Mrs, Ms or Miss: why do forms require women reveal their marital status?

Woman Yawning

While men come under the catch-all term ‘Mr’, women are still being categorised by their age and marital status

Visiting the doctor isn’t fun at the best of times. Waiting around in a loveless room heavy with the stench of illness, watching dishevelled sick folk shuffle past, everyone grasping for a squeeze of the free antibacterial gel in a vain attempt not to catch whatever deathly illness is on the menu that day.

The best part of the whole experience is rifling through old trashy mags from 2002. I’m sure Paris Hilton would be pleased to know that in doctor’s surgeries, she’s still front cover material.

In my quest to find a doctor I like, in a new city, I’ve visited a few of late. Each initial visit begins with filling out the patient form. And with each I am required to reveal information of a personal nature that has nothing to do with my medical condition.

If you do identify as female, on all forms (whether it be at the doctor’s, the bank, pretty much any place requiring you fill out a form to sign up) you must state if you are a Mrs, Ms or Miss. The same is not asked of our gentlemen friends. They get a plain and simple one-size-fits-all Mr. No form requires them to state if they are young, unmarried, old unmarried, or simply married.

I earn my own money, pay my own rent and have supported myself my entire adult life – whether I have a man about the house or not (and I do, though we’re not married) isn’t relevant. Male counterparts don’t ever have to explain whether a lovely lady hangs around the house on any forms. Let’s not even start on how annoying this must be for gay women and trans folk.

And don’t tell me Ms is an option for those women who don’t want to reveal their status. We all know that Ms is for older women who aren’t married. Being forced to choose it due to lack of a better option, is yet another statement by default.

Should such questions about relationships pertain to a diagnosis at the doctor’s, they could easily be asked in a consultation. If not, let’s make the blokes state the same when they fill in forms. Give them some options too. Perhaps Mr, Mstr, Missr, Lad and Old Mate.

Is it time for a one-size-fits-all title? The Swedes recently introduced a gender neutral title, but they’re evolved like that. Perhaps there’s room for discussion about such a thing within the English language?

Personally, I think it’s time to ditch the archaic titles. In the same way that old mags in doctors’ surgeries full of pics of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore taking cringeworthy selfies have had their day. And though that Hollywood relationship served a purpose once, we’re all glad it’s over now.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Myf Warhurst, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 8th April 2015 00.53 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010