Mr. and Mrs. Sexist

Shuffling through some mail at work this morning, I glimpsed an envelope addressed in the archaic format “Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s First and Last Name”, as in, “Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Smith”. I cringed.

I have always wondered where the woman goes when she gets married. Where is the woman in the way that envelope was addressed? The word “Mrs.”, and that’s it? Is there a reason she disappeared just because she got married?

Before I was married, mail arrived addressed to my first and last name. When I was married, more mail arrived addressed mostly to my then-husband, and I was nowhere to be found except that title “Mrs.”, which identified me as married but that was it. No more me. He was important enough to have his name spelled out, but I was reduced to three generic abbreviated letters.

I know this is one of those things (like how I hate being called a “girl” since I’m 34 years old and left the land of puberty many moons ago) that most people will brush off as silly hyper-feminism and wonder why I have to nitpick. I have to ask though, if this isn’t about minimizing the woman, then why isn’t there a 50/50 chance of ever seeing “Ms. and Mr. Sally Smith” instead on those envelopes? Why is it that it is always the woman’s identity that is erased in the way we address mail to a married couple, without a second thought? That is the scariest part of any bias or double standard, when it happens automatically and is not questioned, when it is absorbed as normal and habitual.

I have always believed that asking “Why?” is the most important thing we can do, especially in regards to our own behavior. So…why is mail to a married couple addressed without the woman’s name? And don’t tell me it’s tradition, or custom, or proper. “Because everyone does it” is never an excuse for sexism or any other unacceptable attitude.


About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in address, mail, marriage, sexism. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Mr. and Mrs. Sexist

  1. Amy says:

    I’ve not been a Mrs for 11 years and still can’t get my identity back. I still get called Mrs. X instead or Ms or my name. I can live with it though so long as they leave the sperm donor’s name out of the equation.

  2. furiousBall says:

    honestly i think the taking of a husband’s name is an old tradition that doesn’t make sense any more, i mean do women (or men for that matter) still need to brand their spouse like cattle still?

  3. Smirking Cat says:

    Apparently so. It’s still quite the norm, without much question. Call something a tradition, and people become lemming-like zombies of acceptance.

  4. Sungold says:

    It all goes back to coverture – the complete merging of the woman’s legal identity in her husband’s. It’s a handy little trick, because then we don’t have to worry our pretty little heads about voting, managing property, or even having any legal rights as parents!

    Gee, coverture would have come in handy yesterday – instead of me finishing our tax return, my husband would have had to do it. Ha!

    I kept my name when I got married, precisely because I knew the history too well. Ironically my father, whose name I kept, is the worst offender on the Mrs. Wrongname front. He even writes checks to me using my first name and my husband’s last name. I’m not gonna complain when he sends me money, but I’m waiting for the day when the bank refuses to honor the check.

  5. Smirking Cat says:

    Hi Sungold, your comment reminds me of a quote from The Godfather, when the Godfather says something like “Children and women can be careless, but men can’t afford to be.” Gary likes to pick at me by telling me to “be careless”, and I joke that I can run with scissors and other fun things because of my right to be careless. We joke about it, but that line makes me grit my teeth.

  6. Crys says:

    I’ve thought about that since I have wedding invitations and what not coming up. I’ve definitely decided that I’m including everyone’s name. But I also think that I’m going to make the Dj announce my full name instead of “The new mr and mrs. John Smith”

  7. phairhead says:

    stupid outdated sexist “etiquette”

  8. Tradition and “because it’s the done thing” are lame excuses and justifications for all sorts of things. It used to be tradition for a man to beat his wife too, or discriminate against people on the grounds of race, does that mean we should still do these things? Move on people!

  9. for some reason this just never bothered me… maybe if i were married to someone unlike my hubby it might… but he knows no matter my name, he has no claims on me and better not take me for granted!

  10. Smirking Cat says:

    But women are not given the option, whether this practice bothers them or not, and THAT is what disturbs me most. “Hey, like it or not, this is the way it’s gonna be” and having this type of attitude and practice forced on you even if you voice your preference otherwise (like I did) reinforces the lack of choice women truly have if society has mandated something.

  11. Syn says:

    This is going to fall into “tradition” I think but my opinion of this is when the etiquette rules were made for addressing people, it was done “way back when” when women really didn’t have an identity. Once they left the parents for marriage, they became the “property” of their husband. They did lose their identity in that sense. Changing the rules to reflect society today where women are equal to men would change this but enough women have to raise a stink to do it:)

  12. LilSeed says:

    I’ve never really thought about this issue. I guess it doesn’t bother me to be Mrs., but I can see the issue involved.

    I found your blog through phairhead and just had to visit. Your profile picture looks a lot like our Luigi. He’s such a little stinker and we get the best expressions out of him!

    I’m going to have to use my blogger ID to submit this comment, but I’ve moved my blog to WordPress at

  13. It’s tradition just like a woman gets the kids and half of the guys money during a divorce.

    Go figure.

    -the captain

  14. zombietron says:

    This is a great post and really quite upsetting but I guess the only thing one can do is to stand against tradition (that’s if you want to!).
    But to the point of feeling like it’s petty – that’s something that’s always made me feel strange. I FEEL sexism, but I feel petty for pointing it out, like people are going to say “oh you’re just LOOKING for something to get upset about”.
    So I read this post today that talks about how we’re not looking for things to get upset about. They are there. If they’re there and we are getting hurt by them – and evidently there are a LOT of women that hate this stupid tradition – they shouldn’t exist.
    Have a read:

  15. Jeanene says:

    I'm getting ready to do wedding announcements and came across this convo. This issue has bothered me for years, and I still haven't figured out exactly how to address my invites. I think some wordings just sound awkward (e.g., “Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Jones”). I would welcome anyone's input on how they handled this. Thanks!!

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