Written by Cath Janes

In The News

A wife by any other name

When Miriam González Durántez was addressed as Mrs Clegg on International Women’s Day, Mrs Cath Janes’ lid naturally flipped.

Miriam González Durántez, often wrongly referred to as ‘Mrs Clegg’. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Perhaps I should be thankful for the news about high-profile lawyer Miriam González Durántez. I mean, it’s briefly taken my mind off that rotting thundercunt of a satsuma across the pond.

You see, last week González Durántez was invited to speak at an International Women’s Day event. The problem was that her invite called her Mrs Clegg, the name of her politician husband. MDG called it “ironic”. I call it “about fucking time married women started a revolution”. Here’s why.

When I got married to a Mr Martin Veale in 2007 I kept my own name of Cathryn Janes. At the end of the wedding ceremony our registrar announced to our guests that we were now to be referred to as Mr Veale and Mrs Janes.

When Kraken Junior came along exactly nine months later (yes, the honeymoon was eventful) she was duly called Janes-Veale. Now from where I stand this name combo is straightforward enough. The problem is that for everyone else who addresses us it’s right up there with the Theory of Relativity.

Take the last batch of Christmas cards we received. As every one of them arrived Mr V and I would gawp at the name combos addressed to us. It was like Scrabble-based interactive art where everyone secretly got together to see how many variations they could make of our surnames.

Some people just played it safe altogether and addressed us by our forenames. Out of the dozens of cards we received I was called Mrs Cath Janes on just a couple of them. When it happened it was like being found at the bottom of a well by someone with a flashlight, such was the ability of the mis-addressed envelopes to make me feel invisible.

Now, in the year following our marriage I cut people slack when they didn’t know how to address me. In the second year I was slightly less understanding. The third year, a pinch irritated. Now, a decade on, I’m just pissing shards of glass in undiluted fury. While I love my friends and family (many of whom will be reading this) I’m very close to creeping into their bedrooms and smothering them with a pillow.

“It doesn’t matter how often I correct people, they still choose to call me by someone else’s name because THEY think it’s right and proper, even when they know this will send me into an early grave.”

You see, this stuff isn’t hard. I’m a committed feminist, vocal on social media and with an account that has my name scrawled all over it. People communicate with me over said accounts and see my name every single day, yet when they pick up pens and address actual envelopes to me they become possessed by Charles Boyer’s character from Gaslight.

Some ghost-botherers use planchettes to allow spirits to communicate by writing. That’s how I assume things work when someone writes to me. There people are, pen in hand, about to correctly write ‘Mrs Janes’, when a force renders them useless as they watch the words Mrs Veale/ Veale-Janes/Janes-Veale flow unbidden from the nib. It’s as if societal pressure has taken control of their otherwise considerable intellect, making them conduits of cackling patriarchal demands.

Worse is the fact that I feel I’m being deliberately sacrificed on the altar of how others think I should act. It doesn’t matter how often I correct people, they still choose to call me by someone else’s name because THEY think it’s right and proper, even when they know this will send me into an early grave.

old letters and pen
You know how women are told they are being silly or hormonal when they report a boss for groping or decide to not have children? Well it seems to me that we’re also considered silly or hormonal when we keep our names. My strong personality, determination, intellect and social actions are largely accepted as not-to-be-fucked-with, yet they are also selectively ignored when I ask people to call me Janes rather than Veale.

And as for the idea that it’s ‘just’ a name? Excuse me while I holler “Bollocks!” Not least because people who say that also insist that women be named after their menfolk. So it’s not ‘just’ a name after all, is it? It’s ‘just’ a woman’s name and that, as we all know, is far more unimportant and disposable.

Look, I’m sure there are plenty of women who take on their husbands’ surnames. I’m just not one of them. As much as I can’t imagine ever being married to anyone other than Mr Veale I also cannot imagine ever being anyone other than Mrs Janes.

That’s why I feel Miriam González Durántez’s pain. If someone with such a high professional profile finds herself addressed as Mrs Clegg, that means the rest of us have an even bigger challenge on our hands. Swap my name if you like but also know that you’re doing it at your own peril.

@KrakenKreations

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Written by Cath Janes

Cath Janes is the brains and stabbed fingers behind Kraken Kreations, which sells shouty, hand-sewn home decor and accessories for modern women. She also sews feminist and anatomical embroidery, dances in her sewing shed and once had a snapped sewing machine needle embedded in her right tit.