Wife up!


Yep. I’m still thinking about Wifedom. (For someone who isn’t even sure wifehood is the way to go, I sure am a bit bride-, wife-, and marriage-obsessed. In a cerebral way. Really.) I can’t help it– this book was fantastic; it’s given me a lot to mentally chew on, and this is the partially digested cud I’ve come up with:

1. “Tradition.” If it was created by Martha Stewart, is it really “traditional”? Can Feminists be traditional?
I got to thinking about these two concepts as I was looking at this Huffington Post slideshow. Politicians: Traditional, MTV Reality Shows: Trashy–so why don’t I see more big white veils, poufy trains, and roses? (Also, Traditional: Expensive, Excessive: Hummers)

2. “Partners” vs. “Husband/Wife”
I’ve always been on the side of the fence that said “Why does he get to keep being called ‘Man’, but the woman has to get a new title of ‘wife.'” I’m firmly in the camp that believes if you do get married, either both partners change their names (taking each others’ names for the dreaded hyphenation! dear god! the horror! or to an alternative last name) -or- both partners should keep the names they have. But now I have a whole new conundrum to mull over: will the fiancees become “partners” or “husband/wife” – that the latter requires two separate titles gives me pause because it does imply separate, and not necessarily equal, roles.

3. Is marriage self-indulgent? (and is that necessarily a bad thing?)

4. “Everyone” talks about women as nurturing, patient, sacrificing, loving, etc. and uses these qualities to explain the “natural rift” between women and the workplace. Well, guess what? I’m sick of it. What does this say about men? That they are obstructive, impatient, selfish, hateful ne’er-do-wells who lope around offices because they are too broken inside to love the innocence of a child? What more does this say about our workplaces? That they are the dens of thieves, liars, and ingrates? (well, there are some)
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: sweeping generalizations are never a good idea.

5. Ok. So, apparently 25,000,000 US women read an average of 20 romance novels a year, and 49% of all paperbacks sold are romance. (Kingston, 162)  This statistic shocked me. But I’m not entirely sure why.

Two sub-thoughts: (1) What qualifies as “romance”?   (2) Does that include Twilight?

6. Isabel Burton once said “I wish I were a man. If I were, I would be Richard Burton; but being only a woman I will be Richard Burton’s wife.”
Freud: Is it penis envy if you’re truly desiring the agency and not necessarily the member?
Vera Nabokov’s story presented an uncomfortable position- that of self-fulfillment through supporting your husband. Isn’t this the antithesis of modern, independent feminism? Or is it a classic example of the right to choose for yourself what works for you? Is it cowardly or courageous?


And here we come to the crux of the matter: the meaning of wife hinges on the meaning of husband, just as the meaning of woman hinges on the meaning of man.

I disagree. The meaning of wife hinges upon our understanding of marriage, just as the meaning of woman hinges upon the meaning of life.





2 responses to “Wife up!

  1. Re: #2, I understand the collective connotations of words like “husband” and “wife,” but I think the fact that they imply separate, and not necessarily symmetric roles, isn’t intrinsically a bad thing.

    Real relationships are never between mirror images, and nobody can actually operate by splitting the responsibilities of a marriage or a family right down the middle. My girlfriend can cook, whereas I can barely cobble together a PB&J sandwich even when supervised, so I clean. We contribute differently, but it’s not necessarily unequal.

    The problem isn’t that husband and wife imply different roles, the problem is that they imply that all women (and all men) need to fulfill *the same* role in any relationship. Ideally one would divorce the relationship between the gender and the separateness of the roles, but I’m not sure there’s a very clean way to do that in one word.

    Maybe ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ will always be weighed down by connotation, but I don’t know that ‘partner’ fills the void.

  2. tyler– that is exactly what I was trying to articulate. well done.

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