Update: The Plight Of The Married Woman Still Pretty Much A Plight

[Ed. note: Last week we reposted a piece by Nan about her frustration with the North Texas PBS affiliate, KERA, which thanked her for her donation by, well, erasing her by privileging her husband’s name over her own. They blamed it on the computer database. Today she sends this update.]

Weeks after I sent my email to KERA complaining of the Mr. and Mrs. situation, but a mere day after Hay Ladies posted my rant about said situation, KERA responded to me. Here, in part, is what they said:

While we totally understand your desires to keep a separate account, our database (as most all databases do) goes into cost saving mode and merges accounts when certain criteria like last name, address and city or phone numbers and e-mails match.  The reason for this is one I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it cuts down on the amount of mail that this station would have to send out thereby saving money on materials and postage by cutting down on the number of duplicate files that are created in the database.  Being a not for profit organization, it’s a measure that makes us better stewards of the money that you invest in Public Broadcasting.  Additionally, databases also live in the old tradition of addressing couples as Mr. and Mrs.

They also offered to fix the situation for me in a variety of ways, and I chose one. Case closed.

Now, I’ve handled databases before, and typically, a human person has to put the information in. And that human person is usually given a few options. I mean, unless KERA has some really fancy database that just automatically enters all the info from contributions into the system and simultaneously has never been programmed to handle various issues (like the lady was listed as the primary name on the donation, or heck, maybe the Kirkpatricks that both live at our address are brother and sister), then I fail to see how this is all the databases fault. When I worked in non-profit, our database addressed one of our vice presidents as “Mr. and Mrs. {HER FIRST NAME} {LAST NAME}” Why? Because we told it to.

Here is the deal, people. I don’t think KERA is evil because of how their initial correspondence with me was addressed. I think they were being complacent. They simply took the easiest route. And I’m sure they rarely get emails like mine, but that’s why I sent it. This type of thing might not seem like a big deal to many people — for many, it seems like the fluffier, more frivolous side of feminism. But as someone who studied a bit of linguistics in college and majored in English, I believe that words have power. Sociological power. The words we choose to describe things are not the things themselves, but they shape how we think about those things. And while I took my husband’s last name for a number of reasons that are personal and are not the point, I am more than just a “Mrs.”

I’m a person who gave more than three times what her husband did to KERA. And they’re welcome.

About nanarchist

Nan is a writer living and working in Dallas, Texas, and she hates writing autobios.
This entry was posted in Dallas, feminism, marriage, media, money. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Update: The Plight Of The Married Woman Still Pretty Much A Plight

  1. Raenell says:

    KERA is a HUGE pita about changing things, and their “cut down on the amount of mail” comment is lame at best and ignorant at worst. My mother was a staunch supporter of KERA for many years, and she donated every time they had their “Annual” pledge drive (which, by the way, happens several times a year, so I’m not clear on how it’s an ANNUAL, rather than semi-annual, or quarterly, but whatever). In July, 2002, she pledged her usual amount (I don’t even remember what level it was, but it was above the “free British Comedy mug” level). At the end of July, she had a medical episode related to her vascular disease and was rendered unconscious for several weeks. During that time, the bill arrived, and as her caretaker, having invoked Power of Attorney as she’d set forth years earlier for just such emergencies, I contacted KERA and provided them with the required documentation, and asked that her pledge be canceled since she was in hospice care, and even in the event of a recovery, her medical expenses would necessitate elimination of all extra bills. I was told that they would cancel the pledge, with their thanks for her previous support. In September of that year, she died. For a year, I got monthly demands from them for the pledged amount. I also got begging letters for additional pledges. I returned the first few, marked DECEASED, RETURN TO SENDER. Then I started adding REMOVE FROM MAILING LIST, SHE IS DEAD YOU MORONS. I even went so far as to return as much junk as possible in their envelope with no postage (forcing them to go pay the postage to pick it up), along with a note to remove her name because she was dead. Over a year later, after I had moved to a new address, having sold her house 15 months after her death, I started getting letters from them for her, AT THE NEW ADDRESS, which I didn’t have until after she died. I sent letter after letter, emails, certified letters. NOTHING worked. Finally, a family member, who works for the local office of one of the largest law firms in the world, wrote a letter to them, including a copy of the death certificate, and the final notice of execution of the will from the county clerk’s office, telling them that their continued refusal to remove her from their mailing list and repeated efforts to collect on a pledge that had been canceled amounted to harassment and was causing emotional distress to her only surviving child, and to cease and desist IMMEDIATELY. That finally got her off the mailing list, but it took over 2 years, and a letter from a law firm (albeit NOT a lawyer) to stop it.

  2. Sarah says:

    My university had this same problem, and is slowly but surely trying to do something about it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/244886478910745/

  3. A says:

    I LOVE THIS BLOG!!!!!!!!!!! I just found it through reading this article http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/45137510/ns/today-today_health/#.TrKdtrLDVfG

    I kept my name when I got married. I fly through the roof every time we get something in the mail adressed to Mr. and Mrs. His Last Name. Few people have a hard time understanding why this enrages me so much. It’s nice to know other people out there get it, like really truly get it. I will be a subscriber to this blog and regular reader. Keep fighting the good fight!

  4. Rachel B says:

    As a nonprofit professional (who is currently supervising a database clean up) I can tell you data is only as good as the people who enter it and the rules that are enforced around inputting that data. I know a lot of agencies are moving towards simply using the couple’s first names (e.g. “Nancy and Tim Brown” or “Nancy Smith and Tim Brown”). This allows some level of autonomy, especially if the wife has decided to keep her own last name. While this doesn’t solve issues regarding which spouse actually made the gift it does eliminate the inherent patriarchy of “Mr. and Mrs. Tim Brown”.

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