There may be a great woman behind every great man, as the cliché goes, but society seems to believe that there’s a man in front of every woman, no matter how accomplished she may be…
Tabitha King has steadily built up her reputation as an author. Indeed, as of 2006, she had published eight novels and two works of non-fiction – not to mention a teleplay and a bevy of poems and short stories.
She has also, perhaps more impressively, made a name for herself as a social activist. Over the years, she’s served on several boards and committees in Maine – and is currently the vice president of WZON/WZLO/WKIT radio stations.
Well, Tabitha has – for a very long time – seen members of the public and media constantly refer to her as “Stephen King’s wife”. It is something she has done her best to ignore, for the most part. However, when the media praised “Stephen King and his wife” for making a donation to the New England Historic Genealogical Society through their foundation, Tabitha decided enough was enough.
And, in a series of tweets shared to her husband’s account, she has made a point of calling out every single ignorant and rude person that has ever ignored her birth name.
“My wife is rightly pissed by headlines like this: ‘Stephen King and his wife donate $1.25M to New England Historic Genealogical Society,’” tweeted Stephen.
“The gift was her original idea, and she has a name: TABITHA KING. Her response follows…”
“Dear Editors (married to a wife or a husband): In recent media coverage of a gift that my husband (ironic usage) and I made to the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, we became Stephen King and his wife,” wrote Tabitha.
“Wife is a relationship or status. It is not an identity.”
Tabitha continued: “You could have made other choices. You could have referred to me as OfStephen. Or His Old Lady. Or His-Ball-And-Chain.
“I have sons. You could have referred to me as Mother-of-Novelists. I have a daughter but wouldn’t it be just silly to refer to me as Mother-of-Clergy?
“I’m seventy. I thought I would give you permission, if ‘OfTabitha’ predeceases me, to title my obituary, Relick of Stephen King.
“In the meantime, you might consider the unconscious condescension in your style book, and give women their names.”
Naturally, people on Twitter have applauded Tabitha’s perfect comeback to sexist reporting.
“Tabitha King is married?” joked one.
Another added: “I wonder who her husband is? Whoever he is, he’s a lucky guy!”
Still one more, in a bid to ‘correct’ the headline, wrote: “Tabitha King donates 1.25M to New England Historic Genealogical Society. Mrs. King lives with a small dog and a husband.”
And another tweeted: “Tabitha King’s rant via her husband’s twitter account is just the jab at patriarchy the world needs. And I love Stephen King, but referencing him as her husband is just the right thing to do under these circumstances.”
Kelly Braffet, a successful novelist who just so happens to be married to Tabitha and Stephen’s son, Owen King, added: “Has everyone seen this badass screed by my talented and well-published mother-in-law, Tabitha King? (Looking at you, @AP, @APStylebook, and any other news source in the habit of erasing women.)”
She isn’t wrong: on 14 July 1954, the Associated Press famously announced the death of Frida Kahlo by proclaiming in its first sentence, “Frida Kahlo, wife of Diego Rivera, the noted painter, was found dead in her home today.”
And Tabitha’s other son Joe Hill, who’s also a successful author, wrote a message of support on Twitter, too.
“So awfully proud to be Tabitha King’s son today,” he tweeted. “Although I was also awfully proud to be her son yesterday.
“And the day before.
Meanwhile, the president of the New England Historic Genealogical Society has thanked the couple for their charitable donation and commended King for her tremendous work.
“The transformative gift from authors Tabitha and Stephen King has generated an outpouring of well wishes,” NEHGS president and CEO Brenton Simons said, according to a tweet.
“We are particularly grateful to Tabitha King, who is also an expert genealogist, for inspiring our work and for making this tremendously generous gift possible,” another message posted to their account read.
Of course, it’s fair to point out that Stephen King’s name – considering just how many spine-tingling horror books he has churned out over the years – might attract more attention than that of his wife’s. This is, undoubtedly, why the media chose to name him in their headlines.
However, there was nothing to stop them referencing Tabitha by name, too. After all, she was the driving force behind the couple’s huge donation to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It’s ridiculous – nay, downright insulting – to reduce her involvement down to simply being Stephen King’s wife. And it sets us on a slippery slope to Gilead, the frightening misogynist society portrayed in Margaret Atwood’s iconic 1985 tome, The Handmaid’s Tale.
It’s 2019, after all. Isn’t it about time that we did away with this idea that an accomplished woman must primarily be defined by her relationship to an accomplished, powerful man?