Yesterday (Monday, 8th September), the Guardian reported that two ninety-year-old women have married in Iowa. Cue an inevitable chorus on social media of, “Cute!”.
I have found this reaction patronising, and a little disturbing. “Cute” is a term that is reserved for puppies, kittens or that face my nephew makes when he wants something (he’s two). “Cute” is inoffensive, it’s defenceless, it’s a mechanism introduced by evolution to stop us from killing our offspring. When we call something cute we are dismissing it and removing the impact on our lives.
Allow me to tell the story another way. In 1942, at the time when the United States had just entered the Second World War, and homosexuality was illegal, two women met and formed a relationship. There was no such thing as a hate crime, the police routinely ignored violence against queer people, raided their spaces, and locked them up. Through all this, couples like these women stayed together. They carried on with their lives and refused to give one another up.
I don’t know their story in full, partly because no one is telling it, but I cannot imagine it has been easy for them. They have found acceptance now, and finally exercised their legal right to marry, and I am thrilled for them. But don’t call them ‘cute’, don’t objectify them. They deserve better, they deserve respect.