I have before me a series of political news magazines collected over recent weeks. The obituaries page is not one I usually turn to first, but having read two obituaries from one of the magazines, and scanned the others for similarities, I see a theme emerging, a consistent grammatical error; namely, putting a full stop where a woman should be.
Example: ‘X was born in Wiltshire in 1943, the son of an RAF pilot.’ ‘Y was born in Reading in 1917, son of an engineer.’ Really? Only one parent?? That full stop, it really bothers me! I’m guessing the mothers in question didn’t have careers of any journalistic interest, or not to the journalists who penned the obituaries. But I’m a reader and I’m interested. In fact, the perceived lack of career is itself interesting, and worth at least a brief mention, lest we forget that the careers and achievements of billions of men are built on the child-raising, house-keeping, self-sacrificing service of wives, mothers, and other women.
So what if ‘housewife’ sounds boring. It often is. At the very least then the sentence should read, ‘X was born in Wiltshire, the son of an RAF pilot and a woman who spent 18 hours in agonising labour to bring him forth, before devoting the best years of her life to raise him.’ Even in a worst case scenario where mum abandoned the family, or her life went off the rails, or worse, she remained a housewife, she is still a crucial part of this newsworthy deceased person’s story. For the fact remains that the woman is always present at the birth of her child; the same is not true of fathers.
Since most obituaries are dedicated to men, is it not basic politeness to honour the women who gave them birth? It takes the patience of a saint and nerves of steel to raise a family and do it well. If you don’t like the word ‘housewife,’ make a new word. The Bible describes Jesus as son of God, ‘born of a woman’ (Gal. 4:4). That’s a two thousand year old biography and this is 2015. It’s time to fill in the blank.