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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Oh to be a Politician's Wife

Oh to be a Politician's Wife

The press acknowledges limited possibilities for women - an article about the wife of Britain's new prime minister titled: "Mrs C. Happy to live in No. 10" (Evening Post 6/4/76) stressed Mrs Callaghan's pleasure at the "challenge of a new home". Apparently "she has made striking changes to the decor of her husband's present official residence."

Rather further into the article it is admitted that "she takes a keen interest in children's welfare and until 1970 was an alderman of the Greater London Council". The "Post", however, was less interested in expatiating these facts than the nature of her renovations to No. 10's decor.

To continue the theme, on the same page is a picture of "Miss Marjorie and Mrs Mary Wilson stepping out for a walk in Downing Street, from where they will soon take their leave." The caption goes on to describe Marjorie Wilson's bonds to the house while "Mrs Wilson has always made it clear that she prefers the cosy domesticity of her own home."

As well as presenting a limited perspective, this treatment of "the women attached to the men in politics" typifies the Press's perception of women as appendages to men. In an item a about a New Zealand woman jockey invited to ride in international races in Brazil (Evening Post 6/4/76), the press does not fail to observe that Mrs Jones's husband, A.L. Jones, trains at Cambridge.

This contrasts with the treatment of the politicians' wives - the women associated with a "successful" man are selfom mentioned except in theri ascribed capacity of domestic help, their greater or lesser ability as homebodies. (Or in the case of young women - Margaret Trudeau, Nancy Kissinger - their sex appeal or lack thereof).

Headlines such as "Mother Dies, Husband, Children Hurt" (Evening Post 8/3/76), "Gail needs help, missing wife's parents say" (Dominion 23/3/76) are clear evidence that the press seldom perceives women apart from their relation to others - they are never acknowledged as people in theri own right, with their own independent activities.