‘… and is that Mrs, Miss or Ms?’

The question lurks on bank forms and imposes on applications at doctors offices.

It surmises at Roads and Maritime Services, and provokes with its consistency and repetition.

If you identify as a female: would that be a Mrs, Miss or Ms?

This isn't something I had a strong opinion about until recently.

However, I interview women from all walks: community orientated women, business women, stay at home women.

Oh, and by the way, I mutter at the end of our interview, is that Mrs, Miss or Ms?

This isn't a question that I need to ask a gentleman, as they all go by the congenial and simple Mr.

The answer reveals much about a woman.

It implies a marriage status, and it may also define an attitude on individuality or independence.

And, with each tick against a check box follows the unavoidable stereotypes.

Are you the unmarried or divorced Miss? The married or widowed Mrs? Or the old and unmarried, perhaps divorced, widowed or even in a defacto relationship Ms; the old aunt or spinster Ms; or the business woman Ms.

And don't get me started on Ma'am or Madame.

Ms wasn't meant to invoke these negative insights into someone’s personal life.

Its history lay in a bed of feminism, and perhaps in the stroke of a pen that altered a form long ago, by a bank teller or doctor, who was too modest to pry.

Perhaps you think this matter is trivial. But consider when a bank form reveals the applicant for the mortgage is single and  subsequently denied. Or the implications and questioning that follow a single woman's visit to a GP to take a pregnancy test. 

These are decisions that should not be decided by the declaration of her marital status.

The offer of Ms in journalism is often used when reasonable effort to find the preferred honorific has failed, or if it is preferred by the subject. My instinct is not to pry but to go with the more neutral and business-like Ms.

The problem with this is that it can only be neutral if its use is universal, and if the married Mrs and Miss are no longer used as an honorific or title.

So are you a Mrs, a Miss or a Ms?

Or do you identify as genderqueer or nonbinary? That would make you a Mx.