I just about choked on my dinner last night when I finally got around to reading The Sunday Age and saw a picture of a couple waiting outside Mamasita in Collins Street – the woman on the left, the man on the right. And underneath, the following caption:
Nic Stewart and his wife, Alanna, join the queue waiting for a table at Mamasita restaurant, which has a no-bookings policy.
Is it just me that sees something wrong with that caption? Neither Alanna nor Nic are quoted in the article, so neither deserves preference in naming in the photo. Alanna is on the left, so therefore I would expect convention to dictate that she would be mentioned first. But no, Nic is mentioned first, followed by Alanna, who is not even described by her full name but rather described in relation to him. I don’t know whether or not she would be bothered by this, but if it was me, I would be incredibly offended. I’m offended anyway, not necessarily on her behalf but because I fail to see why the man in this photo deserves naming preference over the woman.
I know that both ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ are still in use with no such distinction required for men, but the widespread use of ‘Ms’ gave me the impression that Australian society had largely moved beyond identifying women in relation to the men around them. I try not to pay too much attention to numerous newspaper articles that mention a couple and quote only the male partner, hoping that there is some reason behind the journalist’s choice. But in this case, the complete lack of justification for naming the couple in the order shown proves that we are not as progressive as I had hoped.
Perhaps the caption is a mistake and nothing was meant by it, or perhaps this happens all the time and I haven’t noticed. Either way, it’s innappropriate, and the meaning is there whether the subeditor intended it or not. If language really is power, then we women have an awfully long way to go.