By: Claudia Visser My mother is a successful and hardworking woman. She has created and sold her own fashion collections, she has started a restaurant from scratch, and has won a presidential election at her local home office.
She often works till two in the morning to make room for her busy work schedule. On the open house day of my school I went to collect a paper with my parents’ and my own contact and other information. While receiving this paper I noticed that my father’s occupation had a N.I. next to it, standing for no information, but when I looked at my mother’s, it clearly stated, “Housewife”. I was confused due to the fact that I knew my mother worked extremely hard to get where she was in life, this title was blatantly sexist, it stripped my mother of her hard earned achievements and instead put her in a position that made it seem as though her life revolved around her husband. Now, of course you must be wondering, in what way can the word alone be taken as sexist.
Well, the word “Housewife” originates from the 13th century and has been the source of the word hussy. Nowadays most people do not recognise the word hussy due to its rare usage, but it has a very sexist connotation. Originally the word hussy was created to describe the female head of a household, but the English language is ever changing and often degrades terms originally used for strong and powerful women to mean weaker or promiscuous. For instance, the word hussy began to change its definition by the turn of the 17th century to describe, “A disreputable woman of improper behavior.” Aside from the word’s sexist origin, there is also the way “housewife” is used in modern day. There are only two ways I have ever heard the word housewife being used casually: One, being “mere housewife” and the other, in the title of a porno. The first example degraded women, it outright sripped them of what they do, the second objectified them, it made them no better than a sexual fantasy.
Let’s focus on the first example. The term, “mere housewife”, does not pay the role justice. It doesn’t explain the long nights that a woman spent helping their child finish a project, it doesn’t tell you about how long she spent cleaning up your mess, it doesn’t even begin to cover the blood sweat and tears that she puts into raising her child. Instead the word devalues the role, making you think that all they do is stay at home and wait for their husbands. In the words of James Brown, “This is a man’s world”. Men are admired when they work to support their families and are praised when they decide to stay home and take care of their children. Women, we just can’t win. If a woman stays home to take care of her child, she is just a “mere housewife”, if she decides to take a job and support her family, she is an absent parent, irresponsible, negligent.
This is not fair. This is a double standard that we all have to overcome. A woman’s role is to be whatever she wants to be, women are gaining education and powerful jobs, I mean not too long ago a female president was nearly elected in the United States of America. Do you know how much a housewife would earn if she was paid to do her job? Well, an article by telegraph uk has stated that they would earn a whopping $209,533.30, to put this in perspective, a pediatrician will usually earn only $156,000.
A housewife would earn nearly double of what a doctor does. Now if you simply can’t believe this number, let me break it down for you. A housewife does several different jobs: they are a private chef, a personal housekeeper, a driver, a therapist, a private nurse, a live-in nanny, a personal assistant, and so much more, they do all these jobs plus overtime, free of charge. They choose to do this job, and yet, we still have the nerve to call them, “mere housewives”.
When a woman finally seems to find success in the workplace, when they finally become able to lead a group of powerful men in discussion without being interrupted, do you know what we call them, “bossy”. The very same childish word I would use when another girl wanted to help me. “Bossy” is a very popular term to describe powerful women. This word has a very negative connotation, often associated with manipulative, malicious characters. Examples of this word being used in this manner would include Hillary Clinton being called “bossy”, or Margaret Thatcher being called “bossy” while in the position of being the first female Prime Minister of the UK, I’m sure you would never imagine calling Winston Churchill “bossy”.
Sadly the sexism is clear with this word, men who express the same amount of power in their line of business are often praised as strong, assertive with great leadership abilities, the near opposite of the connotations from the word bossy. Just recently we have been able to address this problem, women like Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook and creator of the Ban Bossy campaign, and Emma Watson a speaker and ambassador at the UN have talked about the use of this word and how it can affect young women. Now moving back to the word housewife, my mother is a successful entrepreneur who did not appreciate being degraded in this sexist fashion. Sadly, I later realized it was my own father who listed my mother as a housewife, which both defeats and strengthens my argument. A single mistake, like the one my father made, can cause a woman to be degraded in a way that causes her to feel as though she has done nothing with her life.
My father didn’t understand how society viewed that word, he didn’t realize that it could be offensive to my mother, all he saw was a way to ease his taxes. A single mistake like this is what allows women to be paid less than men. Worse than the mistake taking place itself is the reluctance to correct or even bring it up. Stop telling mothers who want to care for their children that they’re just “Mere housewives.” Don’t tell young women who wish to assert themselves that they’re “bossy.” In the words of Beyonce, “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.”Bibliography:http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-34487389http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/11164040/How-much-is-a-housewife-worth.htmlhttp://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/10/china-thinks-hillary-is-bossy/http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hussyhttps://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/ban-bossy-beyonce-lean-in_n_4937173.htmlhttp://www.businessinsider.com/sheryl-sandberg-women-ban-bossy-2014-4http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11112842/Emma-Watson-Im-a-feminist-because-Ive-known-sexism-since-I-was-eight-years-old.html