‘Unlike Hillary Clinton, I have never wanted to be someone’s wife’

After writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grilled the former US presidential candidate about why the first word on her Twitter bio is ‘wife’, Clinton said she would think about changing it. Why do women still let their domestic roles define them?

Hillary Clinton: “Wife, mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, Flotus, senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate.” To be clear, this is not how Wide Awoke would describe Clinton. It’s her own Twitter biography and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – writer, Nigerian, feminist, woman … screw it, let’s just go with writer, like Martin Amis does – is not happy that the first woman in history to have had a shot at the US top job is leading with “wife”.

“I have to confess that I felt just a little bit upset,” Adichie admitted during an interview with Clinton at the PEN World Voices festival. “And then I looked at your husband’s Twitter account, and the first word was not ‘husband’.” Of course, it wasn’t. His bio is: “Founder, Clinton Foundation and 42nd president of the United States.” Because that’s who he is and how he is valued. We live in a world where presidents are men and their wives are first ladies: a job so inherently sexist it demands the women – sorry, ladies – who acquire it to abandon professions and opinions of their own in order to further their husbands’ careers.

There is nothing wrong with being a wife or mother. Some of the greatest joys of being alive come from your relationships, with partners and children as opposed to, you know, acing it at an appraisal. But I have never wanted to be anyone’s wife. I am civilly partnered to a woman, and the mother of two children. Neither my partner nor I would dream of calling each other “wife” any more than we would call each other “husband” (to be fair, I can’t stand that word). These roles define my life but they don’t define me. I don’t mind belonging to other people (as long as they belong to me too), but I don’t want it to constitute my identity or worth.

Describing women as “wives” and “mothers” is often used as lazy, misogynistic shorthand to diminish their other achievements. Who can forget when the Associated Press referred to Amal Clooney as an “actor’s wife” instead of a world-class human rights lawyer? Consider how often the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, is called upon to provide a running commentary on her uterus. And notice, always, the double standard: while society insists on reducing women to their domestic roles, how little are we genuinely valued in the daily performing of them?

Chitra Ramaswamy

The GuardianTramp

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