Sometimes. Shonda Rhimes (who must be the most powerful black woman in TV today, I’d guess) puts together shows that always feature strong women who aren’t just appendages of men, and sometimes they’re black–so that Viola Davis was able to win an Emmy. As she said, it’s tough to win an Emmy for parts that don’t exist.
So that’s progress, a little of it.
And in language: if I was writing about either of these people at length, I’d probably use Ms. Rhimes and Ms. Davis, because I neither know their marital status nor believe that’s a defining characteristic for a woman.
Which is, I think, progress, given that I’ve been reading portions of a William Safire language-column collection from 1986, including a discursion on the use of Ms. (Safire was in favor), including this gem:
Most of the mail ran the other way. “A woman who wants to be addressed as ‘Ms.,'” wrote Mrs. Havens Grant of Greenwich, Connecticut, “is either ashamed of not being married or ashamed of being married.”
And at the time, that supposed newspaper of record in New York City would not allow Ms. (have they finally stopped that nonsense?). And, sure enough, the longest response to Safire’s follow-up column attack Ms. as feminism run amok.
I’d like to think that people like Mrs. Grant (I assume her husband’s first name is or was Havens, since The Traditional And Proper Means of Naming Woman makes it clear that they’re essentially property by not even retaining their first names) have come around to the belief that a woman is something more than her marital status. I could be wrong.
Hey, I’m an optimist (my wife, Ms. Driver, sometimes has stronger terms); I’ll take progress where I can find it. Even if it is slow.
By the way: if you’re one of those who still believes it is Right and Proper for a woman to be either Miss or Mrs.: Show me the commonly-used male equivalents. If you can’t, well…