she is addressed as ben, that is the local language way of addressing

      • Ofcourse things can take a different dimension, if the juniors call her male colleagues as sir/saheb and then call her ben.. If her male colleagues are called as bhai, then there is no issue. however if males are called as saheb, then she should be rightly called memsaheb.

        • From the article in the link:

          ” Many of them feel they should not be referred to as ‘ben’ when men are not called ‘bhai’.”

          That is also the point i made in the previous comment.. if they call her ben, then males should be called bhai.. but if they call males sir, then she should be addressed in the same manner as ma’am

  2. Hmm… When I think of it:

    - being asked to take rest while they work is patriarchal.
    - In terms of work, I prefer gender neutral terms. What if the person is a transgender. What will we call him?
    - I think this is a very Asian thing of calling any unrelated person you do not even know as sister/brother/uncle/ aunty and though I do not agree so much with it, I also tend to use it at times for convenience’s sake.
    - I do not agree with the comment in the Indian context. Why? Because, considering our societal values we are implying that only women who fit our societal standards of being a woman (aka adarsh bharatiya nari) or being worthy of called a sister are respected and if she is western or liberal, we think she does not deserve respect at all.
    - That said, I believe people should love and accept themselves irrespective of gender.
    - We do not need terms like ben to encourage women power because that is a remnant of sexual repression. Ben implies, I am not thinking/or indicating that I am thinking of sex with you. That means that we only respect asexual relations but not women we have sex with. Is there a respectful term for women you are thinking of having sex with?
    - Why cannot we respect people and treat everyone with basic courtesy and niceties – men, women, young, old, all humans?

    • A trans gendered individual should be referred to and treated as belonging to the gender identity that they prefer.

      Calling a trans woman ‘Sir’, or ‘he’ can cause major offense and may be construed as very hostile, for obvious reasons.

      • Yeah, transgender people always identify as male or female, so there’s never a question of having to call them a gender-neutral name (which’d be seriously insulting).

    • “Is there a respectful term for women you are thinking of having sex with?”

      ‘Lovely lady’. :) In my experience, that conveys both respect and a sexual interest/awareness.

      Grossly inappropriate for work/.professional purposes though. :)

        • Wife, I suspect, might well be context and relationship specific. :)

          As for your second question, again context specific, but apparently one can be a wanton and still be a lady. :) Not a question I have asked and I intend to keep it right that way…

    • “Ben implies, I am not thinking/or indicating that I am thinking of sex with you.”

      This. I was watching an interview in Tamil the other day, and the men in the interview referred to the sole woman present as ” sister”. I didn’t see the need for the qualification at all. Made me think about how much sexual repression costs the society -Sex is foremost on the brain, is that why in just addressing a person, they want to make clear their “decent intentions”? They were talented, intelligent people whose work I was impressed with,and this struck a jarring note.

      • Yup, many women in india would feel comfortable when someone calls them sister.

        IN a country where mixing with opposite genders is restricted, these kind of terms give a social sanction and avoid social stigma

      • Americans have similar behavior when it comes to dealing with kids. There are certain acts which come normally to desi people but which americans consider sexual and therefore taboo. Does that mean americans always have sex on their minds?

    • I’ll answer -one- of your questions. YES ! There are respectful terms for women you are thinking of having sex with. In fact, there are many. Depending on circumstances, you might refer to such a person as a friend, lover, woman, wife or whatever title may be appropriate to her education or work. This gives dozens of alternatives.

  3. general tendency of indians and our languages is to have pulling/male and striling/female forms.. I personally don’t have a problem with using it.. However if the form is being misused to differentiate and treat the two differently, we must forego the use of such gender – differing titles and shift to gender neutral forms entirely. This includes saheb for saheb/memsaheb.. but also includes sir for sir/madam… as the point being of this post..

    • this makes me think of how deep gender specific terms have entered our language.. How Parent became mom – dad.. How relatives are defined as uncle-aunt. bro/sis.

      If we think of it, how in hindi as well.. main jaa raha huun also has main jaa rahi huun for females.. whereas there is no such difference in english..

      Then we should look for an entire commonization/neutralization

      • It’s not just Hindi.

        German, for example, forces one to use repetitive constructions like ‘ein erfahrene Anwalt oder eine erfahrenen Anwältin’, to express ‘An experienced Attorney’ in gender neutral terms.

