Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sexism (7).

sexism (7). Today: Equivalences. Among the subtler problems of nonsexist usage is to refer to men and women in equivalent terms: not “man and wife,” but “husband and wife”; not “chairmen” and “chairs” (the latter being female), but “chairs” (for all); not “men” and “girls” (a word that diminishes the status of adult females), but “men” and “women.” Even “Mr.,” on the one hand, as contrasted with “Miss” or “Mrs.,” on the other, causes problems on this score. Differentiating between one woman and another on the basis of her marital status is invidious, really, if we do not make the same distinction for men. The idea that it matters as an item of personal information whether a woman is married — but that it doesn’t matter whether a man is married — is surely an outmoded one. Though many people once considered “Ms.” an abomination, today it is accepted as the standard way of addressing a married or unmarried woman. Unless the writer knows that a woman prefers to use “Mrs.” or “Miss,” the surest course today is to use “Ms.” (/miz/). For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The semantic derogation of woman-related words does indeed constitute a very strong tendency, but a linguistic rule requires there to be no exceptions. There are exceptions: . . . ‘jilt,’ once female-specific, has ameliorated and become non-gender-specific; ‘bat’ has lost its negative sexual connotations.” Jane Mills, Womanwords xvi (1993).
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