Hi, I’m Mrs. Josh

My Feminine Mind, one of my favorite bloggers, tweeted this question: What title do you prefer? Miss/Mrs. Or Ms.? And why?

I responded that I prefer “Ms.” because if you’re using that formal level of address, then my marital status is irrelevant.

I asked what she preferred and she responded: “I use Ms. And I can’t stand Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Jaure. I am a person, not an appendage. I have my own name.”

And I re-tweeted it, which meant that everyone who follows me could see what My Feminine Mind had said with the implication that I liked it.

There was immediate objection from several men. The general response was typified by CatholicKelly who said: “‘and the two shall become one…’ – Mark 10:8 To say being married makes you an appendage is to misunderstand the sacrament.” He further suggested that going by “Ms.” rather than “Mrs.” is a denial of marriage, a sentiment in which some others quickly echoed.

I find this view perplexing for a few reasons. To begin with, it is most often the case that a person needing to use the most formal form of address simply would not know the marital status of the person being addressed. Thus, if one insists on “Mrs.” or “Miss” as opposed to “Ms.,” one is requiring people to pry into the marital status of a woman in a most awkward way in order to be correct. If marital status is so very important and public that it must be immediately known, then why is it that it should only be known for women? Is “Mr.” a universal denial of the importance of marriage on the part of men? Oh wait, don’t answer that one. ;-)

Mark 10:8 happens to follow Mark 10:6 & 7 which says “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife).” Well how about that! If one were to take scripture as one’s inspiration, would it not seem that a man should leave his parents, and leave his name and titles and be joined with his wife? If anything, it is the man’s marital status which should be on display for all to see as evidence of the fact that he has left his parents and has joined his wife. Of course this is all taking the passage quite out of context and distorting its meaning (which is, incidentally, about the indissolubility of marriage).

The lovely thing about Christianity, is that it has been so fully assimilated by our culture that we are excellent at taking our most favorite values from our culture and pushing them back onto Christianity. There is, quite simply, nothing in the Bible that suggests that Christ would want a woman to assume her husband’s identity while her husband continues on as if nothing has changed. If anything, following the cultural tradition of making a woman’s marital status known in polite address but not the man’s, is anti-Christian as it stands in contrast to the biblical standard of two becoming one: a one who is a completely new unit, not merely the male one with the female added on!

Christian marriage is the antithesis of a man as a person and the woman as an appendage which he has added onto himself. And that is precisely why it is quite appropriate for each spouse to be treated the same way when it comes to public acknowledgment of marital status. The idea that a woman should be known by a title which denotes her marital status while her husband is not, is at best unhelpful, and at worst perpetuates a non-Christian understanding of marriage.

I happen to believe that my marriage is one of the most sacred and intimate aspects of my life. It is not to be publicly paraded around as the most trivial and surface information available about me. Strangers do not need to know about my marriage in order to politely call my attention.

I can respect the position of those who believe that marriage is primarily a public identification and status. But I cannot understand any good reason for making the information public for women, while hiding it for men. If “Ms.” is a problem for Christian reasons, then so is “Mr.” So maybe “Ms.” is one giant red herring to distract us all from the far more common pernicious “Mr.” the title which is actually undermining public recognition of the importance of marriage.

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22 thoughts on “Hi, I’m Mrs. Josh

  1. Mary

    I agree absolutely. People often comment that it’s weird I’m such a ‘good catholic’ but i still kept my last name after getting married. Which is slightly different but I don’t see why the woman has to be the one who changes. If we were to agree on a new last name, we could both change it. So after I got married, I wasn’t sure what my title should be. It always comes back to the relation defining the woman while appearing to havenow consequence for the man.
    My mother considers me to be terribly radical and my mother in law feels betrayed that I wouldn’t take her name.

  2. Michelle

    And I, personally, never really gave much thought to all this stuff. It was a traditional move to take my husband’s last name…something I didn’t think much about. I stressed much more over my move to drop my first given name from my “legal” name and move my middle given name to be my first and keep my maiden name as my middle name. It removed my lifelong inconvenience of explaining that my first name is “Helen” but my parents called me by my middle name, “Michelle”.

    Now I only have to save that explanation and discussion for those who would look back at my college records to see Helen Michelle P_______ on my degree awarded at University. :)

    Interesting post, though. I have often been surprised (??) at how much thought goes into such a thing.

  3. Tina Fisher

    On my first visit to Mrs. S’ house I was introduced to her children as Mrs. Fisher. I said, “Oh, they can call me Tina”. She said, “I prefer they call you Mrs. Fisher”. That was four months ago. Now, my kids call her Mrs. S as well as any new person they meet is addressed by Miss, Mr. or Mrs.

