Given that I'm unmarried, I'll never understand why they'd reach for 'Mrs.'
November 12, 2012 9:16 AM Subscribe
I am a professor. I have a Ph.D. I'm also a woman. How do I deal with students who call me Ms., Miss, or Mrs.?
posted by anonymous to human relations (94 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I know this can be a touchy subject, so let me explain where I'm coming from. Out in the world, beyond the confines of my job, I do not make a big deal out of being a PhD. I'm perfectly happy being called Ms. Lastname. It's not something that I think matters.
But... In the classroom, it's a different story. I'm in a male-dominated field, and I've learned the hard way that I can't just expect students to respect me. One way I've learned to shield myself from disrespect is through my name: in a setting where I'm Dr. Lastname or Professor Lastname, it's easier for me to have command over my classroom. So, this matters to me. Honestly, I find it insulting to be called Ms or Mrs (even though I assume my students don't mean to insult me). I know plenty of other women in academia who feel similarly.
It's not too difficult for me to correct students who call me by my first name. I can just say, "I prefer to be called by my last name in the classroom -- thanks." I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out what to say when students call me Ms. or Mrs. Saying, "Actually, it's Dr. Lastname" just sound snooty and pretentious. Explaining my motivations for caring about being called Dr. would take too much time and be pretty inappropriate -- I don't want to give my students a lecture about gender norms, implicit bias, and the particular challenges of teaching every time a student makes a mistake. And I'm not sure what other options there are.
Ideally, I would like to say something that gets across this message: "Let me just point out that calling a female professor Ms or Mrs rather than Dr can actually be taken as an insult. I know you didn't mean it that way, but that's how I interpret it when a student calls me Ms or Mrs. So, please, in the future, use the title, Dr." Only... I'd like it to be more concise and kind.
Any suggestions? Or am I just always going to be stuck between The Rock Of Disrespectful Title and the Hard Place of Sounding Snooty?