Recently, someone called me an authoress, and I could feel the word grate up and down my spine. What an atrocious word to use today! It’s even worse than co-ed, a despicably sexist and patronizing term. (Coed is short for coeducational and refers to the women who were allowed into previously all male colleges and universities. Perhaps it had meaning back in the nineteen-thirties, but its use today is demeaning. It says men are educated, and women are co-educated. Like a pilot and co-pilot. So please, do not use co-ed. Student is sufficient, or woman student if you have to differentiate.)
Authoress is an old term and was used as early as 1485. It grew in popularity until the mid 1800’s and found it’s nadir in 1998. Now “authoress” is on the rise again. Why? Not only is it old fashioned, of use only in historical dramas or other historical contexts, it is ugly and demeaning and redundant since “author” includes both males and females. According to the free dictionary, author means a) The writer of a book, article, or other text. B) One who practices writing as a profession.
If I had to describe myself as an “authoress,” I would never admit that I am a published writer. I even refuse to accept a friend request on Facebook from anyone who uses “authoress” as a title before or after her user name. Of course, I don’t friend anyone who uses “author” as a title either because I have doubts about their sincerity in wanting to be a friend.
If I need to describe my writing self, I tell people I’ve written books. I give them my card to show them what books I have written. Sometimes I even tell them I am a writer. Even though I tend to believe that an author is one who makes a living at writing and I have not yet achieved that status, I have even called myself an author once or twice.
But authoress? Never!
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.