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What's Your Title? 

May 2022
The other day a professional man I don't know, but with very good intentions—read: establishing a professional relationship to see the possibility of an interview on my radio show—wrote me to my work email “Mrs/Ms Fiori.” Sure, since he doesn't know me, he doesn't know if I'm married or not (and who cares?) and he assumes both forms of “respect” to address me. Later, in a conversation on the phone, I address him as “Doctor so-and-so”, and he insists on wanting to know “Mrs. or Miss? ¿Señora o señorita?”. Of course, since we were little we have been instilled the importance of showing respect for others. But in 2022 the patriarchy continues to distill its oppression, its desire to put women “in our place.”

Perhaps you do not understand me. If you are a man, the way to show respect is for you to be addressed by your title or highest professional degree, or at least they call you Sir. No one would ever ask you out of the blue, without knowing you at all, and even less if what is sought is a professional or business relationship: are you married or single? How would you take it? Roughly? Would you understand that suddenly what seemed work-related had another intention? Are they looking for romance? But what if they don't even know you? Yuck! Well, that’s what happens to women when they speak to us in Spanish and they ask us our “title”, but we have to take it as if nothing had happened.

Perhaps we endure it out of habit, but this “respect” question is a daily violation of our right to privacy, a reminder that He rules here. How does He command? Well, if the only thing that matters is our marital status, if we are with somebody or not, why so many years of study? Why even advance professionally? Why a career, years of building community through media in Spanish when at any given time, anyone in my work environment can ask me if I'm married or single? Yuck! (It even makes me want to vomit).

For a brief moment I envied the English language solution. Instead of Miss or Mrs., the neutral option Ms. is written on forms (although the other two options also exist) and on correspondence. But when I asked my partner (yes, I'm not single) to pronounce both words, Miss and Ms., the truth is that my ears could barely tell the difference. On paper it shows, but in reality, during face-to-face communication, patriarchal oppression returns again. Are you married or single? Are you available or not? Do you deserve respect or not? The other word that is used in English is Madam, which translates as "señora", and it is said to older women — that is, now is a matter of age discrimination, you cannot win with these titles that are imposed on us.

I imagine, or at least I hope, that asking "innocent" and "respectful" questions like these about whether to treat us as a mrs/señora or a miss/señorita also makes many men and women uncomfortable. And it is patriarchy, after all, that violent oppression of one gender over the other, which affects us all and does not allow us to fully express ourselves in our potentialities as humans. Patriarchy binds us to stereotypes and roles that we find difficult to get out of: Men don't cry, women are sentimental, that's a man's job, that's a girl's game —insert your “favorite” phrase here.

I write this in the spirit of reminding you that what we say and how we say it matters much more than we think. Words create worlds and the status quo of our beloved Spanish language leaves much to be desired. So if you don't know what title to give me, you can call me Director Fiori, or just Fiori, speaking to me by my last name would be a good way to show that respect. And if we already know each other, you can call me Mariel, no problem.

Thank you for reading.

Mariel Fiori

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La Voz, Cultura y noticias hispanas del Valle de Hudson



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