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September 01, 2010

Real Cougars Hate Being Called Ma'am

Real Cougars those fabulous women over 40, hate being called ma'am and they are not alone.  Women of all ages hate it equally as much.  Last week I spoke with a 28-year old who just got her first dose of being called ma'am and she was devastated. I know it's supposed to be a respectful way to address a woman but why use it's so objectionable to the recipient?

Bookcoverfront172x248 Classes are now underway at Penn State University, and Judith Kroll, a professor of psychology, linguistics and women’s studies, will soon be greeting her undergraduate students with the usual brief spiel. “I get up and say, you can call me Dr. Kroll, or professor, or Judith if you like, but do not call me Mrs.,” she said. “I am not Mrs. Kroll. I kept my name when I got married and my husband kept his name.”

There is one other honorific that Dr. Kroll dislikes and that she dearly wishes she could bar from the classroom: ma’am. Whenever a student says, “Yes ma’am” or “Is that going to be on the test, ma’am?” Dr. Kroll says she cringes and feels weird. Yet because ma’am, unlike Mrs., isn’t factually incorrect, Dr. Kroll resists the urge to scold. “My first take has got to be, this person is just trying to be polite,” she sighed.

In Saturday's New York TImes, Pultizer winner Natalie Angier wrote a great article called "The Politics of Polite"  and if you hate being called ma'am I suggest you read it. 

Natalie reminds us that the message of respect is lost on many real-life powerful women, like Senator Barbara Boxer, who told a brigadier general to refer to her as “senator” rather than “ma’am” at a hearing last year. “I worked so hard to get that title,” she said, “so I’d appreciate it, yes, thank you.”

I hate the term so much I called by book Don't Ever Call Me Ma'am and women all over the world have chimed in to back me up.  So far, I have not come up with a term that more accurately portrays all of fabulous females, but I'm working on it. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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Comments

First of all, what is wrong with being an older woman if you are one? Why do we act like it's the worse thing in the world? We should be proud of ourselves as woman at any age. If you do look older SO WHAT. That doesn't automatically follow that you are less than or unattractive.

If you are going to not like ma'am for a reason, dislike it because it's just sexist. Man of all ages are called sir, women are Ms., Miss or Ma'am and outside of the military, people are confused about how to use all three terms.

Personally, I think we should do away with all the "special" terms for women. Starting with Mrs., and Ms. too. I call every female with boobs ma'am whom I do not know personally and if I have the last name it's Ms. Doe. Ma'am/Ms. corresponds nicely with Sir/Mr. don't you think?

One last thing: as long as women themselves continue to disparage older and old women, age will always be an issue for us. I'll step off my soapbox now. : )

That's interesting considering you are calling yourself a cougar (an animal) you shouldn't be offended by any kind of word in the english language..btw..a cougar is not a woman over 40..it's a woman that is over 10 years older than the men she sleeps with...real classy.

Since in this day and age people will call women at a certain age Ma'am as a sign of repect for an older woman. Now when a person does this, immediately they are saying this woman looks older.Even if she is young, who wants to be called an older woman? And this word is used on women of all ages. Used by people who are older on young woman as well. Who wants to be made to feel older? The beauty business makes its money on the publics need to look younger. We work out to feel and look younger. So, when you are at the ripe "old" age of 13 being called for the 1st time Ma'am...by an woman in her 30's, this is not a compliment at all. Unless you are told by the woman you are addressing to call her Ma'am, just dont do it. Dont assume she thinks the way you expect or want her to think. Or that your Mother told you to call all women over 21 Ma'am. Save it for you mother or whom ever told you to do that. Ask, "May I address you by....your first or last name?" if you are in a business for an example. Dont be surprised if you get ignored by the woman you decide to call Ma'am...it just means that she doesnt like it.

I personally prefer "madam" which is often used in the UK.

"ma’am" is a word often used by people in the military. Traditionally, it means a woman of refinement. Like most words the power you give it-- the more control the word has over us.

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