A woman is not defined by her husband’s name

Very rarely will you find me commenting on the shenanigans of the House of Commons but this one deserved a full on (hopefully not too ranting) blog post.

I type to you perched on the edge of my sofa, tapping away at my laptop, with the emotion of a cat with hackles raised – and all over a politician’s insult.

Today in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May “became irritated” at heckling from shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, and in response May decided to address Thornberry by her husband’s surname and title, Lady Nugee.

Complaining to the speaker of the house, Thornberry said: “Is it in order for the prime minister to refer to a member of this House not by her own name, but by the name of her husband?

“I have never been a Lady and it will be a great deal more than being married to a Knight of the Realm in order to make me one.”

The prime minister said she would “of course apologise” but noted that “for the last 36 years I have been referred to by my husband’s name.”

Yes, yes, it’s all very trivial and petty, and certainly not deserving of that OTT laugh at the end of the video. But for me, a woman who is of the age where one is expected to be married/cohabiting/thinking of settling down (ugh), it’s absolutely, completely, well and truly NOT OK.

Despite the fact that my partner has a name that few manage to spell correctly, I still get referred to as his Mrs/’missus’/other half and a whole host of terms along these lines. When we do tie the knot, I won’t be taking his surname – because I don’t want to. I like my name, it’s been part of my life, my identity, for nearly 30 years, so why should I change it? It won’t make our marriage any less valid, or our partnership any less equal.

When I told my grandmother that I wouldn’t be changing my name she rolled her eyes, as if I was conducting some grand act of rebellion. Someone else told me that they had had trouble picking up their child at school because they didn’t have the same surname (whether that’s true or not is another story). I’m sticking to my principles but I’m being made to feel a bit like I’m doing the wrong thing, and that I should be making excuses for it.

I understand that perhaps in my grandmother’s, or Theresa May’s, day, doing such a thing as not taking your husband’s name was not something proper young ladies would do. But here we are, in a very different day, and the second female prime minister of Britain is using Thornberry’s name choice – one which causes no offence or other negative consequence – as an insult*.

Regardless of politics here, Thornberry has made a decision to keep her name as such and to refer to her by “Lady Nugee” is, to me, akin to calling the Prime Minister Larry the Cat.



*I am aware of the fact that May’s use of “Lady Nugee” may be an attempt to show that Labour isn’t a working class party…but that wouldn’t have been quite as cathartic for me to write about.

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