Thursday, 2 April 2009


i found this discussion about royal titles on nine to noon this morning quite interesting. some of the points relating to gender were:
  • only men could go through the ceremony of knighthood (the bit where their shoulders are tapped with some sword like thing
  • in order for the wife of someone with the title "sir" to be able to use the title of "lady", she has to have the same name as her husband. if she chooses to retain her own name, she is unable to use the title
  • the husband of a "dame" is not given any title whatsoever

we reverted to the old system of titles without any kind of public consultation whatsoever. we never got a chance to determine how the system would work and to ensure it would be fair. we weren't asked if we needed to go back to a monarchy that doesn't yet allow the oldest girl-child (with brothers) to automatically be heir to the throne. we weren't even asked if we need to have titles at all.


Brett Dale said...

That is really really bad, people cant use tradition or culture as an excuse for sexism.

A Nonny Moose said...

Anyone want to take up the debate with HRH? She is after all the highest lady in the commonwealth, and since it has to do with her domain (she wields that sword after all) you'd think she might be for forwarding the progress of feminism. (I think I am being a little sarcastic, considering how she's a stickler for tradition in her household).

Mebbe Michelle Obama could ask her - she's over there now ;)

M-H said...

NZ has reverted to this antiquated social relic? I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. What complete rubbish. It will make NZ a laughing stock. How embarrassing.

dad4justice said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SMSD said...

how can the pursuit of equal rights for women be sexism.

And by the way, for you to describe anyone else as vindictive really is beyond belief.

Dave said...

We had a family discussion about this over the dinner table. I'm blessed with an academic family, a couple of Ph D's, and a doctor (medical type). My siblings all insist on being called “Dr” in formal and work settings, but strangely are opposed to the reintroduction of the titles that go along with knighthoods.

I like the idea of titles weather they be an academic “Dr”, “Professor” title or the “Sir” or “Dame” titles for people the we as a society have honored for civic service. Titles are a form of continuing recognition of academic or civic achievements. Even in these more casual times I do feel that is a good thing to recognize peoples achievements. Generally titles are ever used in a formal situation, and anyway you don't usually have to call someone Dr Bob, Sir Trev or Dame Edna if you don't want to. Howerer I do disagree with the unearned title of "Lady".

As for the knighthood titles being reintroduced without public discussion, I rmember that they were done away with, without public discussion by the previous government.

If the titles that go with knighthoods are to be done away with, then we should do away with all titles, ie no more “Professor” or “Dr”, I can tell you there would be howls of protest from university's and hospitals if that were to happen.

stargazer said...

dave, i guess the difference is that they were done away with to recognise nz autonomy & the honours system that existed afterwards definitely wasn't so sexist.

i could accept your idea of ongoing titles to acknowledge achievement - after all, i know quite a few people who have received honours and they are all wonderful people. but i'd like them to be titles that are specific to our country, not to a monarchy that has little relevance to us anymore.

i don't know that the title of "lady" is unearned. i think the spouse of the person who is honoured would have had to put in significant effort to support them so that they can do what they do. unless the honour is work related, but even then, it would usually involve long hours at work or a dangerous job, which has impact on the spouse. i think the spouse should get a title, whether male or female.

d4j, you know we don't allow that kind of thing here. try reading the comments policy again.

Deborah said...

I agree, anjum. Though one person who I never met, but I know about through family connections, was Dame Stella Lady Casey. She was honoured in her own right, a few years before her husband, Sir Maurice Mr Justice Casey, got his title. Remarkable people.

Julie said...

What a strange little list of archaic oddities Anjum. Im particularly miffed by the idea that if my fella gets knighted I don't get to be his Laydeee because we have different last names. I think I'll go have a little sulk now and practice my pouting just in case.

M-H said...

Dave, the difference is that the Drs and Professors have worked hard for their titles, through a recognised and peer-reviewed system of accreditation in their workplaces - as you well know if you're in their family. The honours system rewards much more indiscriminantly and less transparently. It is open to abuse, and is often abused.

Dave said...

M-H, I do appreciate that Dr's and the like have worked to gain qualifications and their titles, so to have many people who have been awarded civic honors. Yes the civic honors system can be open to abuse ie someone "buying" a title, but similar things can be said about some of the dealings in the academic world.

I guess I'm surprised at the likes of Professor Bob & Dr Jane, who insist that people refer to them as "Professor" of "Dr" are dismissive of someone called Dame Edna whose good works in the civic field has been recognized.

I'm all for titles and honors that recognize outstanding achievement in any field, I believe that we need to celebrate achievement. At the very least it adds colour to our society. As for being a hangover from the days of the old British Empire, well it is a part of our history that we do not need to be rid of.

Anna said...

Dave raises an interesting point - there's not really any recognition for people who offer service to the community other than through titles. They don't get much in the way of pay or prestige, usually. Whether a title is the best way to recognise their work, I'm not sure.

I've just realised that my view on titles isn't very consistent. I always think it seems a bit self-aggrandizing to go by 'Sir' or 'Dame', but I've got no problem with someone distinguishing their social role by calling themselves Rev, for example. And when I finish my PhD, I want to be called 'Dr' at least a couple of times, just to see what it feels like ... ;-)

stargazer said...

As for being a hangover from the days of the old British Empire, well it is a part of our history that we do not need to be rid of.

yes but why do we have to keep the sexists bits of it? do traditions never change and adapt, particularly when bits of them are shown to be clearly wrong? that history also includes hanging, drawing and quartering, plus other not so wondeful things. (of course most histories around the world do). i don't thing any historical traditions should be sacred, anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Personally I like the sound of the titles 'dame' and 'sir'. I am a 2nd generation NZer, and so I feel pretty connected with England & it's history (and less connected with NZ & Maori history & identity).

I think knighthood titles should be an option for people in NZ, but they should be incorporated into NZ in a non-sexist way. If I were given a title I'd want to be given 'dame' - and I would also want to be knighted. They should make a similar title for men that is the equivalent of 'lady', or else remove the title 'lady' altogether. And obviously it shouldn't matter whether the couple share the same surname or not.

I was surprised that the eldest born, if female, is not heir to the throne - even today - if she has brothers! I guess the issue has never come up in recent years. I hope Prince William has a daughter as his firstborn child. Then the issue will have to be dealt with.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the comments that the reintroduced honours system is sexist; it just goes to perpetuate the second class status afforded to women. Mind you sadly wouldn't really expect anything less from National: didn't Ryall announce recently that the pay equity investigations in the public service would stop?

Dave, there are titles and titles. Professors are only professors whilst employed by a university, once retired etc they lose that title and at best can only be emeritus professors. The "Dr" honorific is more interesting. The medical doctors/vets/dentists should not technically use Dr, unless they have a PhD which is rare.

Moreover, in relation to professors, there are professors and professors. In the United States any lecturer or researcher is a professor, whereas in New Zealand only those who achieved a certain rank are given the title professor - but this rank is not always based on merit! Much like the current system of honours.