Salutation Rights – Mr and Mrs (not!)
Last month I had to give up my contact details to download some CAD details from a product website (nothing is free in this world, right?). I usually don’t mind as the information I put down is my work email, but I got stuck right at the start of the process when the only salutation options open to me were “Mr” or “Mrs”. It is important to note this is not the website for a small company based in a warehouse off the M1. The site belongs to a renowned international cladding company who have delivered high profile projects all around the globe. Over the years I have become accustomed to receiving emails and letters addressed to Mr Kenechi (imagine their shock when they ring and I pick up). To be fair to them, I can almost understand their inclination to write “Mr” when they have no idea what gender this Kenechi person might be, but the fact of the matter is that a salutation is not necessary. If you don’t know someone’s gender but you know their name, doesn’t it make sense to just write their name?
Anyway, back to the offending website. I don’t understand how a company can justify leaving no other salutation options for the wide range of people who visit their site. I know the construction industry is still very male dominated and is only now catching up on realising single women can be proper member of the building workforce, not stuck at home waiting to get married before we can emerge into society, but this is a little ridiculous. The whole reason “Ms” was re-introduced to the English language in the 20th century (according to the ever-trusty people at Wikipedia) was so that people wouldn’t find themselves in said uncomfortable situation. I thought about writing to them to inform them of their “error” (because it has to be one, surely) but I don’t have the energy to follow it up. Shame on me…but I really don’t. I ended up selecting “Mr” on the website, just for fun. I’m waiting for the awkward silence when their follow up phone call comes…
In a slightly related incident, one almost as inappropriate as not being given the option to identify myself as “Miss”, I was randomly asked by a subcontractor on site last week if I’d finally gotten married. Let me put this into context. He’s an older guy (in his fifties or sixties, I think) and I worked with him on a project in 2007/2008, so we were (pleasantly) surprised to see each other again. We were friendly back then but never chummy enough to discuss my marital status so I was a little confused by the question. He must have done the math and figured, “surely she has to be hitched by now, I can throw that in to make it look like I care”. Never mind that he would never have thought to ask a man the same question. I decided to brush it off lightly (actually, I think I might have made a wise crack about divorce rates going up and me not missing out, so maybe not so lightly) and the very helpful unmarried site agent chipped in with a sarky comment of his own so it kind of wasn’t too weird in the end. Still, it’s sad that women have to deal with stereotypes like this all the time. Here’s to change in the 21st century!