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‘Mademoiselle’ gets boot in new French rules

PARIS - Forget what you learned in French class about “madame’’ and “mademoiselle.’’ The French government now says women’s marital status should not matter, at least when it comes to this country’s far-reaching bureaucracy.

A new directive from the prime minister’s office Tuesday orders officials to phase out the use of “mademoiselle’’ on administrative documents.

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Until now, a woman has been required to identify herself as a married “madame’’ or an unmarried “mademoiselle’’ on everything from tax forms to voting cards. France offers no neutral option like “Ms.’’

Men don’t face this issue: Their only option is “monsieur,’’ married or not.

It’s all the more strange given that French young people widely shun matrimony, and more than half of French children are born to unmarried parents.

Feminist groups have been pushing for the abolition of the “mademoiselle’’ option for years and hailed the mandate.

Still, they were wary that the move was aimed only at vote-grabbing.

“We know we are in an election campaign season. So we will be vigilant to see that it is in fact applied,’’ said Julie Muret of the group Osez le Feminisme.

Her group and a sister movement, Chiennes de garde, are lobbying candidates for the presidential elections in April and May to sign on to other pledges such as reducing the pay gap between men and women, supporting the right to abortion and birth control, and limiting sexist advertising. They also urged private companies to follow the government’s lead and always make it “madame.’’

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