        It’s somewhat easier to be gender neutral in French, but it still requires somewhat complex constructions, in addition to creating a lot of confusion between speakers of Metropolitan and Canadian French (moi), the latter being more gender neutral, as a rule.

        Bengali, funnily enough, is entirely gender neutral (as far as I know), which might explain the trouble my natively Bengali speaking wife had while trying to learn German (a language literally teeming with gendered pronouns).

  4. Also in NCC senior cadets are addressed as Sir (No Madam-business). We may be in first-name terms with our seniors or even friends with them. But when in uniform we HAD to follow the protocol & accept punishments in case of indiscipline. Same applies to IPS officers. My uncle is an IPS officer. But that doesn’t mean that I go running to his office calling ‘uncle’, does it?

  5. A few years back, one of the Actors (female) objected to being called an actress. This lead to a trend where the award functions now have categories like – Best Actor (male), Best actor (female). This is a gender neutral and healthy trend. Similarly, there should be no distinction between a woman and a man by calling them Ma’am or Sir respectively. We teach this in schools where students should actually use the Gender neutral word – teacher. In other jobs, we can simply use the word Sir for both the genders.

    • // … Best Actor (male), Best actor (female). This is a gender neutral and healthy trend. //

      Perhaps, to be truly gender neutral and a healthy trend, there should be only one Best Actor award that is awarded to the best performer from either gender?

        • That’s a poor argument. There are also fewer films with female sound editors and choreographers and cinematographers and art directors, but there are no separate awards for them. Why make the distinction for actors?

          A better argument would be to point to the idea that a a substantial part of contemporary cinema is based on a fairly binary male/female dynamic. One could argue that while male and female actors are technically in the same profession (acting), they are actually performing jobs that require fundamentally different skill sets, just as many forms of dance require men and women to perform a different set of steps. This is not true of the vast majority of professions – a female doctor/engineer/lawyer/whatever performs the same function as a male doctor/lawyer/engineer/whatever, and it interchangeable with him. Male and female actors are typically NOT interchangeable in most roles.For that reason, it would probably be a mistake to clump best actor and actress together – one could do it, and it might even be fairer from a purely academic perspective. However, the end result would be to compare apples to oranges.

  6. I don’t get why this is such a big deal. Doesn’t “ma’am” or “madam” have the same connotations of respect as “sir”? Of course she should be treated the same as a man and not given prferential treatment, but calling her sir would be taking it too far, i think. And addressing the transgender issue: if a person changes gender from male to female, that person is now legally a female and should be addressed as such.

  7. I have found that Sir or Sahib *are* words of power. And if you are adept enough in claiming and projecting power, that is what you are called, irrespective of your gender, irrespective of the particulars of the situation.

    Ma’am, ben, behenji…these denote respect but for position, not competence. There is, although I am not quite sure how to describe it accurately, some kind of gender related patronisation built in those words. Something that says both respect and a readiness to dismiss. To treat as a light-weight.

    I have worked in the corporate sector, in the social sector, for political campaigns and have sometimes even controlled police contingents of 200 +….and in all these myriad experiences, I have found that people call you sir or [last name] Sahib once your authority is established as a result of competence.

    Seems strange to be proud/ashamed of your gender. Your gender is. You were born with it the way you were born with your face. Surely pride and shame are your own reactions to the person you are or the life you live or the mind you hone and nurture or a host of other things…why would one link pride or shame to biological attributes that are anyway beyond one’s control?

    And no clue about ‘woman power’. Power is power.

    • I don’t think it is particularly strange to be ashamed of your gender (or biological sex, for that matter). It may not be a rational response, but humans aren’t always rational. It’s a perfectly common response.

      Your gender isn’t just an attribute. It’s a group you belong to. At least, it’s a group that society sees you as belonging to. You may not feel any substantial kinship with this group, but a lot of people do feel that kinship, and as a result, project a sense of ownership on the group’s actions as a whole. I’ve had occasion to say that I sometimes feel ashamed of being a member of the legal fraternity. I can say this, because the legal fraternity is a group I belong to. Similarly, it’s not so strange to say, ‘I am ashamed of being a man’ or ‘I am ashamed of being a woman’. That statement does not imply that you have feelings of shame associated with your genitalia or chromosomal makeup. What it does represent, are feelings of shame associated with being a part of the group which lays claim to that particular kind of genitalia, regardless of the voluntariness of membership.

