Stephen and Tabitha King slam media coverage of their donation to a Boston genealogical group

"Wife is a relationship or status. It is not an identity."

8/29/97 Boston, MA. People come from all over the country to trace their roots within the rows of books at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston's Back Bay.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Stephen King is upset with the media, again. And so is his wife, Tabitha.

The famous Maine horror novelist took to social media Thursday morning to announce that his “wife is rightly pissed by” by the coverage of the couple’s $1.25 million donation to the Boston-based New England Historic Genealogical Society. The complaint came after a number of prominent outlets published an Associated Press story headlined “Stephen King, wife give $1.25M to genealogical society.”

While some publications appear to have tweaked the original wire story headline to include Tabitha’s name, others — including The New York Times, Fox News, USA Today, and Boston.com — did not.

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“The gift was her original idea, and she has a name: TABITHA KING,” Stephen wrote.

With eight books to her name, Tabitha is also an accomplished novelist in her own right.

“Wife is a relationship or status,” she wrote in a response that Stephen posted on social media Thursday. “It is not an identity.”

The debate over when to name a celebrity’s less-famous spouse in a headline is a nuanced one. Artist and performer Kate Miller, who is married to “Silicon Valley” actor T.J. Miller, famously wrote an essay in 2017 after Page Six published an article titled, “T.J. Miller’s wife is making a name for herself in New York.”

“I challenge society to stop diminishing any woman to a singular, archaic, and sexist definition,” she wrote.

Similarly, actress Gabrielle Union, who is married to NBA player Dwyane Wade, called out a Miami TV station last year for promoting an article on Twitter: “.@DwyaneWade, wife donates $200,000 to student-ran gun control rally.”

On the other hand, some, like Slate’s Ruth Graham, have argued that the pattern is less about “erasing women” than it is about headline writers “foregrounding the bold-faced half of a couple” in their attempt to entice readers.

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Regardless, this week’s headline clearly irked the Kings. In her statement, Tabitha went on to facetiously suggest other possible identifiers that outlets could have used, such as “OfStephen” and “His-Ball-And-Chain.”

“In the meantime, you might consider the unconscious condescension in your style book, and give women their names,” she added.

Read the full statement below, as posted by Tabitha’s husband on Facebook and Twitter:

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.

Wife is a relationship or status. It is not an identity.

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.