10 famous people demanding to be ‘title free’…

For the last four years, the GoTitleFree team has been gathering thoughts, feelings and emotions about marital status titles; creating statistics to build a business case for organisations who must go on this journey to futureproof their business, as well as commit to inclusive practices. 

When we say ‘free from titles’ we not only mean free from ‘Miss’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs, ‘Ms’ and ‘Mx’, we mean ‘free from prejudice’, free from being defined by a gender or relationship status and judgments on age created by titles. (Specifically the female titles). 

These inspiring quotes and passages from influencers throughout history share our core beliefs of what it means to be free to live in the identity we choose.

These people are asking to be seen as individuals rather than an extension of a partner. Asking to not be judged by attachment status, age or gender:


1) Marsha P. Johnson (Prominent figure in the Suffragette movement)

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us” 

A quote which embodies the allyship we speak about today – which is why our team supports the sentiment. 

If all of us, even those who identify as a ‘Mr’ or a ‘Mrs’ etc. demand the removal of the drop down box, we can help those who are not represented by them, and being referred to by our first name and our surname will not be incorrect. It won’t take away our female or male-ness, or our married-ness. 


2) Alice Paul (Quaker, suffragette and women’s rights activist)

“I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end” 

A wonderful expression about the richness of society and why the gender binary is so limiting. 

It also refers to how small actions to achieve social progress can have an amplified effect, when combined with the small actions of many others. 


3) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (U.S. Politician and Activist) 

“If you’re differently abled, if you’re a person of colour, if you express your identity in a way that’s different from the norm, for whatever reason, there’s an implicit bias where people, frankly, sometimes take you less seriously” 

Sad, but true. Some people who exist outside of the ‘typical’ are often seen to be problematic, and also expected to be completely defined by their differences. 

This is clearly not the case. Marital status titles are such a tiny part of what makes up an identity. And if it’s such a tiny part, then surely it will only take a tiny change to make a significant impact?


4) Judith Butler (American philosopher) 

“There is nothing radical about common sense” 

Well said. Many countries and languages saw beyond the boundaries and limitations of titles decades ago, and most never had them in the first place.

Judith Butler’s studies about gender conformity digs deeply into the extent to which gender is biological fact, compared to social construct; learned behaviours and costume. 


5) Abjhit Naskar (Neuroscientist and author) 

“Computers are binary, not people. All people are non-binary, for life is non-binary.” 

The GoTItleFree team love this as it reminds us of our early conversations with Amy L. Erickson. One of the very few academic researchers who have written a paper on the subject of titles. 

Our conclusion at the time of writing up our interview was that we’ve unbelievably gone backwards where marital status titles are concerned. 

In the 1970’s, if any person said ‘take that title away’ to their bank, the manager would have removed their file from the filing cabinet, crossed out the title or made a note about customer preferences, and put it back in the filing cabinet again. 

Now we are saddled with data channels and ‘Computer says no’. 


6) Toni Morrison (Novelist)

“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” 

This seemed so pertinent for our team and for the movement towards a title free world. 

The task for businesses is about so much more than removing a drop-down box… but that’s where the customer relationship begins, and where a pattern of communication commences that may be responsible for continued and repetitive hurt.


7) Sam Smith (Music artist) 

“I am not male or female… I think I float somewhere in between. It’s all on the spectrum.” 

We hope beyond hope that the prominent voices of major non-binary influencers like Sam Smith and Demi Lovato are not only raising the importance of non binary needs and rights with businesses, but also with all the people who don’t experience problems with titles, and could be powerful allies to those who do. 


8) Emer O’Toole (Author)

“When I got my PHD, the first thing I did (after going on a three day bender naturally) was to change the title on all my personal accounts and documentation from ‘Ms’ to ‘Dr’. 

I didn’t do this for prestige. I don’t particularly like being called Dr O’Toole, I was just sick of having to specify that I was not only female, but that I was either a married female, an unmarried female, or a feminist female. 

Why do you need to know this about me, bank official?”

This quote hit our GoTitleFree nail on the head, and we will not stop feeling sad whenever we see a woman celebrating her achievement of a PHD with declaring how grateful she is to be without a title denoting marriage. Men get this without the study and expense, from birth. 


9) Audre Lorde (Civil rights activist and author) 

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” 

This really resonated with us as there are so many situations where we are addressed in correctly. Misgendered or mis-named. 

The business of the moment takes over, and we miss the opportunity to correct the person. 

Some people walk away rolling their eyes. Others walk away crushed. 


10) Ruth Bader-Ginsberg (Associate Justice of US Supreme Court) 

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” 

If it takes a company by company campaign, we know we will get there. 

If it takes the delivery of the GoTitleFree petition directly to Westminster so that marital status titles requests need to be forbidden by the Equality Act, we’ll do it. 

Sheila Michaels, who famously popularised the title ‘Ms’, said that it was the result of ‘a timid 8 year campaign’. 

We hope we can take the English speaking world title free in less!

The individuals quoted within this article help us to understand the importance of freedom, liberty and individuality.

Businesses offering title freedom to their customers and their people are ultimately allowing people to be seen as an individual, letting them thrive without losing part of their identity to antiquated social etiquette. 

To find out more about how to go title free effectively, download our Business Best Practice Guide here, or our ‘title free’ survey here, which enables employers to score against 40 standards, generating a maximum score of 70 points. 

You can also sign our petition here, and keep going title free, for us, and for all those who need an ally. 


Nina Graver

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