Wife is a 4 Letter Word

My friend Adam Copeland is a phenomenal writer.  He recently pondered the limitations in our gender language around marriage on his blog A Wee Blether:

Of my 20/30 something friends who’ve been married for a few years, most have come to use the words “wife” and “husband” without any bother. While it brought them up short early in their marriages, they have become accustomed. For some, they accept “wife” and “husband” as terms that needed a certain rehabilitation for them, but after some time, the job was done…But here I am, going-on five years of marriage and still not comfortable with how to refer to the person to whom I’m married….Maybe I just need to get over it. Maybe, after a few more years, I will.

Language creates culture and affects worldview.  When God is referred to as Him, I feel less divine.  When I am clumped into “you guys” I am reminded that my vagina keeps me outside of the default societal norm.  Wife is another word that makes me wince.  It may have something to do with terms like

  • Trophy Wife
  • Wife Beater
  • Starter Wife

Do a google image search for the word wife and try to tell me that gendered words don’t have power.

The difference in terms husband and wife coupled with systematic gender oppression tends to imply a difference in power, roles and status.  And I hope I never get over it.  Dan and I work to make our relationship a mutual one.  Dan did not change his last name, so why should I?  We made the same promise to each other by using the same words in our vows.  And of course our expression of being each other’s spouse looks as varied as the uniqueness of our spirits, but each time I hear him call me his spouse (rather than wife), I know that he is consciously naming me as his equal.  Every time I use the term spouse (rather than partner), I am reminded that I am called to use my heterosexual privilege to work toward a day when both the church and state recognize all committed love.  Spouse works for me because it make me feel like an equal member in my relationship while reminding me that because I am heterosexual, I have the privilege of being married and having that marriage recognized.

So Adam, you go man!  Here’s to hoping you and I never get over it.