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What's in a Name?

Why do massage therapists object so strongly to being called masseuses?

massage therapist versus masseuse
What's in a name?

'Masseuse' is, after all, the correct French word for a female who delivers massage (the male form being 'masseur'). But it's also a word which back in the 60s & 70s was coded language for a sex-worker and was associated with 'parlours' and 'happy endings'. The common use of 'masseuse' faded from the English lexicon in the 80s in tandem with increased cultural diversity bringing exposure to and acceptance of alternative forms of healthcare; and of scientific progress resulting in a better understanding of the impacts of stress on our well-being. Massage was no longer viewed primarily as potentially nefarious, but as a commonly-used legitimate healthcare tool.

So, if 'masseuse' is just a language hang-over from 40 years ago, why is it considered offensive? Because massage therapy is a career path which struggles to establish respectability and academic validity in a poorly-regulated industry. People can set themselves up as massage therapists without any anatomical training, or any training at all in fact! they aren't insured and they have little idea about what they're doing, which is at best giving a terrible massage and at worst, causing physical damage. Becoming a massage therapist through a reputable training institution in the UK involves at least a year of college-level education, an additional anatomy & pathology diploma and at least one hundred hours of documented practical experience, in order to reach the most basic level professional qualifications. Most therapists use several types of therapy in their professional practice, each requiring similar levels of training, and they are also required to attend many hours of continued professional development courses each year in order to specialise and/or remain registered with their professional associations. Using a term that is knowingly associated with sex-work to summarise that level of serious effort seems kind of 'off' to us, it denigrates all that hard work.

Unless you are French, or intending to infer that we provide massage as a cloak for prostitution, please try to avoid using the term 'masseuse'. 'Massage Therapist' will do as a job title thank you, despite the extra syllables.

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