Apparently, today is the 1-year anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. (:)) On NPR, they were interviewing a few of the same-sex couples in the state, and they seemed to almost always use the word “spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife.” If two women are married, is it wrong to say that each woman is the other’s wife? Is it somehow more correct or more PC to say that each is the other’s spouse? I always thought spouse was sort of like the equivalent of “he or she” when you’re referring to a person of indeterminate gender. But here, we definitely know the gender of the spouse in question, so what’s the deal?
I imagine it’s just a matter of common usage. To me the word “wife” implies not only a married woman, but a married woman in relation to her husband. Presumably therefore partners in a same-sex “marriage” are going for the word “spouse” because it’s easier to avoid any dual-sex implications.
I would think it’s just easier to say ‘spouse’ on paperwork, when speaking generally, etc. You then don’t have to go to the next level of detail and specify whether the spouse in male or female. Kinda the same way you can say ‘siblings’ instead of ‘brothers and sisters’.
FWIW, the marriage-license applications in Ontario, where same-sex marriage is legal, say ‘applicant’ and ‘joint applicant’.
I struggle with that too – whenever a Doper refers to “my wife” my brain immediately classifies that person as male, especially if the poster has a gender-indeterminate name, unless I know that she is a lesbian with a spouse. For some reason I find it easier to imagine a woman with a spouse than a woman with a wife. Similarly for a man with a husband. It just makes me do a double-take, even though I’m all for SSM.
Semantically I know this is rubbish, because a wife is a female spouse and husband is a male spouse. But conditioning is a powerful thing. I’m working on it.
I’ve heard “wife” and “spouse” round about the same number of times, I think.
…and as we all know, the plural of ‘spouse’ is ‘spice’…
From Jonathan Richman -
If you’re in a non-SSM state, and you hear marriage, you think “marriage” rather than domestic partnership. Then “wife” and “husband” become confusing because that implies “marriage” rather than “domestic partnership.” Being in a state that constitutionally defines marriage in the traditional sense, the only possibility that exists is domestic partnership, hence spouse seems like a non-confusing way to mean husband or wife, right?
I think it’s all up to personal preference. Some people refer to a person that they’re dating as their boy/girlfriend, partner, significant other, etc. The husband/wife vs spouse deal would probably just fall under personal preference as well.
My sample is not huge but there are a lot of gay and lesbian couples at my church and partner seems to be the preferred term. I’m not sure if I have heard any use spouse.
Thanks to the majority of voters in our state, My Guy and I won’t be getting married any time soon. But when we do, we’ll be each other’s husband. To call him my “spouse” would be like calling my brother my “sibling” and my car my “vehicle.”
I don’t hear straight people refer to their husbands/wives as their “spouse,” except maybe in a legal context. Why should we be any different?
huh, panache, that’s funny. I refer to Mr. Snicks as my spouse all the time (I even call him SpouseO or “spoose”, often in his presence), and we’re a hetero married couple. I think I do it because my mom often does the same with my father.
Hmmm… I call my wife “esposa” all the time, which means “spouse,” but it also means specifically “female spouse” and hence wife…
Maybe all of the gay married people should speak Spanish? And now having said that makes me think of the Puerto Ricans on Seinfeld of so many years ago…