      • I do not deny the objective reality of what you detail above. I have observed it all my life. But I still find it strange and incomprehensible.

        I do not subscribe to group identity to the extent where I subscribe to group norms, group guilt or group shame.

        So while I can note and file the fact that a number of men have felt impelled to proclaim their shame at being men after the gruesome rape of that young med student in December, I do not understand why they are borrowing the guilt.

  8. It’s a tricky thing.

    The traditional feminine form of ‘Sir’ in the English language is, of course, ‘Ma’am’, but some people (and organizations) do not like that.

    Back in the day, I actually posed this question to a Royal Navy officer I was dating at the time. She told me that the correct, formal way to address any officer in the RN was ‘Full Rank + Last Name’ (A Lieutenant Commander by the name of Jane Doe would be referred to as ‘Lieutenant Commander Doe’), although ‘Ma’am’, or just the rank was fine in informal contexts.

    In business, the safest way to refer to an unknown female acquaintance is probably ‘Miss Last Name’ (e.g ‘Miss Doe’), even if one is fairly sure that she is married. If I absolutely had to use an honorific as a complete replacement for a woman’s name in a professional context, I would certainly go with ‘Ma’am’, because ‘Sir’ would just create confusion.

    It’s a matter of choice. I personally feel ‘Ma’am’ is perfectly fine as a default honorific until some well-accepted linguistic alternative pops up. I honestly don’t believe I’ve offended anyone on the rare occasions that I’ve used that.
    BUT, if you feel uncomfortable with subordinates calling you that, you can always tell them to call you something else. I dislike the whole ‘Sir/Ma’am’ thing altogether, and as a rule, I always ask everyone on my staff call me by my first name. In India, a lot of people are not used to that, so they default to ‘Mr Talwar’, which is still better than ‘Sir’.

    That said, I do feel that ‘ben’ isn’t really appropriate unless it is indicated that the addressee is okay with it. In order to avoid offense and unnecessary conflict, it’s best to stick with exact linguistic female equivalents as default phrases, even if they do have slightly different cultural connotations.

    • The practice of referring to everyone-whether senior or junior , by first names is actually refreshing. I have only noticed it abroad, but it would be wonderful to see it in hierarchy-hungry India.
      I work in a field where the common practice is to use last names after a gender-neutral title (Doctor). In India, people would find imaginative ways to feminize it, (eg ‘Doctarni’) – but I was mostly amused.

      • Desidaaru,you are right.In India,Doctor would become Doctarni or even Doctor saahibaa,indicating that the term Doctor refers to men.That is because going out to work and earning a living is associated with males, as far back as cave men. In some countries that outlook changed enough to accept women as wage earners.In others,the change is a long way to come,but hopefully will surely come,kicking screaming and reluctantly even probably in the next two generations when all the ‘oldies’ (read ‘non tech savvies’)will have vanished from this earth(read ‘died’) and only the ‘newbies’(read’tech savvy modern’) will remain.

        • This phenomenon is actually an Indian-ism, so to speak, and has more to do with linguistics than anything.

          Gendered professional titles come naturally to native Hindi speakers, because that is how most titles are used in Hindi. Modern English has much fewer gendered titles than Hindi (where a long ‘a’ sound, or an ‘ni’ sound is typically added to represent a feminine form of a masculine noun), and as a whole, it makes much less use of grammatical gender. So while the female of ‘teacher’ in English is also ‘teacher’, Hindi distinguishes between ‘adhyapak’ (अध्यापक) and ‘adhyapika’ (अध्यापिका) for male and female teachers, respectively. Native Hindi speakers without much exposure to English can find the lack of this difference hard to grasp.

          As I mentioned in a comment above, this is not unique to Hindi. Many Indo-European languages have similar nuances of grammar (e.g Lehrer/Lehrerin for male/female teacher in German, and enseignant/enseignante in French).

  9. “ma’am” is fine. I also feel we need to come up with a term which conveys “respect” in professional settings which can be applied to people who do not fit into the gender binary. Some people do not prefer such terms. Many profs have told us to call them by their names. And as for “women power”, I find it.. limiting. First of all, not only women are marginalised in a patriarchal society, and not all women are feminists (or non-sexists, whatever you prefer). But, I recognise how it may be useful, as in, asserting an identity which is marginalised in an unequal society.

