Celebrating strength in the face of continued inequality on International Women’s Day 2022

Celebrating women has never been more necessary as we arrive at International Women’s Day 2022.  

What a turbulent couple of years we’ve been through. All of us feeling the stress of change and the fear of the terrible unknown.  

Being locked down with those in our immediate family units and away from friends and colleagues has presented challenges we never could have predicted. Some have been lucky enough to emerge with stronger relationships with their families. Some less so.  

In May 2021, The Independent reported that divorce enquiries to legal firms had ‘soared by 95% in the pandemic, with women driving the surge’. 

In April 2022 we will enter a new era of ‘no-fault’ divorce, where couples may complete the process more quickly and without blame. This will mark the biggest change to divorce processes in 50 years and will surely give rise to a bubble of divorcee numbers before the year is through.  

Whilst separation divorce is obviously unpleasant for everyone, there is an added stress factor for women who must decide on a direction for her newly single identity. Surname challenges are often the key focus, but it’s the title which makes a statement about attachment… or unattachment.  

  • Does keeping the ‘Mrs’ keep an unpalatable link to a past she’d prefer to move forward from? 
  • Does leaving ‘Mrs’ behind cause confusion regarding the fact she is/ may be a mother? 
  • Does reverting back to ‘Miss’ go too far towards denying an important phase in her life? 
  • Does moving to ‘Ms’ announce something she does not feel may be anyone else’s business? – Is that title even ‘right’ for her? 

Assumptions and prejudices relating to the title of ‘Ms’ continue, with many organisations failing to even offer it as an option despite it’s popularisation in the 1960’s. 

The GoTitleFree™ Twitter team (@title_free) regularly corrects people who tweet about ‘Ms’ meaning lesbian, divorced, and/ or widowed.  

Widowhood is not a widely covered subject here at Title Free Towers, when it perhaps should be.  

Looking at male vs female deaths due to Covid-19, the death rate for men was significantly higher (31 in 100,000) compared to women (17 in 100,000) according to ONS. 

So the pandemic has also left behind a great many widows, who way beyond this point, will face constant additional reminders of their loss when completing any form, booking any tickets, and answering a phone call from anyone who isn’t a friend or family member.  

Supporters of the campaign regularly tell us about their experiences, and the case of this widow was a representative example of how problematic the world of title is: 

“…I don’t want to change my surname, but the title part is so difficult because you’re often asked about your husband, and you don’t want to tell everybody the whole saga.  

It’s worse because I’m only 48. So I don’t fit into that ‘widow’ box of being an old lady! People don’t think to consider everybody’s situations. Of course they don’t. 

I really wish we could stop with the marital status title thing. It seems like a small thing, but it isn’t. For women it’s an indication of belonging, or not belonging, to someone else.  

I’ll keep my husband’s surname, because I’ll never stop loving him, but I’d rather lose the title all together than move from ‘Mrs’ to ‘Ms’, which would feel like a betrayal.” 

Statistically, we have a long way to go regarding the surveying of widows. The high likelihood of a widow being older, means that tradition will potentially stick more.  

Our research of a group of 425 widows revealed that 19% would prefer to move away from titles altogether. – Not really the majority we expected, but it certainly provides food for thought if that 19% was to be applied to the 14,040 partners of the men who died as a result of Coronavirus between December 2019 and July 2020, that’s a potential 2668 women who don’t want their title to be a constant reminder of their trauma.  

Any woman is in fact free to choose any title she wishes, due to the fact titles are not part of our legal identity at all.  

The only barrier to free choice, is the organisation demanding the information. 

So what can organisations actually do to go ‘title free’? 

Data capture systems, third party payment and registration systems and customer service team scripts make the change more challenging than the removal of a drop down box.  

The GoTitleFree Business Best Practice Guide and comprehensive Employer Benchmark will be available soon and we are welcoming organisations to register to be the first to receive our guidance: info@gotitlefree.org 

There is an E-Learning Programme for your customer service teams which will guide them in all aspects of having title free conversations with everybody they engage with.  

For individuals, we’re not making any demands to change identities that work!  

Our push for a title free society challenges organisations only. Our campaign is about businesses giving people the freedom to choose any title… or no title at all.  

Stella Sutcliffe  

 

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