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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 01:00 GMT 02:00 UK
Feminists frown on 'Mademoiselle'
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC News, Paris

French Socialist politician Segolene Royal
French politician Segolene Royal is seen as a role model by some
Feminists in France have petitioned the French government to remove the title Mademoiselle or Miss from official administrative documents.

Les Chiennes de Garde (the Guard Dogs), the biggest feminist group in France, say the title "perpetuates the submission to macho values" in France.

They say it unfairly forces women to divulge their marital status whereas men have only to reveal their gender.

Many women dread the day they are seen as too mature for Mademoiselle.

A polite bonjour to a woman in France is almost always followed by madame or mademoiselle - but the decision as to who is which can be a tricky one.

Leading question

So French feminists say the government should do away with the title altogether.

I don't like when people call me madame - I feel like I am very old and not available
unnamed Frenchwoman

They claim the distinction between the two is only used by French men to determine a woman's sexual availability.

A little research on the streets of Paris suggests the feminists may have a point.

"I don't like when people call me madame - I feel like I am very old and not available," one told the BBC.

"I prefer when they call me miss."

Another said: "As a man, probably it's a good way to clarify the position from the beginning.

"It's true if a guy likes me and asks if I am madame or mademoiselle, I know what he means and what it is he wants to know behind this question."

No Ms here

However Chiennes de Garde say they do not want an equivalent to the English Ms but the use of madame for women of all ages, married or not.

Whether the guardians of the French language, the Academie Francaise, will accept that is another matter.

It still insists that female cabinet ministers are referred to by the male le as in Madame Le Ministre.

Perhaps, then, this issue will have to wait until France has a Madame le President?

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31 May 05 |  Europe
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20 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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