French Town Says Non To "Mademoiselle"

In Cesson-Sevigne, France, women no longer have to choose between "mademoiselle," the French equivalent of "miss," and "madame," thereby identifying as single or married. The town's mayor explains the reason for the decision, and why the town now uses just "madame" for women.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

And speaking of French, a small French revolution is underway in the town of Cesson - sorry. How do you say it?

LAUREN: Cesson-Sevigne.

RAZ: Thankfully, our intern Lauren Benichou is French. Anyway, as I was saying, in that town, the mayor, Michel Bihan, has banned the use of the word mademoiselle.

MAYOR MICHEL BIHAN: (Through translator) In France, mademoiselle is a condescending term. We believe that it's more natural and fair to call women madame.

RAZ: Mademoiselle is the equivalent of miss in English. And on official documents in France, including credit card applications, for example, women must identify themselves as either madame, which means she's married, or mademoiselle, which means she's not. Mayor Bihan was actually elected on a platform of gender equality back in 2008, and one of his campaign promises was to eliminate mademoiselle from the city limits.

BIHAN: (Through Translator) As men, we don't have to worry about that. In letters and in everyday conversation with a woman, we don't need to know whether she's married or not. It's a private and personal choice. We respect the person's private life so we call all women madame.

RAZ: Feminists groups in France have long campaigned to get rid of the word. Germany officially threw out the title fraulein which means the same thing back in 1972. Cesson-Sevigne is now the second town in France to ban any reference to mademoiselle on official municipal documents. No word on whether the central government in Paris has received the message.

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