Susie Ellis, SpaFinder Insider
The term “masseuse” and “masseur” are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Every time I hear someone use them, I cringe. That’s because I know that practitioners of massage much prefer the terms “massage therapist” or “licensed massage therapist.” I think it would benefit us all to begin using these more professional titles.
It isn’t just outside of the industry where I hear masseuse and masseur used. I was in the Philippines a few weeks ago and heard it used by many IN the spa industry which prompted me to include this plea for a vocabulary change in the speech I gave. According to the dictionary, a masseur is a person who performs massage professionally and a masseuse is a female person who does so. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the term massage itself comes from the French masser to massage, and from the Arabic massa to stroke. It means “manipulation of tissues (as by rubbing, kneading, or tapping) with the hand or an instrument for therapeutic purposes.”
Although it is not technically incorrect to use the terms masseuse and masseur, in some places the terms have adopted an unsavory association. This stems from the fact that it is illegal to advertise prostitution in the U.S. and some establishments began advertising under the heading “massage parlor” to get around the law. At the time, massage therapy wasn’t yet the respectable profession of alternative and complementary medicine that it is today and the terms masseuse and masseur, which were widely used at that time, became associated with the sex industry.
The association between massage and prostitution has been a disservice to the spa industry all over the world. There are many people who discourage their children to pursue a career in massage therapy for exactly that reason. With a shortage of skilled therapists in the spa industry, this is not a good thing.
What do you think about all of us in the spa industry starting an industry-wide movement which would help educate the public, the media and even others in our arena to eradicate the terms masseuse and masseur from our industry’s vocabulary? The talented and hard working massage therapists who give so much of themselves both physically and emotionally to help heal us would probably appreciate it.
A note…..I originally wrote this blog about a week ago but decided to edit it today, November 22nd, after receiving a slew of emails from people who were offended by something I wrote in the original post. While I don’t want to offend anyone else, I also want to be transparent about what I said. Therefore you will see the heated comments below which came in referencing several of the terms I used to describe those who say masseuse or masseur rather than massage therapist. Ouch…I got the message and realize I should have come from a point of education rather than criticism. My apologies.
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