  10. Punjab ,which has the most unisex names in India that I know of has one of the poorest gender-ratios. Whether colleagues and particularly male colleagues call me Mrs/ms.xyz or sir or madam or BEN as long as I am not more than a vagina and a pair of breasts in public spaces,nothing changes.
    language is a very strong aspect of how we think but I believe when our perspective changes for the better our language automatically becomes more sensitive,neutral and respectful in general.

  11. To me, asking to be called ‘Sir’ instead of ‘Madam’ is kind of like the bollywood non-compliment for good daughters that goes like ‘tu meri beti nahi, tu to mera beta hai’. Do we have to ‘be’ men to be ‘good’/ powerful/ whatever?

    I fully support using gender neutral terms to address people professionaly, like doctor, teacher, actor, professor etc. However, ‘Sir’ is not a gender neutral professional term. It is a term used for men of a certain status.

    So what if some of us think ‘Sir’ seems to carry more weight than ‘Madam’ (which is not my personal experience)? That’s like saying ‘man’ carries more weight than ‘woman’, so we should all ask to be called men. Shouldn’t we be looking to own and reclaim words like ‘madam’ or ‘woman’ rather than adding to the notion that the male corresponding term is somehow ‘better’? Or perhaps go for an actually gender neutral term for ‘superior’, if there is one.

    Words like ‘ben’ or ‘bhai’ or ‘sister’ are unprofessional because they are, by their very definition, endearing terms for family members. While it’s an indian thing to make everyone your ‘ben’ and ‘bhai’, if you are only doing it to women in the office and not men, it’s entirely inappropriate.

    I personally prefer calling people by their first or last name in a work/professional setting, as is the norm where I am. It’s a cultural thing, but I prefer that it makes things flatter and less hierarchal.

    • Oh also, I prefer ‘power’ to woman or man power. There are certain things (like earning a living, education, winning an election, etc.) that bring power and they do so irrespective of whether you are male or female.

    • I agree completely, although I’d like to point out that there exists a certain class of organizations (e.g military installations) where it may not be desirable, or even possible, to make hierarchies too flat. The police can arguably be said to belong to that class, and for a lot of police officers, calling superiors (or being called by subordinates) by their first names may not be a real option.

      • Indeed, you need hierarchy in some professions. It crossed my mind even as I typed about my preference for flatness. As you’ve mentioned, the military is a great example with it’s titles denoting rank and hierarchy (systematic and gender neutral as far as I know).

        In more regular professions, ‘Sir’/ ‘madam’ is a made up rank, unsystematic and inhibits a level playing field. Easier to disagree with ‘Rahul/Anjali’ than with ‘Sir/Madam’. Language is powerful like that.

  12. I don’t think i would respond to “SIR”.. my husband will though :-) i respond to Ma’am, madam , My name or Ms.radha . I also respond to ma, mummy, amma , didi and aunty.
    i don’t wish to be called Sir but i see no harm if some lady wants to be adressed as such. The power i hold due to my position does not need a special address nor does it need to be publicised. to me it doesnt matter respect wise also.

  13. 1. If she has a problem with being called ‘ben’ at work as it does not sound professional, though endearing, I can understand. It is her juniors she is talking about, who must be local people who would think it is okay, even respectful to call a senior officer ‘ben’. But why should she be called ‘sir’? What’s wrong with ‘Ma’am’?

    2. I’m taking a risk of sounding funny here. If we must find a gender neutral term, why go with ‘Sir’? Why not we say everyone will be addressed as ‘Ma’am’ henceforth, regardless of their gender? After all, it is a matter of understanding! Rephrasing my point in a serious sentence, a really gender neutral term should be given, like we did with Chairman/Chairwoman and replaced it with Chairperson.

    3. Suppose, everyone is called ‘Sir’ or ‘Saheb’. What next? Will working moms(Or Sirs) come home and demand their kids to call them ‘papa’? Why resist to accept who you are? Why not be comfortable in your skin and leave the decision to respect you to those who are supposed to respect you. Respect is not demanded, it is commanded.

    And while we are here, I must mention that Ma’am sounds good, but ‘Madam’ does not. Some people say the term in such a way that it sounds disrespectful.

