There’s Nothing Wrong with ‘Ma’am’!

I constantly read about women being upset that they’re addressed as “ma’am” (or madam) by servers or salespeople.  I don’t get this.  What do they expect to be called?  Not everyone is your “regular” barista who knows your first name (even if he/she (purposely) spells it incorrectly)!  It’s meant to be polite and much better than “hey, you!” Would you want to be dressed as “hey, you?”

Some women say it makes them feel old.  Sorry, but being called “ma’am” shouldn’t do that and I think you must have some weird self-confidence issues if you do because I don’t see anything age-related to such a reference.  Others say it has to do with sexism – kind of like using the antiquated “Mrs. Husbandsfirstname Husbandslastname.”  I don’t see that either.  I don’t see how “ma’am” (or madam – okay, maybe “madam” can have negative connotations due to you-know-what, but still…) is any different from being a “Ms.” similar to the male equivalent of “Mr.”  I mean, if men are addressed as “sir,”  and are okay with it, then shouldn’t we all feel the same about “ma’am?”  Again, it’s about respect, and until we can find an equivalent for both “ma’am” and “sir,”  we just have to stick with the two.

Of course, this might have to do with our increasingly casual society, where honorifics, like RSVP-ing (a survey recently found that 38% of Americans don’t think RSVPs are necessary anymore (and I don’t think it’s all that different in Canada)) and dress codes are no longer “required.”  Pardon my language and rudeness, but WTF??!!!!!  Why DO we feel this way?  I don’t really don’t understand HOW it makes some people – particularly women – feel uncomfortable and WHY it makes people think it’s sexist.  This is especially the case for those who believe being called “Ms.” is okay.  If you’re fine with that, why aren’t you okay with “ma’am?”  As I said earlier, it’s neutral and doesn’t show whether you’re married or not.  I don’t even know WHY it ages you.  I assume you want to be called “Miss?”  Very young women (like someone who appears to be under 25) and girls are called “Miss.”   Miss is someone you card when ordering alcohol!  Besides, there’s no real male equivalent (unless you’re talking about Miss Lastname.  The male equivalent would be Master Lastname – an honorific which is somewhat antiquated.  My peers only know the title from watching Fresh Prince).

I know I can come across as old fashioned to many, but as I’ve said before, we have also gotten to a point where our society is edging onto rudeness and disrespect due to our casualness.  I get that we want to be more inclusive most of the time, but this isn’t one of these times.  Again, we really need to think about this:  what are people who don’t know your name supposed to call you?  I suppose “you” CAN work as something gender neutral, but it just doesn’t sound…polite or respectful.  So, for now, I continue to be fine with “ma’am.”  And if you have a problem with it, perhaps you should think of something yourself?  Just don’t be too critical of women who DO choose this preference.  And no, I don’t think your reasons make too much sense.

Image credit: krsmanovic/ShutterStock

Cynthia Cheng Mintz

Cynthia Cheng Mintz, previously known for her sites, DelectablyChic! (still "live" and still active on social media) and Shorty Stories, was born and raised in Toronto. In addition to writing, Cynthia enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the Canadian fashion industry. She is involved with various philanthropic projects, including music, arts, culture and mental health awareness.