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Miss, Ms. Or Mrs… To Be Or Not To Be

Miss, Ms. Or Mrs… To Be Or Not To Be


Nigerians are BIG on titles such as Miss, Ms. Or Mrs…

If you have ever anchored an event, you would have seen some big shots in action complaining about their full titles not being read out. Alh. Chief. Dr. Engineer so and so…. Though this should ordinarily be a laughing matter, people do take it quite seriously.

The issue of titles is also quite a serious business for women more than men because of the change that comes with marital status.

While a man remains a Mister (Mr.) if he is an adult, an adult female becomes a Mrs. when she gets hitched. A male youth is Master and a female youth is Miss. So, what happens to a female adult who is unmarried? The feminist world has adopted the English Ms. (pronounced Miz) title for matured females.

Because we live in a society that attaches so much importance to marriage, Mrs. is a title many young women aspire to, and there is a lot of hullaballoo about it. Some women would bury you alive if you left out their marital title, and will look down on you if are matured and choose to be addressed as Ms.

One woman who has chosen to take on the Ms. title with pride is our current cover subject, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. You can then imagine her mortification when one of our writers inadvertently referred to her as Miss.

In a list of ten facts about Chimamanda pulled off online, which we published on our website as a run-up to the release of her cover. She brought it to our notice expressing her discomfort in not too many words…

“There is already so much false information out there about me and about what I stand for and I don’t want a legitimate source like TW – that I granted an interview with – to perpetuate it. I do not prefer to be called ‘Miss.’ (I cannot tell you the kind of ugliness that I received when an irresponsible Nigerian journalist reported this some years ago.)

I prefer to be called ‘Ms.’…which is a term used for an adult woman and does not depend on whether she is married or unmarried.

This list could have been used as an opportunity to educate people.”

That’s why we chose to publish this article to educate Nigerians on the difference between Miss, Ms., and Mrs.

However, what we really would like to do is get your thoughts on this whole Missy affair… but first a throwback to its genesis…

In the interview Chimamanda mentioned, a journalist had insisted on calling her Mrs. She then insisted on being called Ms., but the journalist reported that she wanted to be called Miss– obviously, he didn’t know that Ms. is generic to all matured adult females and assumed she meant Miss.

The good thing is that, in her book, Dear Ijeawale, or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions, readers can find answers to why she has a preference for the title Ms., which in no way undermines the fact that she is married.

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Here is an excerpt from the book.

As for titles, I dislike the title of ‘Mrs.’ because I think Nigerian society gives it too much value – I have observed too many cases of men and women who loudly and proudly speak of the title of Mrs. as though those who are not Mrs have somehow failed at something. Mrs can be a choice, but to infuse it with so much value as our culture does is disturbing. The value we give to Mrs. means that marriage changes the social status of a woman but not of a man. (Is that perhaps why many women complain of married men still ‘acting’ as though they were single? Perhaps if our society asked married men to change their names and take on a new title, different from MR, their behavior might change as well? Ha!) But more seriously, if you, a 28-year-old Masters degree holder, go overnight from Ijeawele Ude to Mrs. Ijeawele Onyekailodibe, surely it requires not just the mental energy of changing passports and licenses but also a psychic change, a new ‘becoming?’ This new ‘becoming’ would not matter so much if men, too, had to undergo it.


Still on titles, I like Ms because it is similar to Mr. A man is Mr whether married or not, a woman is Ms whether married or not.

Now the ball is in your court dear readers. Do you think that our society attaches too much importance to the Mrs. title?

Let the conversation begin below!


View Comments (2)
  • Iroghama Today
    Iroghama Forever,
    Osunde Today
    But Not Forever!
    This means the only true constant is the name you are given so all this miss or Mrs. thing doesn’t count. A simple Ms. is a more professional universal title if you asked me

  • I prefer to be addressed by my name, Oluwatobi. When it is required to be formal/professional, Ms. it is and will remain so even after I get married. Sometimes I ignore those who call me Mrs. even though I am unmarried, other times I take my time to school them on their foolishness. 🙂

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