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Am I correct in understanding that French now frowns on the use of the word "mademoiselle"? I heard a fragment in a news program or documentary that implied that it was sexist to use "mademoiselle" (and perhaps "madame"), presumably because it treats females differently depending on whether they are married or not, which is arguably sexist. Is this true or did I miss some important context?

If "mademoiselle" (and even "madame") are felt to be offensive in some way, what is the new way of addressing women? For instance, if I walk into a room populated by women, what would I say instead of "Bonjour mesdames et mesdamoiselles"? If I am greeting a woman colleague named Giselle Fortin who I don't know well, how would I address her instead of "Bonjour Mademoiselle Fortin"? (A past French teacher who was Canadian but had worked in France for many years once told us that she knew one colleague quite well for 10 if not 20 years and ALWAYS called her "Mme. Leduc" before the other woman finally said my teacher could call her by her first name so I'm assuming that I would NOT refer to Giselle Fortin by her first name!)

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Madame (Mme) is the way to address a woman without pointing out her age, marital status or virginity, just as Monsieur (M) is the way to address a man. This is true even when for kids in elementary school (admittedly, they are rarely addressed this way in their face - more frequently by name - but in the documents the girls routinely appear as Mme Nom de Famille.)

This is not unique to France - e.g., Germany has similarly phased out the use of Fräulein in favor of using Frau for all ages and marital categories.

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  • Do you know if Canadian French is also following this convention? I drive a schoolbus of kids to an all-day French high school (in Ontario). I usually talk to the students in English and use their first names but it would be nice to know what the correct phrasing would be if I addressed them in French. Dec 3, 2022 at 18:30
  • @HughMungus sorry, I don't know about Canada. But if you ask a question specifically about Canadian French, somebody will answer - there are a few Canadian French speakers here.
    – Roger V.
    Dec 3, 2022 at 19:44

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