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Housewife

 
 
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 08:45 pm
I can remember my mom calling herself a "housewife", it was not a term that she found at all derogatory.

Then, all of the sudden people were saying "Do you work outside the home?" and "housewife" became nearly criminal.

Now, of course the correct term is "Stay at home mom", like there is ever no other reason that a person might not work other than motherhood.

Women's lib (good) and political correctness (bad) aside, when and why did the word "housewife" become so archaic?

Is it even still in the dictionary?

Somewhere in this mess "home-maker" had a brief surge of popularity then disappeared off the face of the earth. Really, no matter our gender or status shouldn't home-making be pretty important? Back when I was young and wild and unencumbered making-home was still important to me.

Now you hear about "soccer moms" and "secruity moms" and blah blah blah.

It must be women's evolving role in society that generates this much terminology.

Is this an American phenomonon, or is it global?

I don't really have an intended direction for this thread, I just found myself hooked on the word "housewife" today and I thought I'd see what others might have to say.

Thank you!
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 08:49 pm
My mother had a habit of rising to her feet in PTA meetings and announcing, "I'm just a housewife, but it seems to me....." Then she'd bash the opposition with a verbal black umbrella.

Over the years I've followed her example. "Just a housewife" disarms the chauvenists who expect an easy victory.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 08:51 pm
I've always liked homemaker, and we have a magazine with that name here. I probably like homemaker better than housewife, because, you know - a house is not a home. :wink:

One of my colleagues says that his wife is at home. I think he's kind of stuck in the 'what do I say she is, or does' trap. He doesn't want to say she's a housewife - she's no longer a stay-at-home mother. She's a wife, and she's at home. She's not a housekeeper. They have one of those.

Language, and boomer. Always an interesting intersection.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 08:59 pm
I love that, Noddy!

It reminds me of all the smart and wonderful friends my mom had who really pursued a lot of interests. They were anything but dull or mediocre.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:02 pm
Thank you, eBeth.

I'm with you on "home-maker". I've always been one and expect I always will be.

I see you co-workers delima. I doubt is wife is literally "at home" but what DO you say?
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:05 pm
I think it's one of those things where the condition is seen as neagtive and so a new word is coined -- that one doesn't have the baggage! -- but since the condition is still seen as negative the new one accrues baggage. And on it goes. (Think negro-->black-->people of color-->African-American, etc.)

I do think that the condition is seen as negative, still. The 50's era housewife is cliched as Valium-popping, oppressed, probably abused, certainly overworked and underappreciated. Meanwhile, one of my favorite people is an actual 50's era housewife, my husband's grandma. I'm certain she's never touched a Valium and she has a tough, capable, pragmatic, and endlessly nurturing persona that I find altogether wonderful.

I don't think feminism has fully dealt with this one yet, too many dark tangents and contradictions. I've met both post-feminist stay-at-home-moms (I'll just use the going terminology) who majored in women's studies and carry their kids in slings and talk about the politics of motherhood, and feminist working women who talk about the shackles and outdated gender roles of women who choose to stay home.

Progress is being made, to be sure, and there are many more options, which is de-lovely, but there's still a lot of suspicion and ambiguity from various quarters. ("What's wrong with her that she has kids and then just dumps them at daycare all day?" "What's wrong with her that she has 3 degrees and a promising career and then throws it all away to rot her brain watching a toddler all day?")
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:11 pm
Well said, soz.

It is a balancing act. It seems like every woman you talk to these days has to go through some long explaination of her juggle.

Curiousier and curiousier.

Words do develop a lot of baggage, don't they?
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:19 pm
I learned at my mother's knee--of course, my mother was just-a-housewife--to distrust anywoman who announced she was a home-maker.

"Housewives" were equal partners, running one half of the family business.

"Homemakers" were women who devalued the nuts and bolts of living.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:22 pm
That is a very interesting distinction, Noddy.

Now I'm thinking out where I've run across the word "help-mate". That's a pretty good one.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:29 pm
Do you mean "helpmeet"? I think that goes back to Anglo-Saxon when men were men and women were equals.
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colorbook
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:37 pm
Today when applying your talents as a housewife/homemaker to your resume, one website suggested using the term Domestic Engineer...I don't think I feel comfortable with that.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:42 pm
"Domestic engineer" has been around since the sixties. It was scoffed at then.
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paulaj
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 09:55 pm
"Domestic Goddess" is more apt.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 10:15 pm
paulaj--

Why limit the scope of your divinity? All the world is waiting for the sunrise.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 10:16 pm
Maybe I did see "helpmeet" or maybe I saw an updated version called "help-mate". Now it will drive me crazy until I come back across it. Either way, it is a pretty good word.

"Spouse", I guess, would be the modern equivelent.

I'll pass too on "domestic engineer". When I was in junior high they called it "home economics"; another misnomer, in my opinion.

It seems that today people understand the value of a woman staying home to care for her family. Its crazy that we still have to search for a appropriate euphamism to describe this work. I hadn't even thought of the whole resume thing - maybe there is still a predisposition against women who make this choice.

"Domestic goddess" brings Rosanne Barr to my mind so I doubt I would jump in on that one either!

I'm not really one to suggest reinventing the word "wheel" but honestly there should be something that sums it up.

Strange, isn't it, that this should be a struggle?
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 10:18 pm
How about "Domicile Diva"?
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 10:19 pm
Or "Holder of the Hut"?

Work with me here.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 12 Nov, 2004 10:19 pm
Society changes slowly over a period of time. Words reflect reality, so they change more quickly--and last for lesser periods of time.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2004 07:08 am
'Swamp Mistress" might work in your case, gus.

I guess I've always just thought of such words as slang, Noddy. Obviously that is not always the case but right now I'm hard pressed to think of one like "housewife".

Even with slang I'll bet we could come up with a lot more words for girl than boy.
0 Replies
 
Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2004 12:12 pm
I'm guessing that there would be more derogatory words for women than for men.
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