By Diana Diamond
Be careful what you call me.Uploaded: Mar 25, 2019
Please don’t call me a “lady.” Or collectively address my friends and myself as “ladies.” Oftentimes, I get emails that start off with “Dear Ladies.” Indeed, even emails sent from women’s groups have the “Dear Ladies” salutation, an honorific title that should be abolished. Emails to men don’t start off with “Dear Gents,” so why the disparity?
This old-fashioned term brings to mind women of the past, in long flowing dresses, politely having afternoon teas or delicately walking adorned with hats or bonnets and a gentleman at their sides. That’s not what today’s women are all about.
Dictionaries support my mental vision of the word “lady.” Merriam-Webster: a) a woman having proprietary rights or authority especially as a feudal superior b) a woman receiving the homage or devotion of a knight or lover. Oxford Dictionary: a) a woman of good social position, b) a courteous, decorous, or genteel woman. I am not decorous nor particularly genteel.
Labeling us all the time as “ladies” is still overused in public life. Servers will say to women dining together, “Hello, ladies.” Or “What can I get you ladies.”
How an individual is addressed can create an interesting discussion. Maya Angelou objected in 1989 to being called “Maya” by a 20-year-old black woman, according to a recent AP article. “I am not Maya. I am 62 years old,” she told the young girl. And she was right – given her background (and mine), when I was in my teens and twenties it was impolite to call an older person by his or her first name without permission. And given Angelou’s southern background, I can understand why she objected.
Calling women “girls” is equally disparaging. I am no longer a girl. I was a girl in K-12. Calling men “boys” is demeaning, especially for blacks in the South.
In California, first names have been in for a long time. I waited in line at a cell phone store the other day and when it was my turn, the staff person said, “Hi, Diana. How can I help you today, Diana.”? But I’ve accepted that as a West Coast habit.
And while I am on this rant, I also have always objected to being addressed by my marital status. I was “Miss” and then married and became “Mrs.” Socially okay, but then professionally? Why should my marital status make a difference? Why should I be addressed either “Miss” or Mrs.,” as teachers frequently are? Men, single and married, are only and always addressed as “Mr.”
Call me “Ms.” That’s just fine. By the way, when I was first married, my husband was an ensign in the Navy. I didn’t have a name or a title. I was just labeled a “dependent.” Very degrading.
There are times, of course, when the female gender can be called “ladies, as when a speaker opens his/her remarks before an audience, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”
But all the rest of the debate and how refer to women becomes a dilemma. “Okay, how should we address you? What should we say,” some male friends of mine asked.
“How are you addressed in an email sent to several men,” I replied.
Scratching their heads, they said they never thought of it – but maybe it’s “Hi,” or “To all,” or even “Guys.” Guys is fine with me for men and women, since it has become a unisex word. “Hi” is good, too. Anyone have better ideas?