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I Cancelled ‘Wife Of…’ In The Form & Filled In My Mother’s Name. What Happened Next Infuriated Me!

As I wrote 'daughter of...' and filled my mother's name, the manager began laughing and called me crazy. He added a 'Mr.' in front of her name. Why don't official forms have the option of putting a mother's name?

As I wrote ‘daughter of…’ and filled my mother’s name, the manager began laughing and called me crazy. He added a ‘Mr.’ in front of her name. Why don’t official forms have the option of putting a mother’s name? 

My husband and I were looking for houses to rent recently. What transpired in the course of filling a simple official form made me feel offended & insulted.

Why do we still follow sexist traditions of using ‘wife of’ and putting father’s name for the ‘daughter Of…’ field in official forms?

 

I cancelled ‘Wife Of…’ & put ‘Daughter Of…’ filling in my mother’s name! 

My husband and I were looking for houses to rent recently. We came across an apartment which seemed suitable. The owners of the flat, a couple in their mid-forties or so greeted us. We agreed upon the deal specifics.

We reached the rental office the next day that was ‘chaired’ by a man in his mid-thirties. He gave us a form to fill which needed details. He was the manager there. Out of the owners, the man had come alone for the paperwork and his wife wasn’t there this time around.

My spouse and I took to proofreading on his laptop when he showed the agreement draft. The first thing I noticed was:

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<my name> W/O <my husband’s name>, <my age> and <my husband’s name>, S/O, Mr. <his father’s name>…, <age>….

It wasn’t a big issue. We see this format all the time. I just removed W/O and put D/O and put my mother’s name in the field. My husband was okay with his name/format spellings etc.

 

The company dared to add ‘Mr’ to my mother’s name

The owner checked the draft and casually enquired why I removed W/O after my name. I wondered, why no one questions when a W/O is written or when a H/O isn’t written, for instance. For a clearer perspective, you may compare the number of times you have come across a ‘H/o’ section with the number of times you’ve encountered a ‘W/o’ section.

When I saw the printed copy, I was a bit offended to see some edits.

And it was not an error or an oversight. I asked the manager if he added a “Mr” in front of my mother’s name to which he answered affirmatively.

I then asked, why he assumed I would be mentioning my father’s name in the D/O field and that it could not be my mother’s name i.e a Ms./Mrs/Miss in salutation instead of the omnipresent ‘Mr.’?

He had changed the prefix of my mother’s name as Mr. (D/O Mr. <… >). If he had doubts about the name or an apt prefix, he could have confirmed before editing. He had no answer, of course.

Why would a format be so popular if it makes women invisible?

As soon as the owner saw the argument brewing, he sided with the manager and said, “Rights and equality aside, this is how it usually is. It is a format they need to adhere to.” I was offended for the 2nd time, now.

I thought, why would a format be so popular if it makes women invisible. Why does everyone assume that we put the father’s name after a D/O or a S/O field in such forms?

Again, we wanted the apartment and I did not want to piss anyone off with my lectures on what the Supreme Court has issued or what is logical, rational, and so on. I just said, ‘okay’ and started reading the other terms and conditions in the rental agreement.

The manager laughed and called me crazy! 

Just then, the manager started laughing and saying (in his local language which I understood in bits and pieces) that he has never seen a mother’s name on forms and that I was crazy, wasting everyone’s time.

Even thinking of putting my mother’s name as a possibility made me look mad, it seems.

My spouse intervened and asked the manager what he found so funny. With some courage and despite the risk of losing the apartment/deal or making this process an unpleasant experience for all, I stood up.

The owner asked me to take it easy. When I said, “I do not find this manager or rental office professional,” the owner replied, “He hasn’t used any bad words or abusive language.”

Hat-trick. I was offended for the 3rd time in just about 15 minutes…

Well, one doesn’t have to use a swear word to be abusive, sir. Displays of sexism and misogyny are abusive and humiliating too.

Why do we take the W/O and S/O Mr…. as the norm? I understand, it is common but is it normal? Do I need to be laughed at if I point out the issue in this rigidity or assumption?

When I told my parents, they said, “You shouldn’t have wasted time on that. You should have got the house and relaxed”. Some of my friends felt that it wouldn’t change anything and we perhaps made a big deal out of a small issue. It shouldn’t have mattered so much, they felt.

Yes, I could have easily complied even if that was in a way insulting my mother’s identity and being, or for that matter even if it was insulting to any woman or human including me. But I chose not to be silent at this humiliation.

My daughter would love to fill my name in official forms. Should she not have that option?

Usually, male pre-eminence in names is just taken as the norm. Norway is an exception where most women keep their name as a secondary, middle, surname to preserve their own identity.

Indian women have the right to give their name to children without any prejudice or shame. In February 1999, the Supreme Court of India said that both the mother and father of a child would be deemed equals and natural guardians of their minor child under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act of 1956.

However, due to lack of awareness, most legal documents or forms continue to only allow for the father’s name and take the obsolete way as the only format that can exist.

Considering the role that the mother plays in the child’s life, why can’t the option of using the mother’s name also be present? My daughter would love to fill in my name. Should she not have that option? Why are we practicing gender discrimination? What makes the father more special?

Not just on documentation, but even on the nameplates outside homes, seldom do I see a woman’s name engraved. It is usually the man’s surname or name on them. Why are women okay with it? Why is anyone okay with it? It baffles me!

 

My speaking up may not change them, but it mattered to me! 

Well, we didn’t go ahead with the apartment due to that manager’s lofty display of sexism. It was a deal-breaker. I don’t regret my decision one bit. I am glad I spoke up.

I know, it wouldn’t change the way they operate or think, not immediately, perhaps. But, I am glad I refused my mother to be deemed invisible and inconsequential. I displayed that it was important. I am her daughter and I have all the right to pen down her name in the form if I want to. I don’t need to be laughed at for it.

Women need to question such prejudices often even if they seem trivial. If we don’t question, don’t get angry at such displays of nonsense, do not acknowledge our worth and importance in paper and being, why would others care?

I hope and wish that my niece or nephew don’t have to fight this battle or face such biases when they start filling out forms or signing agreements. And that matters, at least to me.

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”-Leonardo da Vinci

Image source: A still from Mom

(A version of this post has earlier appeared here)

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About the Author

GK

I love to observe and pen down my learnings in the form of poetry and prose. A thinker who upholds the spirit of equalism. read more...

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