Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Implied, or, Quality Spousery

Perhaps it's just me. Maybe I'm over-sensitive to the possible implications of words and phrases, but, for me, the phrases "good wife" or "bad wife" carry strong patriarchal and sexist overtones. The phrases "good husband" or "bad husband" do not, however; were I to hear a man referred to as being a "good husband", I would think only that he must be kind, generous and considerate of his role as spouse and partner. The same cannot be said for the female equivalent phrases: I hear the implication of gender roles and a patriarchal bias regarding household hierarchy and submission versus dominance. And, obviously, I don't like it. It turns me off, absolutely and completely, and I'm frustrated by the fact that the very word, "wife", carries all this antiquated baggage with it; "spouse" does not, but I find that I am tired of constantly having to remove gendered terms from language simply due to historic usage. In the - granted, flawed - age in which we live, we should be past these associations.

What's unfortunate about these linguistic implications is that I have been feeling lately like I'm starting to get the hang of this whole "wife" thing. I think I'm getting pretty good at it, particularly for one whose family model is far from ideal. But to say "I think I'm a good wife" feels demeaning, and that is deeply irritating to me, for reasons I don't think I can even define for myself, let alone anyone else.


  1. I myself tend to use "good wife" tongue in cheek. I've also used "wifey" the same way.

    I guess I'm more sensitive to more obvious patriarchal customs/overtones. I refused to have my dad walk me down the aisle when we got married, not because I didn't love him, but because I was not something to be passed from one man to another.

  2. I speak as someone who would probably never have married if our differing nationalities wouldn't have forced us to have a cross-continental relationship otherwise. I think "good wife" is one of those terms we can reclaim. Surely the people who know you and love you and your husband know that you're good for each other. You're good partners for each other. Calling yourself a good wife doesn't have to be a bad thing. It has overtones, but enough use of it in the "good" way would banish some of the older connotations.

    For me, it's the same as calling myself a feminist. I know lots of people have all sorts of ideas about what a feminist is and won't use the word to describe themselves, but for me it has a clear, simple meaning, and I describe myself as such. And I don't care if, to some unenlightened people, this signals lesbianism. That's their problem.



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