Everyone has experienced the bone-tiredness of those “little things” you deal with, over and over, that aren’t really little at all.
Someone mispronounces your name, for example, even after being corrected several times. You correct them, again. They give a little laugh and toss out a whatever. You know they’re not going to say it correctly the next time. They simply don’t care—don’t respect you enough—to get it right, or they are doing it on purpose, because their hearts are two sizes too small.
People generally just keep moving. But they sting, these jabs, and they do mean something.
That’s why the list of 2015’s Most Interesting Houstonians published in the Houston Chronicle on December 24th should have been edited more professionally, and why an apology is due. See if you can spot the slight:
Apart from the lack of boldface type, which seems to be a pretty common error in the online version of the paper, Kathy Hubbard is the only wife referred to as a spouse.
The Mayor spoke up, as she is wont to do, via Twitter:
Dear @HoustonChron: Kathy and I have been married for almost 2 years. She is my wife. The term 'wife' is legal, accurate and appropriate!-A
— Annise Parker (@AnniseParker) December 27, 2015
The terminology matters for several reasons. First, Parker regularly refers to Hubbard as her wife. It is clearly their preferred terminology.
Second, there are plenty of people who do not believe that Parker and Hubbard should have the legal right to use that term to refer to each other. Those people have been decisively overruled by the Supreme Court, so the paper needn’t defer to their misguided sensibilities.
Third, shouldn’t there be an editorial policy about this? Or, at least, editorial consistency? If the article had called Mindy and Jeff, Phillip and Lori, or Dr. Khan spouses, then calling Kathy a spouse would have made sense. Instead, we got a linguistic game of one of these things is not like the other, and given the year Houston has had, it feels particularly pointed.
As the prime minister of a certain northern neighbor might say, it’s 2015. It is time to start getting this right every time, intentionally and respectfully.
Mayor Parker, I’m sorry you have to keep pointing this out to people.
Texas, let’s get it together. It’s about to be 2016.