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French feminists fight to give ‘mademoiselle’ a miss

PARIS (AFP) ― French feminists have launched a campaign to abolish the use of “mademoiselle,“ a term for an unmarried woman still used on official papers which they say demeans and enshrines sexism.

France has no equivalent to the ambiguous “Ms” used in English, and French feminists do not see the need for it. They just don’t see why it is deemed necessary immediately to know a woman’s marital status and not a man’s.

“When opening a bank account, it’s impossible to be called ‘Madame’ if you’re unmarried. You will certainly end up as ‘Mademoiselle,’” Christine wrote on www.viedemeuf.fr, a forum for the “sexist cliches of daily life.”

“It might seem like a detail but it’s highly symbolic of inequalities,” said Julie Muret, of “Osez le feminisme!” (Dare feminism!), which this week, along with the “Chiennes de Garde” group (Guard dogs), launched a campaign for “mademoiselle” to be officially abolished.

The use of “mademoiselle” was inscribed in French law in the early 19th century thanks to the Napoleonic Code, but today it no longer has any legal meaning.

While in France letters from the taxwoman will be addressed to “mademoiselle,” in Germany the equivalent term “fraulein” faded out in the 1990s, after having been eliminated from official use in 1972.
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