In what appears to be a progressive move by the French government, the prime minister has released orders for officials to stop using the word "Mademoiselle" on administrative documents. Mademoiselle, of course, is similar to a "Miss," an appellation that has largely been dropped in America in favor of "Mrs." or, more commonly, "Ms." so as not to offend.
An article from the AP explains:
Until now, a woman has been required to identify herself as a married “madame” or an unmarried “mademoiselle” on everything from tax forms to insurance claims and voting cards. France offers no neutral option like the English “Ms.”[The order] asks ministries and regional administrations to "eliminate as much as possible from their forms and letters" the term mademoiselle, maiden name and references to a spouse's last name.
It's debatable, of course, whether "Ms." is truly a neutral term in the U.S. (I'd say it's not, but comes loaded with its own set of inferences.) Yet, the "abolition of the 'mademoiselle'" is being taken as a positive step by feminist groups in France, who feel that the focus on marriage implied by the "Mme." is not one imposed on men, who only have one word with which to describe themselves: "Monsieur."
The more cynical point out that it's an election season and this could simply be a move to grab votes -- and, truly, it's hardly on the same level as fighting for birth control and abortion rights. Or, ending a set of social rules that, you could say, allow for the doings of certain men we've seen in the news a lot lately. (Cough: orgies.)
Further, it's unclear whether "Madame," too, will be discarded (and there will be no such check-boxes at all), or whether the creation of another designation entirely needs to come down the pike. But it's a valid point: If men and women truly are all equal, why not just go by... our names? With fewer and fewer people marrying, in France or elsewhere, those two or three letters indicating our marital status -- particularly when a man is Mr. from the times he's past, say, 14 -- start to seem less and less important.
Don't even get us started on the term "master" for little boys.