In the past I have gone to write this post and then found that the words wouldn’t come. They wouldn’t come because I was worried about how people would react and, as such, my thoughts and words became stilted, my thought process chained. But I have to write this post because it’s something that makes me really angry, and quite frankly, my family and husband are fed-up of me being banging on about it. I’m talking about the antiquated tax law which states that a married woman’s income is classed as her husband’s.
I’m not seen as an individual. I’m made to feel invisible.
An island built on loyalty
This is an island that is extremely close-knit. Anyone that dares criticise or suggest that this island isn’t as perfect as it seems, can find themselves quickly frozen out. A sharp “Well, you know when the next ferry to the mainland is” is another favoured retort. Whilst there is a lot to applaud in being loyal to your island, it can also lead to an air of hostility when important discussions need to be had. When authority needs to be questioned and when key decisions need to be examined. How can anyone be held accountable, if discussions can’t happen freely?
What do I expect?
I understand that it’s part and parcel of living somewhere small. Just over 100,000 people live on this beautiful yet small rock. That means everyone knows everyone and you have to be careful what you say. You don’t want to offend the wrong person. However, that’s akin to living anywhere that is small. Small places tend to breed the same sort of attitude too, “If it ain’t broke why fix it”. The problem is that the people in charge of overhauling the laws or reforms are far removed from the ordinary person. They don’t appreciate the frustrations, they can’t see that the system is broken. I have written about our property system and how it might be one of the fastest in the world, but it’s also very flawed and needs amending.
Jersey can be slow on the uptake. This is typical of island life. It moves at a slower pace and there is a lot to embrace in that. But this can also be frustrating when it comes to change and there are some rather archaic laws that are still in place. I was shocked to learn recently that suicide is still illegal in Jersey. That disturbing revelation needs a whole blog post of its own though.
Stop banging on
I’ve been wary of discussing this before because anytime I publish anything remotely feminist I am criticised. I have readers who ask me to stop banging on about feminism. Then I have the trolls who offer to show me what they do to feminists. I will leave that up to your imagination. However, I recently gave a talk about being true to yourself, writing about the difficult subjects, being honest and never letting your voice waiver or be silenced. Yet, I have been wary of writing this. However, this article is just my opinions and my interpretation of the marriage tax.
How I view marriage
Having been brought up in a traditional household, I witnessed how unfair marriage was with regard to my mother. Not only did she work full-time, but she was also responsible for all of the cleaning and all of the cooking. My dad had a right cushy number. His evenings were mainly spent at the Masons, whereas my mum would spend her evenings looking after me and brother, before she collapsed into bed exhausted. It felt like marriage was completed weighted in the man’s favour.
I remember vowing to never get married. I even wrote an essay about it for my GSCE in RE in which I argued that marriage was an outmoded convention in a modern society. However, I fell in love and met a man who reassured me that our marriage would be different, it would be a modern marriage, and to be fair to him he kept his side of the bargain – mostly.
Modern marriages are very different. My marriage is very different to my parents. Yes, sometimes it can feel like I am shouldering the majority of the life admin, but still it’s an improvement to what marriage looked like in the 80s. Marriage is ever evolving and with every new generation it shifts again. I do get frustrated that if I don’t think to buy birthday cards or presents that they will never get sent. But on the par, our marriage is about teamwork. If my children ever choose to get married then I hope that we have been the right role models. That they will have a marriage of equality.
Traditionally marriage was not about equality. The wives were viewed as subordinates. The husbands were the ones with the power, they controlled the finances and if a woman did work she was expected to hand over her earnings to her husband. The wife was also the one who was expected to be solely responsible for the childcare and looking after home. Then the 1960s came and for many women (sadly not my mother) it redefined the gender roles in marriage. Some women now entered marriage on an equal par, women claimed equal decision rights and all roles and responsibilities were shared equally.
Marriage became an institution that was viewed differently in society. It was no longer just a contract of convenience for the man, it was about love. Then we have Jersey, an island that appears to be trapped in the 1950s. In Jersey we have an antiquated tax law. In a nutshell this means that I am prohibited from discussing any tax matters, unless my husband has ticked the box to say that the authorities can discuss it with me. This little box is an improvement. Previously the man had to write to the tax office to give permission for his wife to discuss tax related affairs. So what’s my problem with the box?
That box represents everything that is wrong with Jersey. It’s my own personal prison. That box shouldn’t be there. I own and run my own business. A business that my husband has nothing to do with, yet, I am not allowed to discuss tax related issues regarding my business unless he ticks that box. That makes me want to bang my head against the wall and scream in frustration. It’s my business, if anything there should be a box in which I can tick to give my husband permission to discuss it.
There are talks of going to a public consultation that will see that box removed in the interim, while they untangle to complexities of personal tax. That women will be able to discuss tax with no permission needed – hurrah, but surely it doesn’t need to go to a public consultation?! Just get with the modern age and view women as equal. I wonder, what does that little tick box say about Jersey’s values? Instead of dragging their feet, shouldn’t Jersey be striding ahead (or at least scrambling to catch up with the rest of the modern world)?
What that box says
When someone tells me to just tick the box I want to shout at them. It’s not just a box. It symbolises everything I loathe. It’s about patriarchy, it’s everyday sexism. It’s inherently damaging. It’s sending the wrong message. Women are not inferior to men but that box suggests we are. That box fills me with dread. That box is hemming me in, confining me and telling me that I’m not my husband’s equal.
We need to get rid of that box. We need to get rid of that box for women like my mother who fought for equality in marriage. We need to get rid of that box for future generations.
Jersey, I love you but it’s time to step out of the box.