    4.Why should shame or pride be associated with being a woman, or a man for that matter? It is not an achievement to be born with your particular gender. It is not even one’s choice. People can be proud of a talent, a medal or something that they actively make efforts for.

    5.Manpower is workforce, now called Human Resource. I have no idea what is ‘Woman Power’.

  14. Completely off topic…but whatever happened to the delhi rape case? There’s no mention of it in news anymore. Is the flame that was lit dying or has already been put off?

    • The case was transferred to the fast track courts and the hearings will start tomorrow. Two lawyers compete with each other to represent one accused. One other accused has claimed he is a juvenile. The age issue of the first juvenile accused has not been sorted. And Supreme Court is hearing a petition about transferring the case out of Delhi as of the defendants claims bias against him.

      • Seeing how cases usually run for years together without the accused being convicted of their crimes,it would be poetic justice if this case runs for years together so that by then he is no longer juvenile and can be tried in regular courts,and punished appropriately.

        • What matters is your age at the time you committed the offence for which you are charged. But I do wonder if that means he might be kept incarcerated until the verdict. Hmm, no idea what juvie law says on that.

        • I think it does not matter how long the case runs, it is the age of the accused at the time of the crime that is taken into account. Anyone?

        • He cannot be tried as an adult for a crime that he committed when he was a juvenile.

          Defendants in criminal cases are tried under laws that applied to them at the time the alleged crime was committed. Although it may be possible in some circumstances to bring into force legislation that applies on a retrospective basis, this is usually avoided.

          In any case, not being an adult at the time of the alleged crime, is a complete defense in itself, and precludes any possibility of the defendant being tried or sentenced as an adult, regardless of his or her age at the time of the trial.

  15. I have been working in USA for the past few years in the technology sector. I address everybody by their first name, even my seniors. How do you address people, both senior and junior, in the Indian technology sector?I have not worked in India so any replies would be really helpful.

    • In Indian IT sector too, addressing everyone by first name is the norm, though some people stick with ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’. Some seniors refuse being called ‘sir/ma’am’ and insist on first name.

  16. Do you think ‘Ben’ or ma’am are equivalent to ‘Sir’ or ‘Saheb’? – Absolutely. Madame/Maa’m is equivalent to Mr. The queen of UK is also called as madame.

    How you address a person is derived from the region or the culture or the educational background. To avoid any sort of misunderstandings, the norms of addressing such as Sir, Madame should be used. In corporate world nobody uses the terms Sir, Ben, or madame. Everybody is called by their first names irrespective of age.Addressing somebody Ma’m or madame is completely respectful. In addition terms like Ben in India attaches responsibilities, ownership, trust, faith to the critical roles, in the above case as a public servant which definetly encourages “Ben” the women power, as well give the authority to set rules and enforce them.

    • The correct way to address the Queen formally is ‘Your Majesty’, or ‘Her Majesty’. Only after an introduction has been made,should ‘ma’am’ be used.’Madame’ is NOT used to refer to the Queen. The expanded form of ma’am is madam, not madame, the latter being a French word roughly equivalent to ‘Mrs.’.

      ‘Sir’/’Ma’am’ is actually very common in corporate India, and it is not entirely absent in Western corporates either, although the prevalence is certainly much lower there and very much dependent on the industry (it is expected to a greater extent in some kinds of jobs).

      The bottom line is, if your boss doesn’t like ‘Ben’, you don’t use it. It’s as simple as that. Obviously, the addressee does not feel that they are being respected, and all the sociological discourse in the world won’t change that.

      • when couple of my team memebers called me mam , i did not like it . so i told them it sounds like as if i am school teacher and you my students . we are all professionals here , call me by my first name. those two guys don’t understand this and call me My name + Mam . I have to remind them everytime we speak . It is their way of respect for manager , but for me first name is good enough . I call everyone by first name.
        Ben / bhai is unacceptable in any professional set up , regional influence should not be excuse.
        and as someone mentioned , we call women doctors doctorani , teachers masterani , Ironically i have also noticed ,sometime doctorani is not lady doctor but wife of a doctor . I personallly know some doctoranis and masteranis who are wives of a doctor and teacher respectively. may be its been a practice from the time we had less females in professions (though i think teaching and medicine are two professions where women made their presence years ago in India )

        I am all for gender neutral , marital status neutral terms .

