Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate July 2001

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Titles are sexist, patriarchal, capitalistic, unnecessary, and demeaning. Most parents like to make their children their heirs. Until recently, wives had few rights or possessions of their own. When a woman has a baby, she can be certain that it is hers, because it has come out of her body, (unless her baby has been secretly substituted). But without DNA tests there can be a doubt, however small, whether the husband is the father. Surveys have demonstrated that the ties between a mother's side of the family and a baby tend to be slightly stronger than those of the father's side. For instance, grandparents tend to see their daughters' children more often than their sons' and siblings tend to favour their sisters' children over their brothers'. Because the baby is his heir, the husband wished to be as certain as possible that the baby was his. Samuel Johnson wrote "Upon the chastity of women all the property in the world depends.

We hang a thief for stealing a sheep, but the unchastity of a woman transfers sheep, and farm, and all from the rightful owner." The husband endeavoured to ensure that his wife was faithful to him. He signified his control over her by changing her name to his, changing her title from Miss to Mrs, and putting his ring on her finger. Both he and society dictated her appearance and behaviour in order to emphasise her unavailability. She was discouraged from independent thought or activity, or discoursing with men. He named their children after him. The word surname means sire's name. Men own their daughters and give them away to other men to own. All this was supported by society's mores which were essentially set by men. Some of these attitudes prevail today. And it is all based on ownership, property, and materialism. In 1074, the Vatican passed a law stating that priests should not marry - not to stop them having sex, that was perfectly acceptable - but to prevent their offspring from making any claims against church property.

In the 1991 BBC Reith lectures, Dr Steve Jones surmised that it was language that first defined humans as humans. In 'Man Made Language' Dale Spender explains not only how completely we are our language, but how extremely and insidiously male-oriented our language is. How, for instance, female words - queen, lady, dame, madam, mistress, cow, bitch, sow, etc, have become devalued contrasted with their male counterparts. How there are ten times more words for a sexually promiscuous woman than for a man.

Titles are unnecessary. In the vast majority of cases we don't need to know the gender or the marital status of people to deal with them. As a rational person I therefore advocate their abandonment. People will soon become accustomed to addressing each other in a different way. I would like parents to give children names that are not the parents' names, and that need not reflect the sex of the child. The child could choose its own names when older. When people are not conscious of the sex of a person except when it is necessary, I hope that it will be a pleasantly liberating experience for non-bigots.