Monday, October 25, 2010
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
I know writers across the centuries have suffered many indignities - denigrated, banned, ignored, committed to asylums and marginalized - but thus far I have survived on the belief that times have changed (well, no one has committed me yet!). This weekend, however, I suffered my first real indignity. While I am sure for many people it would be a minor issue, for me it opened up a whole host of outrages. My husband went to our new Australian bank to open a term deposit and when he returned, bearing the completed paperwork, I saw listed under my occupation two words that chilled me to the bone. Those two words? Home Duties.
So I asked my husband, with just a hint of sarcasm, wasn't there another occupation that could possible reflect what I do...I don't know, 'writer', perhaps?...He turned his startled, deer-in-the headlight eyes to mine and tried to explain how he had told the bank that I was a full-time writer, but apparently being listed as 'self-employed (which I guess was the only category they had) opened up a whole can of worms regarding verifying income etc. So for the sake of ease, they opted to use the term 'home duties'...because of course, in Australia, what else would any self-respecting married female writer wish to do?!
I suspect you may be able to detect my feelings on this matter - not that I have anything against those who wish to list 'home duties' as their occupation - it's just that that isn't how I define myself.
Now maybe I wouldn't be so sensitive about the issue had I not once been a lawyer who earned more than her husband (funny, I was never listed as 'breadwinner' on any bank forms then) or had I not recently moved to a country which seems to be imbued with a Mad Men view of women (I will blog/rant about that another time), but as it stands, I feel pretty indignant. I know the view of a bank is hardly indicative of the real value of anyone's occupation, but still it made me feel as though my writing was little more than a hobby. I was waiting for the bank manager to phone me up and suggest I take up knitting and macrame in my spare time.
So what about you? Have you suffered any similar indignities as you try to convince the world that writer is actually an occupation and (dare I say it) a pretty valuable one, regardless of its income potential (or lack thereof!)?