There is a disturbing trend happening in the media at the moment. Women (mostly) who are featured in stories, and are not considered to be people of note, are being referred to
like possessions.Now, I don’t so much mean when the husband is mega-famous and the wife is not, or the husband is the feature of the story and the wife is just referred to. That is different, because the first person is the context. What I mean is where the woman (and I’m aware it sometimes happens with men, but honestly, it’s not done as frequently) is referred to as the partner, wife, daughter, sister of someone, rather than as a person in their own right.
“The woman is a frickin’ genius with a massive social conscience, yet the one event that defines her is walking down the aisle with Mr Bat-Nipples himself.”
A very famous example would be Amal Alamuddin (now Clooney), a renowned and respected Human Rights lawyer, who has been part of a three person team investigating war violations in Gaza. Or as she’s commonly referred to in the press ‘George Clooney’s Wife’. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler quite rightly ripped this to shreds in the Golden Globes in 2015, but this is nothing new. The woman is a frickin’ genius with a massive social conscience, yet the one event that defines her is walking down the aisle with Mr Bat-Nipples himself. (Actually, that’s a bit harsh – I actually really like George Clooney, he seems like a nice guy. I also think he’d laugh at the bat-nipples thing, so I’m keeping it in!)
On 3rd August, a man who was very unwell attacked a group of people in Russell Square with a knife, injuring 5 people and killing one woman. Her name was Darlene Horton. When a number of media outlets reported her death, including the Daily Fail and the BBC, they ‘named’ her as a professor’s wife. The BBC website actually used the phrase ‘the police have named her as the wife of Professor Richard Wagner’. That was not her name . That was not her only characteristic. She was a teacher, a ‘vibrant personality’ and a keen tennis player. She was an inspiration. (Source: The Guardian, 5/8/16) And in the final report, the report of her tragically early death, she was ‘named’ as someone’s wife.
On 10th August, Olympic trap-shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein won her second bronze medal in Rio. That’s her second bronze Olympic medal – this girl has like 10 medals listed on her Wikipedia page. She’s 29 and has 10 fancy medals. She’s pretty hot with a firearm. Another thing she has achieved is she married a gentleman called Mitch Unrein, who plays some form of sportsball for the Chicago Bears. This was widely reported as ‘Wife of Bears’ lineman wins bronze at the Olympics’. She is a sports person in her own right, yet her qualifying personality trait seems to be that she is married to a sportsman. Cogdell-Unrein is a total badass, and called this business out on Twitter, and guess which high moral media outlet ran a piece about the ‘everyday sexism’…? THE MAIL! The paper that ran a FRONT PAGE STORY about the ‘professor’s wife’ being murdered was condemning others for being sexist. A phrase involving pots and kettles springs to mind….
“Another thing she has achieved is she married a gentleman called Mitch Unrein, who plays some form of sportsball for the Chicago Bears.”
It doesn’t need to be the case though. It really doesn’t. I’ve been aware of Hollywood actress Bryce Dallas Howard since 2004(ish) when I saw The Village. I’ve enjoyed her work in many films, particularly The Lady in the Water and The Help (not so much Spider-Man 3, sorry Bryce!). I literally found out 2 days before writing this piece that she is Ron Howard’s daughter, because Steve Wright mentioned it in an interview – I have never seen or heard it mentioned in interviews before. She is never referenced as ‘Ron Howard’s Daughter’ – she is just an actress in her own right. I also found out that the Fonz is her godfather, so I am literally in awe of this woman. (I should note, I have never seen her referred to as the Fonz’s goddaughter either! )
“There’s nothing interesting about me – I’m just a mam”
The possessive descriptions bother me, and the reason they bother me is I work in a field where I meet a lot of new people, and I’m often the one leading the introductions. I usually run some sort of icebreaker where I ask for names and an interesting fact to help me remember the person, and all to often a woman (and I hate to say it, but it’s very rarely the guys who say anything similar to this) will say ‘there’s nothing interesting about me – I’m just a mam.’ I really believe this is because we are institutionalised to believe we are ‘just’ a mother, a wife, a daughter rather than person with their own interests and aspirations. I would love to hear about their passion for decorating, the fact that they went to Iceland once, that they’re a huge fan of Judge Judy or that they’ve just started jogging. That’s something that is theirs’, that is them. But until the media starts referring to women as people in their own right rather than as the property of others, I don’t think they will see themselves as anything more.