A bee in my bonnet

Right.  I’m annoyed.  This is wedding related.  It’s been brewing a while.

We are being disappeared from history.  An official public record is representing us as the less important sex even now, in 2012.

In England, when you apply to get married and when you write your name in the register, you have to give your father’s name and his occupation.  There is absolutely no mention of your mother, because obviously a) who cares who your mother is and b) How on earth could her occupation could be of any interest to future generations whatsoever?

When I asked the nice man at the registry office why this was (sorry I can’t remember your name, nice man at the registry office) he agreed it was ridiculous but said it would require an act of parliament to change it and it’s a bit faffy for such a small piece of legislation (I paraphrase).  More sensibly, on the Civil Partnership certificate people do put their mothers’ details, he said.  It’ll be interesting, said he, in about twenty year’s time, since now two women are entitled to register themselves as a child’s parents and their children will start getting married around then.

There are loads of arguments for recording your mother’s details on your marriage certificate.

Let’s put to one side (and people do love to) the fact that she carried you in her womb for nine months, went through the agony of childbirth and probably spent at least three months sleepless to make sure you survived past infancy.

Quite simply, it’s sexually discriminatory not to have them there.  Fathers should not be officially more relevant than mothers.  It’s symbolic of our opinions as a society.

The truth is, women have jobs these days.  They are doctors, teachers, midwives, middle managers, call-centre workers, management consultants, cleaners and some are even allowed to be politicians and one or two run countries.  Your mother’s job might well be more interesting and historically relevant than your father’s.  Maybe she had one profession at the time of your birth (which you’re magnanimously allowed to record) and another at the time of your marriage.  These things are relevant.  Our descendants might actually be interested in this stuff and might – gasp! – want to follow their family history through the female line.

I find the traditions of English Christian weddings a bit tricky already.  Conventions like being given away by your father, the women at the wedding being mute, and having bridesmaids present to fend off the devil seem a bit archaic to me.  But you could at least argue that they’re nice old folksy things that we don’t want to lose because we don’t want to forget our cultural traditions.

I cannot see a single argument why the official government document that records a major event in a family’s history should disregard mothers, motherhood and, let’s face it, women.  Basically, women are being left out of history because nobody can be arsed to change the law.

So I’m on a mission.  Anyone with me?

Recently I saw this petition started by someone with, I hope, more sticking power than me. Please sign it.

Typically, I lost impetus and my epetition is now closed.

I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren to know I existed.  And I want yours to know you did, too.


About vickola

Bad housewife.
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14 Responses to A bee in my bonnet

  1. Zoe says:

    Done xx

  2. I agree completely…… We are living in a very different world now. For example I am the provider in my partnership, I own the house we live in…… It would appear in traditional terms that i am the man, and I would definitley liked to be remembered in history and not forgotten I’ve put alot if effort into this life!! Then again trying to get my Duffy up the isle is proving challenging. Ha….. Here here I say x

  3. It's Just Ria says:

    Ugh! e-petition, totes signed. 🙂 Excellent work!

  4. Julie Howell says:

    Hi Vicky, It is well worth contacing the geneaologists who successfully lobbied for a change in access to the 1911 census data as what you’re hoping to achieve here is a very similar in some ways (and getting advice and support from people who have successfully challenged laws in the past is always helpful!). I used to be a policy officer for a large charity and have some experience in lobbying for changes to the law (I’m a disability rights campaigner). Getting powerful allies and presenting compelling, water-tight arugments for the change (particularly if there are potential counter-arguments, e.g. that making the desired change might be prohibitively costly or that the information is already freely available via the census) is a really effective approach. Also, get your local MP involved… your local press…. and have a look at what the folk at Equal Love have done as their campaign has some comparisons and they have been very successful in getting media attention (which is important for any campaign). Also, there may be a Freedom of Information Act angle if not a Human Rights Act one. If you know someone who knows about the law they may be able to advise you on this. Also try the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. I have done a considerable amount of work with CEHR in the past to further the rights of disabled people. I’m wary (cynical) of these petitions as getting issues heard doesn’t necessarily lead to getting issues addressed with the outcomes that you desire, so encourage a fully-engaged approach if you have the time/energy. Good luck!

    • vickola says:

      Very welcome advice – thank you. I had planned to contact my MP but contacting the genealogists is a great idea. And water-tightening my arguments (gulp)…

      • Julie Howell says:

        Go for it. FWIW I think the points you make are perfectly reasonable and valid. It is hard to change things like the law and government policy but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying (as Doreen Lawrence has shown by brilliant example this week).

        Campaigning and lobbying (which is what you’re essentially describing) is about being unambiguous about what you want, awareness of the context/history (has anyone tried to address this in the past and if so, what happened), making the right contacts, knowing what you’re up against and, most importantly, being absolutely relentless in the pursuit of your goal (oh, I make it sound so easy and fun!).

        If you have the desire to see a change then you have the power to make it happen IMHO.

        I’m just a casual passer by, but if you do pursue this and want to drop me a line if you think I can help, you’re welcome to – always happy to share what I know. My contact details are on my website http://www.juliehowellpr.com

        Best, Julie

  5. Signed! Great idea for a petition, thank god for people like you campaigning for such important changes. I had no idea until I read your post.

  6. ElodieMelody says:

    Sorry, I can’t sign the petition because I’m not UK resident. I intended to though, because I support your cause. I hope it changes. And I enjoy seeing you get political about things that matter to you.

  7. Rob Richter says:

    I cannot think of a single reason not to support this… signed.

  8. Tara says:

    Oh, I was going to sign the petition but Canadians aren’t allowed 🙂

  9. Tara says:

    And that was supposed to be a sad face, not a smiley one…

  10. Simon says:

    Signified and tweeterised.

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