06 September 2009

The Civil Servant's Daughter

I'm no feminist. I mean, I believe in equality, yes. I want to get paid the same amount as a guy would for doing the same job, and I like voting. And the few times I faced real sexism I felt enraged and belittled at the same time. But I also like having the door held for me, and getting free dinners, so I don't know what that makes me. Much like all my other beliefs, it probably makes me a hypocrite. I'm complex. Deal with it.

I had a point, and it's that I'm uncomfortable with all these book titles that imply women can be defined by the men in their lives:

The Piano Man's Daughter
The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Zookeeper's Wife
The Time Traveller's Wife
Ahab's Wife

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. A quick search of Amazon brings up:

The Imposter's Daughter
The King's Daughter
The Pilot's Wife
Shakespeare's Wife
The Doctor's Wife
The Senator's Wife
The Witch Doctor's Wife

It bothers me how these women are defined wholly by the occupation of the men in their lives. I would never describe myself as the Civil Servant's Daughter. My father's occupation is not somehow a descriptor of my life. I understand that the men in their lives can influence them, but (for example) the Memory Keeper's Daughter would have been the same person whether her father was a photographer ("memory keeper") or not. And, Ahab's wife would have been just as head strong had she never met Ahab. I mean, what the men do are not who the women are and it bothers me. The implication is like the Queen is the Queen, and that's cool and all, but she'll never really be more than the King's Wife.

It bothers me in the same way that bird nomenclature bothers me. We name birds after the male colouration, and the poor girl birds have to live the absurdity of being called the brilliant blue-throated warbler or whatever and they're just brown. Seems wrong, somehow, doesn't it?

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