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Monday, October 20, 2003

An Apple For My Name

A telephone call from a morning show on the radio. Asking me to prepare 150 words for the item "The Male-Chauvinist of the Week: The male-chauvinist of the week is the Hebrew Writers' Association."



I started writing the introduction she had dictated to me.

'Hello, this is Corinna. I am a writer --'



And then the same assistant called back:

"You forgot to tell us your family name!"

"I don't use one."

"No, you can't do it without a family name. How are people going to know you."

"If I give you a family name, I'll be totally anonymous."

"We have to introduce you. How can I introduce you without a family name?"

"You can say, 'Hasofferett. The writer Corinna'."

"Listen, it's a very important program, very prestigious."




Now I'm listening to this program and the editor-interviewer says, introducing her guest: "The wife of Minister such-and-such."

The guest says, "You can introduce me as the chairperson of The N. Institute."



When the assistant called me in the morning, she asked how much time I needed to prepare the item and I said, "Ten minutes," and she said, "Fine," and that someone named Edna will call to record me. And after about two minutes I get a call from a young woman who introduces herself as Edna and I say, "Hold on, can I get a little more time? It's only been two minutes," and she says, "No, first I have to tell you that you must introduce yourself with your full name, first name and family name, that's the rule, the instruction. From the editor."



They have a quiz on the show and someone guesses that the answer is a certain female writer, and that editor-presenter-interviewer says, "Yes. By the way, she's the wife of so-and-so who was just in the news."

And she says, "Why did I have to say that, such an insignificant detail."



But twice during the broadcast she introduces a woman as the-wife-of and if that's why she needs my name, to map ownership like you mark sheep in the flock, who the proprietor is...



Esther Eilam, the woman who founded the first hostel for battered women and a personal friend, phoned them upon my request, and heard the same 'spiel' from the assistant.



I ring Ariel Shemer and talk to a lawyer in his office without telling her which program I'm talking about, until I tell her the whole story and when I say, "for the item Male-Chauvinist of the Week," she bursts out laughing, "Male-Chauvinist of the Week, huh? It's The Others who are wrong..."



That week there was no male-chauvinist to be found in our midst. The Writers' Association held its biannual conference like in all the seventy-five years of its existence, in which the association’s monthly literary magazine has been edited only by men, and on the stage, like it said in the invitation, stood only male writers and lectured words of wisdom to an audience of mostly female writers.



An actor read from a poem by Mr. Tchernichovsky, after whom the Writer's House is named:

"A queen awaits her bridegroom -- "



and the well known poem by our one and only national poet Mr. Hayim Nachman Bialik:

"Take me under your wing and be a mother and sister to me..."



Two weeks after the radio incident, I approached one enlightened newspaper with an article on the professional discrimination of women writers.

The editor called to say that she would like to print it, but,

"You forgot to write your family name."

Oh.

"I don't use one."

"There's no such thing. How are we going to introduce you."

"You can write, the writer Corinna."

"No, you must write a family name, we won't print it without it."

And they didn't print.



By December 1995 I rang up the Registry of Residents and asked them to send me a name-change form.

The form has a clause that asks you to give reasons.

The clerk looked at the form, read from it out loud, "'I am a writer, and this is the name I have made for myself,'" and gave me back the sheet: "You have to explain, to specify, that's not enough!"


I said, "Fine, if you don't accept it, I'll go to the High Court of Justice ."



Two weeks later I told Esther Eilam, I've solved the problem. I have a family name now, it's registered in the Registry of Residents."

"No way! What name?"

"Hasofferett. The Woman Writer."


Now when they ask me for a name I say, "The Writer Corinna".

And then they look at me, and say,



"O.K., but what's your f a m i l y name?"



****************************************

Excerpt from Once She Was a Child.






Read it in Polish; in Hungarian;

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