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"Miss" Helen Clark confirmed as Head of United Nations Development Programme

March 27th, 2009 by Madeleine

The NZ Herald reported this morning that a “Miss” Helen Clark has been confirmed as the new head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Apparently the Herald didn’t read the EU protocols banning the use of “sexist” titles, apparently ‘Dame’ and ‘Lady’ remain non-sexist but ‘Miss’ most certainly is not.

The Herald refer to Helen as “Miss Clark” three times through the article.

[UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] has asked the UN General Assembly to confirm Miss Clark as the new UNDP administrator for a four-year term, …

Labour Leader Phil Goff said Miss Clark would do a great job in the role. …

The UNDP’s goals would fit perfectly with the values Miss Clark had promoted throughout her political career, Mr Goff said. … [Emphasis added]

I wonder what Mr Peter Davis (that’s Mr Helen Clark for our overseas visitors) has to say on the matter?

Personally I tend to use ‘Mrs’ or ‘Ms,’ if a media outlet referred to me as Miss I would take issue; not becuase I think that women potentially having 3 titles available to them versus men having 1 is necessarily sexist (I think it depends on who is using the title and how they mean it; forcing them to call all women ‘Ms’ isn’t going to stop someone’s sexist mindset) but because at age 35 [not 36 for 6 more days] I am kinda too old to be called “Miss” and of the three options available it is the least accurate.

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8 responses so far ↓

  • Just wait until the EU thing to get rid of “Mrs” and “Miss” takes hold of the UN! What will Miss Clark do then?

  • Don’t feminists dislike any term other than Ms because it denotes the marital status of the woman?

    Apperently falsely portraying Helen as not-married is less sexist than using one of the two correct titles, Ms or Mrs, if the silence from the feminist blogosphere is anything to go by.

  • She might have to use her name Lucyna but as her name is feminine and that would denote her sex the EU might have to ban gender-identifying first-names.

  • I don’t know that an argument from silence explains the apparent silence, it may be just that the feminists have not noticed or it is not that wide spread beyond the Herald.

    Um, nup. Just googled “Miss Clark” UNDP

    Stuff, 3 News, Scoop, ODT, NBR, NewstalkZB, NineMSN, The Australian, Radio NZ, ABC – even The Standard all refer to her as “Miss.”

  • Miss Clarks budget is only $5million so its not a big one. Most ministers have a bigger budget. David Beckhams Adidas endorsements alone are more than that..

  • In journalism schools this is simply explained as a journalistic convention.

    Admittedly it is a quirk, and is certainly unique in New Zealand, if not the world.

    The short answer is that this is how the former Prime Minister wished to be referred to in ‘subsequent mentions’.

    Of the newspapers which don’t use a surname-only subsequent mention, many will in fact use Helen Clark rather than Miss Clark, even though this violates standard newspaper style guides.

    Central to all this is respect.

    The journalistic profession has rightly decided to show a level of respect deserving of an elected public official of a national legislature.

    Therefore they followed Miss Clark’s wishes in what is one of the more mundane and uncontroversial parts of the news gathering process – titles and subsequent naming.

  • Thanks for clearing that up. So you can basically choose a title even if it is innacurate?

    Can I ask to be called King Madeleine? Will the media respect that?

  • Your topic on the use of Mrs, Ms or Miss is extremely boring. It just goes to show you have nothing better to do with your time that to pick on trivial issues. How can calling someone "Miss" be sexist? I have read several of your blogs which I just happened to stumble across. You are very opinionated!!! I suggest you keep religion and politics well away from each other, they simply do not mix.
    You have contradicted yourselves in several parts of this entire blog. Im sure the general population does not need to hear even half of your idiotic ramblings.