        Going a little off track here , but has someone else noticed that their names are always prefixed by Mr. in many forms / cards / emails /. Even phone bills etc and when they call you they demand for certain Mr. ( my own name ). i have to correct at least 10 people in a month that its a Ms not Mr

        • LOL @ having to correct people that it is Ms and not Mr. I had one guy even trying to tell me that he had previously spoken to Mr. (My Name) and Sir had asked him to meet him.

  17. Don’t personally see a problem in the word ‘Madam/M’am’ but ‘Ben’ is definitely not appropriate. I think the only reason ‘Madam’ doesn’t command as much respect as ‘sir’ is because of the Indian context of lack of respect for women. In any case, I would have assumed that in the police force they would refer to anyone with their title like “Detective Lastname” or “Senior Constable Lastname” because that’s what’s done here and I guess other countries too.

  18. I think “madam” or “ma’am” works fine with me. My juniors address me thus and it is with respect. Sir is for a man and madam is for a woman.

    Respect at workplaces has nothing to do with gender (of course, chivalry has) but with seniority / authority and as far as that is understood, I dont think anything is a problem. Even addressing by the first name is fine if the respect is maintained. And if the person being addressed thus is not offended.

    Personally when I interact with people for first time. Woman – Ma’am; Man – Sir.

      • Great question.This is when titles indicating profession help.Everyone is Doctor or Teacher or Officer.No ‘sir’,’madam’ business,unless we are talking of professions like the Military.Fot the rest of the sectors, like the film industry,corporate sector,journalism,etc,first name should suffice.

        • That is a great theory but, ime, there will always be those who will be uncomfortable just addressing you by your first name. Indian society invests a lot in an outward show of respect to all kinds of authority. When you raise kids that way, there will always be those who will be uncomfortable using only the first name. And it will cut across class and age stratifications.

          And there will always be those who will try to flatter by adding honorifics and those who will take that flattery as their due. :)

  19. I don’t see why a women can’t be addressed as Ma’am, because, as far as I understand, it is feminine for Sir.
    The feeling of power will not come by calling a woman (or man) Sir or Master or whatever unless that power is actually there.
    And if it is, it doesn’t matter what she’s called.
    In my office, no one calls anyone else Sir or Ma’am. Everyone is called by their name. I think the whole idea of not calling a person by their name, to put a title of Sir or whatever is itself archaic and should be done away with.

  20. A few months back there was a report in some newspapers about a story on Aamir Khan’s SATYAMEV JAYATE where a higher caste peon refused to serve water or eatables to a lower class officer.
    So even a superior rank in a job becomes meaningless if their is an alternate power structure prevalent based on any of the discriminatory factor be it caste,religion or gender.You can read about Mr.Balwant SIngh’s profile here http://www.satyamevjayate.in/issue10/learnmore/detail/54/ and the books he wrote subsequently.

  21. I personally feel that any particular word becomes unacceptable because of the actions/intentions behind it. A word is a word. For me, calling a man of power Sir and woman of power madam is perfectly fine. I dont see how calling a woman “sir” will help in any way! When bollywood had this discussion surrounding whether to call actresses as female actors, I did not get that either. Calling the actresses as ‘female actors’ has in no way changed the way women are protrayed in the movies. I fail to understand what purpose it solved. Majority of our movies are still male oriented, the lyrics and roles of actresses (female actors!) are still mostly derogatory to the point of objectifying them.
    Same goes to lines like “main tumhe bete ki tarah bada kiya hai” or “tu meri beti nahi, beta hai”. The words beta, beti, sir, madam are not gender neutral. One can always add more words to the dictionary which are gender neutral. But I dont really see the need to be gender neutral. Each gender is unique, each individual is unique. We all need to respect the differences and respect each other irrespective of gender (and position, financial status, occupation etc).
    I know in gujrat especially, people use the words ben and bhai liberally. But what is the need for that?! I wont call anyone bhai unless I see him as my brother. Unless I share a brotherly bond with him. In all other cases it will just be Mr xyz, or just xyz.

    • btw, I totally feel the words like sir, madam should be done away with. In my office, we use first names. I call my manager Mike, he calls me by my first name. Oh, and I totally respect him and he does have a lot of power!

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