Sexist use of widow/widower in the news

Something I have noticed in the press, especially in my own country (Great Britain) is how a woman whose husband has died is referred to as “his widow” but a man whose wife has died is not referred to as “her widower”.  I know this dates back to the era when women were defined by men, but in this day and age is this unequal usage of widow/widower relevant?

I have noticed on some websites that it now seems commonplace to say “widower of” whoever, but I found this link to the 2006 AP Stylebook that says “husband” should be used to refer to the spouse of a deceased woman, yet states that referring to a woman as “the widow of” whoever is acceptable.

I don’t know why this example of sexist language still persists in a  style guide.  TV news in Britain still refers to the spouse of a dead man as “his widow” but refers to the spouse of a dead woman as “her husband.

Not one guide to English usage states that when a married man dies, his spouse has to be called “his widow” or do any English usage guides say that after a married woman dies her spouse still has to be called “her husband”.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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