Casualties of gender equality

Peter Leith is 90 and describes himself as ‘half-deaf and half-blind’, but he is a great observer of life and where we’re headed and where we’ve been. Today, he rues one of the casualties of gender equality.


Adelaide 1952. I was selling ‘Manchester parcels’, on commission only, door to door. 

I knocked on the door of a down-market, Housing Commission rental prefab. A middle-aged man in work clothes came to the door. 

I told him what I was selling, and he said: “You’ll have to talk to the wife mate. That’s her department.” Then he turned around and called out, “Beryl love. Man wants to see yer”, and left me at the door.

Nowadays the fashion is to avoid speaking of husbands or wives, but to use the unisex word, partner, instead.

Now I am committed to ‘gender equality’ – with three ex-wives, four daughters, six granddaughters, and the mother I had, I would have to be suicidal to be anything BUT a feminist!

Even so, whatever we may have gained in terms of verbal ‘gender equality’, our language has lost something – some warm and human words.

Given the right tone of voice, there was something very endearing and full of human warmth, about such phrases as: the wife, the missus, the old man, the old lady, hubby and her indoors.

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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