    Maybe the above can be another post?

    In any case, I now rather like being called Mrs. Fisher. I should after all, it was a dream to be married and I waited a long, long time to find my prince. I feel very honored to be called Mrs.

    In Christ,

    Mrs. Fisher

  4. Sarah

    I’m not really bothered much about the miss/ms./mrs. thing, but I think that the whole last name thing is important. We really talked a lot about it before we got married, and we almost decided to do a mutual hyphenation of both of our last names. The only thing that prevented us from doing that was the fact that I have no attachment at all to my father’s last name, as he left us when I was young and never came back. As much as I wanted some way to publicly say that both of us had changed upon getting married, I really didn’t want my husband to take the name of someone who I didn’t even care about! So I took his last name, and really, I haven’t thought much about it since.

    I like this post; I often wondered why there isn’t another word for “mr.” I mean, even little boys are adressed as “mr.”. I say we make one up.

  5. Claire

    I agree. Patrilineality is not neutral and inasmuch as Catholics absorb it without question, we’re going to cause trouble for ourselves. But we Americans (those of us from non-Jewish European backgrounds anyway) are still attached to our patrilineal roots, except perhaps for some of us in the younger generation.
    My husband and I also did the hyphenating both last names. But boy is it a headache. We ended up giving the children my husbands’ “maiden” name because it is such a burden to have to spell the whole thing out each time. (See, we don’t even have a word for a man’s unmarried name!) And yes, his masculinity has indeed been called into question for having taken my name. These are new customs and it will take some time to change (if they ever do).

    Personally, I hate that “Dr.” is supposed to be a replacement for “Mr.” for those who have them, and “Dr. and Mrs.” just makes me want to laugh. Or cry. I can’t decide which.

    Also: in the East, I am called “Miss” which I actually really hate! When I’m out and about with my kids, it feels insulting and I’d much rather be called “Ma’am.” Seems I’m attached to good old fashioned respectable titles after all…

  6. Maria

    I also go by “Ms.” when given the option. I agree that my marital status should be irrelevant if I’m dealing with someone on a formal enough level that they can’t use my first name.

    And this post is another poke reminding me to finish my first “feminist marriage” post. So thank you for that. :)

  7. Adrienne

    Perhaps these titles are less about being labeled as an extension of your husband and more about letting the world know you are “off the market” for other men.

    Historically (however right or wrong) men were responsible for initiating a courting relationship. In that case, women would have less of a need to know a man’s availability, which might also explain the ambiguous “Mr.” title.

    Definitely not as relevant in today’s “anything goes” dating scene, but I’d be interested to hear about where these terms originated.

  8. felicemifa

    Well thought out post, and convincing. I didn’t really need any convincing, because my mother kept her birth name when marrying many moons ago, so that (and its requisite ‘Ms.”) is as normal to me as breathing.

    What was perhaps more formative for me was seeing how my mother reacted to the countless times her name was biffed by people – both strangers and those who should have known better. My HS report cards were marked “father only” above my parents names because they assumed she must not be my mother if we had different names. And my mother, God bless her, just didn’t care.

    In the end, it is so personal. My mother didn’t change her name because *it is her name*. I am always appalled by people who think they are allowed an opinion on such a personal decision. If someone wants to change their name for reasons of custom or principle, it’s not my place to butt in, and if I don’t (also for reasons of custom or principle, not that the issue has come up), then that’s my choice too. More lessons from my Mama.

  9. MyFeminineMind

    Love the post, (but maybe I’m biased here). ;) I really love the statement, ” The lovely thing about Christianity, is that it has been so fully assimilated by our culture that we are excellent at taking our most favorite values from our culture and pushing them back onto Christianity.” Spot on! We need to be careful in seeing cultural norms as truly Christian and Biblical values.

    On the topic, the funny thing is that it was the parish that I used to go to that would send all their mail addressed to “Mr. And Mrs. Christopher Jaure” and I’M the Catholic one!

    On the topic of the last name thing, as my husband took my last name, we use the term ‘pre-married name’ as my husband never was and never will be a ‘maiden’!

  10. Rebecca

    Hmm, I didn’t put much thought into taking my husband’s last name, in fact I was excited to (with no disrespect meant to my dad’s name, he and I have a very good relationship). I tend to miss the feminist side of things because I just don’t think that way (for example, I do not get upset that the feminine pronoun is rarely used in scripture), I am proud to be Mrs. Rebecca R____, notice though that I keep my first name! That’s who I am, our last name is who ‘we’ are. IMHO

    As always well written and thought out!

