If you just ignore the stereotypes, they generally tend to go away

The Frisky writes on “Why I’ll Never Call My Husband a Wusband” (tip: if you have to ask me for an explanation on this topic, I really don’t want to talk to you, anyway)

Carrie Sloan, a “brand-spanking newlywed” who writes that she and her husband are “re-writing the rules” of matrimony because — get this — she kept her own name! I hate to break it to her and ruin her self-image as a trendsetter, but it’s 2010. Keeping her own name is not a rule she wrote. If being self-righteous in the face of unoriginality were her biggest crime, I’d be willing to overlook it. Unfortunately, it’s not.Perhaps sensing that millions of women before her have also made the choice to keep their names, for a variety of reasons — some having nothing at all to do with feminism! — Sloan takes things one step further and proposes we abolish the words “husband” and “wife.” Why? Well, because Sloan is afraid of these words. In fact, she says her biggest fear about getting married last year was not any particular challenge or tribulation she and her spouse would surely face together one day, but simply the word “wife.” It “conjures up centuries of well-worn stereotypes,” stereotypes that were confirmed for her when, at Christmas this past year, she received “no fewer than three aprons as gifts.” Oh, the horror!! Nevermind that Sloan later says in her essay that she “likes to cook,” and her family and friends, perhaps knowing this detail about her, gifted her something they thought she might use and appreciate. No! In her mind, she received three aprons for Christmas because she’s a “wife” now, a role so loaded, so thick with centuries of sexism, Sloan has decided to start calling herself a “hife” instead — and if you’re a married woman, she wants you to call yourself a “hife,” as well.

A “hife,” you might have guessed, is a hybrid of “husband” and “wife,” and reflects what Sloan calls the “thoroughly-2010 relationship” she has with the guy she loves. She may like to cook, but she’s no traditional wife! In addition to keeping her own name (!), Sloan wants everyone to know she has “an inner husband who tends to drive at least double the legal speed limit and leave socks on the floor.” How’s that for propelling the women’s movement forward?! And for all her inner-husbandry, her actual husband as an inner wife, too. That’s right! He may be a “tall, handsome, manly-guy,” but he makes sure he and his “hife” have clean underwear. Naturally, Sloan calls him her “wusband.” “These labels,” she explains, “allow for a little overlap: A division of labor based on what we’re each best at, not just what’s assigned us by virtue of chromosome.”

I grew up in a pretty conservative and traditional family; my father worked and my mother either stayed home or worked part time.  She did most of the housekeeping, my dad mowed the lawn and worked on cars (money was always tight, so this was needed a lot).  My husband’s family was similar. 

It never occurred to me that I would be expected to be like my mother, I’ve never been seriously expected to fulfill a “well-worn stereotype” as a wife, and I’ve never felt that I need to nourish my “inner-husband.”  When I didn’t change my name (I did, but it was almost 8 year in), my husband never complained, nor did any other family members.  When I decided to change it, I didn’t feel like any less of a person.  When we (yes, when you’re married, a life-changing decision takes a “we” regardless of gender) decided that I would go to law school, no one told me that I should be home making babies instead.  When we tell them that we plan for him to stay home while I bring in the bucks (although this looks less and less promising in the present economy for lawyers), no one tells us we’re wrong.  We get either complements or expressions along the line of “I wish I could do that!”  If he gets a hard time when I’m not around, he never lets on. 

I’ll never understand why so many women want to pretend that they still live in the 1950s.  I don’t.  I don’t need to re-write the rules; they’ve already been re-written.  I just live in them.


3 Responses

  1. You know, I often feel this way about sexism, racism, intolerance of all types; wasn’t raised with it, don’t see it in my daily life; what’s everyone up in arms about? However, I only need think back to the six months I worked as a cashier at a walmart in a poor area to remind myself that there is another world out there; a world of uneducated, often violently traditional, people whose perspective on life is foreign to me (and probably to anyone else writing or reading blogs).

    So I guess my point is that there are people who are still living that. There are still women out there who think that men are better than them, that they have a ‘place’ in the world that they must adhere to. So in that sense, continued efforts to break sexist ideology, such as the article you cited, remain helpful.

    • That may be true, but it doesn’t sound at all like the writer of the original article has been living that. Sounds a lot more like she’s just bought into the feminist whining about “the patriarchy” being out to keep her down.

      Best way to break the sexist ideal is to reject it, but not in a way that insults your spouse (wusband sounds a lot like wuss; don’t tell me she realize that) and is so ripe for ridicule.

      • Yeah wusband is silly and the association with ‘wuss’ is undeniable.

        But, consider the quote she pulls from the GIlbert book, “Finally, she concludes: ‘My sister and I have something we call the ‘wifeless’ marriage — which is to say that nobody in our household will play or play exclusively, the role of the wife.’ ”

        Which could be understood to say “being the bit@# is a chore, no one should have to do it all the time”; not only does it confirm that the stereotype is alive, but it seems to devalue the role (in what looks like a self-help book no less). So, in a way, what Sloan is saying about changing the terminology is relevant in the sense that the words are ultra-loaded with all sorts of positive and negative connotations, as I think the Gilbert quote demonstrates well.

        As for the patriarchy, it is a difficult concept for me to give validity to, especially since they say I’m part of it by virtue of being born male. I never systematically oppressed anyone I swear! I do however try to keep in mind that I may be naive; there are lots of people out there who love to have power over others and will use manipulation and violence to maintain it. Also, we should keep in mind that many societies are organized around worship of a magical daddy with a fetish for virgins.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: