I really dislike having to check the letterbox. In part because there’s hardly ever anything particularly exciting in there, but mostly because we live in a part of the Gold Coast that appears to be Ant Party Town – my letterbox is an actual ant nest. Passing motorists must get a good chuckle watching me reach in, rip all the letters out, then begin flinging them to the ground while undertaking a bizarre hip-hop-inspired routine as I shake the little blighters off my hands and feet!
However the other day, as I cleared away the stray ants that dared to cling to the hastily-retrieved mail, I came across a rather surprising letter. Regular, run-of-the-mill correspondence, what caught my eye was the salutation:
Mr & Mrs M. Geale
Oh yep, they went there. No “J .Geale” in sight, only my husband’s first name warranted a mention. While I wouldn’t say I was offended, I was a bit surprised that this is still a thing!
In their defence, the group that sent us this letter probably send correspondence to people of all ages, including a hefty percentage of those from senior generations for whom this type of salutation is simply the polite, formal way to address a married couple. But really, isn’t this a relatively outdated way of addressing a couple? Simply tacking an “& Mrs” in there to signify that there is a woman in the house seems more than a little old fashioned.
Sure, I took Michael’s surname when we got married. I had no qualms with this and did it for personal and social reasons. However electing to change my name to be, in part, the same as my husband’s name does not reduce me to a mere afterthought when it comes to referencing our family. Believe it or not, a wife remains a standalone entity – in this case, a “J Geale” – worthy of having her own full name used!
To date, I’ve had very few negative experiences as a result of my gender (perhaps in a future blog I’ll recount the “you did well… for a woman” story). If the gravest ‘injustice’ I suffer is to have my identity distorted in the addressee section of a letter, than I’ll survive. However I think it’s always worth calling out and questioning anything that only serves to reinforce inequality, or else the underlying attitudes never really change.