  11. Tara Meghan


    I’m a through-and-through “Mrs.”… my Nana addresses my mail to “Ms. Luc S–” and it tickles me so much that I almost wish I could introduce myself that way. That said, it’s a personal preference based on innumerable factors. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my favorite choice of pizza, it would be much harder to expect them to agree with me in something so terribly personal as a name!

    My great-great-grandmother kept her maiden name when she married in 1890 or so. It was a shock and a scandal to all the neighbours. :-)

  12. Elizabeth

    The name change question is something I think about a lot. I fall on both sides; I kept my maiden name, but I like being referred to as “Mr. and Mrs. M____” in formal/social situations (like wedding invitations). (even though I’m ‘Ms. F____’ professionally/legally).

    Growing up I NEVER thought I would end up keeping my last name, but I also always found it slightly insulting that all the recipe contributors in the Junior League cookbooks lying around our house were “Mrs. John So-and-so”… Didn’t they have identities of their own?

    When my husband and I married, I was starting my last year of grad school and wanted to finish school using the name with which I started, and as an actor, I’ll always use my maiden name as my stage name. I might eventually take my husband’s name because I’m not sure I like the idea of having a different last name than our (future) children. However, I am reluctant to give up my maiden name because it is such an integral part of my family’s history and culture, which is a big part of who I am. My husband is completely okay with me not changing it because he likes my last name almost as much as I do, and he knows my not changing has nothing to do with the way I feel about him.

    Why do I worry about what other people think about it? I guess feel the need to clarify the fact that I’m married in certain circles. For example, when we registered at our current parish, I listed both last names because I felt awkward that the form wasn’t clearly indicative of our married status. My family is pretty traditional and conservative as well, and I’ve gotten some flack for being ‘too liberal’ from my sister and sister-in-law (who both took their husbands’ names). I don’t think my mom is a huge fan of the choice, but I think they’ve probably gotten used to me being the different one in the family….

  13. alison

    I hadn’t thought of it in absolute terms of making a last name known on meeting so much as for culture ease of defining families. Culturally, defining families and have two parental roles was much more important ‘in the day’ than it is now. Its still important to me, so I change my name to have ours match because, our family matters. While its a personal relationship, marriage and intact marriages are very important on a public level and definiteliy serve a social function. I don’t know if we can so easily separate them.

    I guess its American (European?) custom to take the man’s name. For logistical purposes, hyphenating becomes silly after the first generation (unless there’s a way to solve this I haven’t thought of). My Indian friend is very bothered by the Indian way of tracking lineage (your father’s first name because your last with each generation) and they want to switch to the American way of telling who is in which family. I like the Latino custom of moving your husband’s name second and having all your other last names follow. Then the history isn’t just replaced, but added to.

    Professionally, I received a LOT of resistance to changing my name mid grad school. I had several professors take the time to write me personally to tell me why it was a horrible decision for my professional life as I would lose publications attached to my name. Pretty ridiculous, considering I was still in grad school. I’m sure it made me look like a religious, old fashioned zealot by changing my name, but what’s a girl to do. Having people know who my family is is as important as having people know which papers I’ve published.

    [I have a personal interest in professional women not wanting to ruin their careers by changing their name and then changing their name when their husbands get all big and famous. For example, Hillary Rodham Clinton.]

    What I think was really interesting is I had a friend getting married who already or was about to receive her doctorate. She wanted the invites to read Dr. and Mr. and was fuming after the invitation printer told her that wasn’t customary and she’d have to go by a Ms. derivative. We were never able to confirm what is the proper etiquette…

    Anyway, great topic! We could talk for hours on this!

  14. MyFeminineMind


    Dr. And Mr. isn’t customary? I would be fuming too. I would tell the printer I don’t care what’s customary, that is what I want the invitations to say! For my wedding invites, I guess it wasn’t customary to list the mother of the groom’s name, but instead say, “Mr. And Mrs. Gerald K_______. But I didn’t allow that. His mom has a name and I wanted it printed.

  15. Jessica Anne

    Great post! It’s a problem I constantly struggle with. I’m a vet, so my correct, and might I add, very much earned, title is Dr. However, outside of work, no one calls me Dr. nor do I expect or want it. But, if someone is insisting on using a title, I think it should be Dr. My husband is also a vet, and no one ever calls him Mr. It’s why I have children address me by my first name. And receiving mail that says Dr. and Mrs. is a sure fire way to start me on a feminist rant, especially if I know the sender knows.

  16. Pingback: A Rose by any Other Title Is Just as Thorny « Passionately Loving the World

  17. Alex Garver

    I wrote a thorough reply on my blog and linked to yours. I don’t completely disagree, but I feel like the move toward everyone stressing their individuality is where Catholics are following the popular culture and not vice versa.

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