This is our truth, tell us yours
Come on people, this is urgent. It must be. Caroline whatsherface says so….
I know, I shouldn’t mock, but it’s hard not to. Caroline Criado-Perez has noticed that marriage certificates aren’t representative of all the people who might be interested in the wedding, and she’s spotted that someone else has started a campaign. That someone else not being a New Statesman journo means Caroline feels it’s her duty to set herself at the head of the campaign, and she’s off and running.
Remember dear reader, our rule that the plural of anecdote is not data. However, if you’re tracking the practice of a political activist it is more than reasonable to look at their behaviour and seek out patterns.
Banknotes feminism was a curious moment in time that said, bluntly, that irrespective of the fact that women get paid less than men, and have less secure work than men, and less representation and power in the workplace, what matters is whose face appears on banknotes.
Now we have Caroline endorsing the idea that what matters about marriage is not forced marriage, or unbalanced power relationships in the divorce process, or domestic violence, but whose names are on the marriage certificate.
I will let you into a secret dear reader. I was once married. It was not, by any standards, a conventional marriage. Conventional wisdom has it, I’m told, that the marriage is effectively over if you have sex with your wife’s best mate. Since both myself and my wife had sex with her best mate on our wedding night, and managed to stay wed for some time longer, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t a conventional marriage. However, having said that it’s safe to say that in some other aspects it was an average marriage; one of its features was that, when we came to get divorced, neither of us knew where the marriage certificate was. The other keepsakes of the day – the photos, the ribbons, her frock, my jacket, her best friend’s white lace strap on harness, all of those were accounted for, but the certificate vanished into the mists of time. We had to arrange fora replacement to enable the divorce process. I remember the jokey, good humoured registrar who told me that we were far from unique, and that her office would often be a battle ground as soon to be divorced couples argued about who would pay the fee for the replacement paperwork.
CC-P’s practice is nothing short of excellent. It’s a crowded marketplace out there for women who aspire to be political faces, known for their opinions and their activism. It’s not easy getting yourself on Radio 4’s radar, or getting yourself promoted as a talking head who can one day step up to the big league of the Newsnight review of the week or a regular CiF slot. Caroline doesn’t appear to fancy, either, the hard graft of working in a trade union or a party political environment, and, to be honest you can see her point of view. There are formidable activists out there like Frances O’Grady and Heather Wakefield who’ve pretty much got the ‘getting to be a national political figure by actually campaigning on things that change women workers lives like equal pay’ market sewn up. Given that CC-P either doesn’t sympathize with such campaigns, or doesn’t fancy being a follower rather than a leader, you can sense her dilemma.
CC-Ps trademark is the capture of the incidents of the periphery, the small scale symbolic issues that don’t change much, and which government can actually change really easily. Better still, they’re issues that aren’t structural as such; inheritance rules will not change if Caroline gets her way and her mother’s name appears on a marriage certificate. Not a single forced marriage will be prevented by it, and there won’t be celebration parties in the domestic violence co-ordinator’s office. All that will happen is that the stationers will phase in some new paperwork, and the registrars will change their scripts, and marriage as an institution will totter on its way, an old institution being re-invented by conspicuous consumption as a status event.
I’ll save for another day the much longer blog about naming conventions, and the way in which we could all, if we chose,change our names to reflect who we are, not just the naming conventions of registrars and priests. On that glorious day, I will rush to the barricades clutching my name change deed stating that I am to be called, thenceforth, Carter The Blogger, and I will force my bank to change my debit card and the Borders Agency to change my passport, and, like Elton Hercules John, who managed to get the name of Steptoe and Sons horse on both his marriage certificates, but not his mother’s, I’ll find the world hasn’t changed one iota just because I’ve changed the label applied to me.