Last week I met a man called Beverly.
It got me thinking. Before I met him I’d built a picture in my mind (and it wasn’t of a man). As I thought more, my thinking went from names to forms of address.
I wonder, could a more equal world start with something as simple as doing away with gender as a title or form of address?
What do gender-based titles and forms of address add and why do we need them?
Could it be that with gender-based titles, and forms of address, we’ve built in a foundation bias? Bias before we know anything about the person, who they are or what they can do?
Some titles are already gender free. We don’t have Mr Dr or Ms Dr.
Some are deceptive. CEO, Managing Director and Vice President appear gender-free until you hear them used. For example “let me introduce you to our CEO, Mr X”. Surely the Mr isn’t needed?
Yet others prefix even the most exalted positions with gender. We have Mr President (Prime Minister etc.) and Madam Secretary, King and Queen, Sir and Lady, some people still use Chairwoman — but never for a man. We have actor and actress (the only difference is gender — they do the same job). Teachers are described as Mr or Mrs etc. Why can’t the title be ‘teacher’? There are loads of examples. I’m sure you can add your own.
Why do we need these forms of address? Why do we need to know what gender someone is? Why do we need to speak of them, and to them, with the first words defining them by gender and attaching societal and personal bias?
A title showing achievement and position I get. It’s respect. However, I don’t think it needs to highlight gender.
I know marketers and pollsters will scream it’s essential to their algorithms for them to collect data delineated by gender. They’ll find a way to do their job without it.
I’ve started to refuse to fill in the gender-based information on forms. Which means some organisations are missing out on my business as they have the field as mandatory — but I feel strongly enough about this.
I hope this stirs up conversation and debate. And you can call me – Diane.