She’s Not His Wife, He’s Her Husband

This week, Huffington Post’s teen blog published a post called “10 Candidates all Students Should Support.” Christie Vilsack, who is running for congress in Iowa, was introduced on that list as, “Wife to United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.”

Being that this was a teen blog, I’m sure the sexist implications probably didn’t occur to the author Nick Mitch.

But to explain (because it seems even adults often miss the nuance) writing that Christie Vilsack is the “wife to,” Tom Vilsack instead of writing, “Christie Vilsack’s husband is Tom Vilsack” makes it sound like the article is more about Tom Vilsack than it is about Christie Vilsack.

In many races a candidate’s spouse is a relevant piece of information. Tom Vilsack was the former governor of Iowa, it’s perfectly appropriate to mention him. But writers can talk about candidates' spouses without making it sound like they are owned by their partners. (Alternative text substitution number two: “Christie Vilsack’s spouse is Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa.”)

As we mentioned before, it’s not like teen bloggers are the only ones to miss this distinction. The same thing happening to Linda McMahon a couple of months ago.

By introducing a female politician as her husband’s wife, the media is implying that her spouse is more important than she is. It’s a perfect example of sexism that is probably not intentional, but carries a subtle message.

Published by Leigh Ann Renzulli on 04/05/2012

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