Wimbledon has announced that the titles ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ shall no longer be used when announcing scores in women’s tennis matches. As men have been for years, women will now only be addressed by their surnames. Desire to "move with the times" and "achieve consistency" between sexes has been cited as the reason for the announcement by the All England Lawn Tennis Club. What this effectively does is that it stops announcing the sexual availability of female players to spectators.
Historian Amy Louise Erickson studied the origins of the use of ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’. Research published in the History Workshop Journalby Historian Amy Louise Erickson unveils that the terms ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’ weren’t originally used as a marital status identifier. In fact, both words originated from the word "mistress". The research states that 'Mrs' described a woman who governed subjects, was skilled or a teacher. Thus many unmarried professional women were addressed as ‘Mrs’ in the eighteenth century.
Unmarried women however, have always been referred to as ‘Miss’. But the title was only used for children and never to refer to adult women. When the shift took place and became associated with marital status is obscure.
The Industrial Revolution and the subsequent need for men to identify sexually available women, when masses began to work in factories, is attributed by the study as being the only prominent reason for the rise in the practice. The prefix ‘Miss’ was initially adopted by the upper classes to ascertain a more exclusive distinction of gentility to the elite marriage market. The result was the message of women’s availability.
Tennis and Sexual Availability
Wimbledon umpires, through the tradition of using the titles ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’, have been practicing the announcement of the sexual availability of the female tennis champions. Former Wimbledon champion Serena Williams’ marriage to Alexis Ohanian cause a discourse on the subject last year. Umpires began to announce her win as, "Game Mrs. Williams" instead of "Game, Miss Williams," as she kept her family name. 'Mrs.' which in contemporary times is typically used with the husband's last name, continued to awkwardly be announced. In an unprecedented move by Wimbledon which is known for its traditional approach, umpires will say merely, "Game Williams," as they do with men.
The prefixes ‘madame’ and ‘mademoiselle’ was dropped by the French Open earlier this year. The French government has, since 2012, been trying to disassociate women from their sexual availability. At the time, French Prime Minister François Fillon hoped private organizations would follow the government’s initiative. Although it took some time, the French Open has followed.
Novak Djokovic, although initially against the change, came around to support it on realising the underlying reasons for the update. Wimbledon should be commended for finally taking this necessary and long overdue step.
With inputs from Forbes