Housewife Definition Essay
The human race communicates in many different ways however the most used method is by talking or speaking. This includes pronouncing words and sentences but is not limited by this because oral communication can take place through other sounds like grunting or screaming. Because the world is so large, people are spread apart as well as their languages. Looking at the English language, people do not always agree with the meaning of a word. Thus, the same word can be understood differently by two people in meaning or context. For example, the word good can be at different levels for different individuals. For one person, good might mean that everything is perfect while for the other person, it might simply mean average or okay. The same principle applies to the word housewife. This word is understood, accepted and practiced differently around the globe depending on the place, culture and even time.
Housewife dictionary definition
According to the dictionary definition, the word housewife means the following “a married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework” (Oxford Dictionary). Usually, this term is treated as one that is submissive and obedient. When a woman defines herself as a housewife, she is looked down upon as a second class citizen in the most societies. This degrading is not necessarily on purpose and can be done without even knowing. In the most societies, when a woman marries a man, she is supposed and expected to change her entire life for that man. It is for a reason that ancient proverb handed down through centuries “A man is the head of the house, whereas the woman is the neck” (Allen 219-233). For this reason, it is the woman who should follow the head of the household in all matters. Also, she is expected to tend to the needs of husband, children and all members of the family (Allen 219-233).
These family needs are what have given the word housewife its definition. The family needs include cooking food of the highest quality and taste, educating children about school and life in society; moreover, taking care of friends and family members that might visit. Other duties include washing dishes, cleaning the home, making and washing clothes and being the ideal wife. Even though, some women might have side part time jobs, such as working night shifts, however most housewives are expected to stay home. These wives might take up some side jobs that can be done alongside other household chores such as sewing other people’s clothes alongside their own. The term housewife has tended to stay in the same category throughout different cultures (Allen 219-233).
Housewife definition history
In order to understand the current term of housewife that we have, we should look back into history and find the root of its definition. Because of physical differences and aggressive nature, men have been accepted as the breadwinners for their families ever since mankind started. Even when we look back into history, this has been recorded and evident. For example, the native American men were the ones responsible for hunting and getting food for the family. On the other hand, women were assigned less aggressive and dangerous tasks such as picking berries, cooking and tending to the children. The sole drive for this division was that someone had to be responsible for getting food since without food, people cannot survive and grow. Since there was no other apparent way to decide who would do what, the decision was made due to gender (Parker).
Furthermore, the gender was the main difference because biologically, men and different experience and undergo varying changes. With time, the male becomes visibly stronger and bigger along with developing natural leadership skills on a societal level. As for the women, they are more complex. The most apparent complexity is the fact that a child is born by means of their help. During pregnancy and after the delivery, a woman is weakened and is greatly needed by the child. In fact, from the time a child is born to the time he learns to walk and talk, he or she greatly needs the mother to be around for nurture and nourishment such as breast milk and keeping the child physically clean. Also, throughout history, the earlier civilizations observed and came to the conclusion that it was much easier for the woman to do the minor chores such as berry picking and cooking while still staying at home looking after the children (Allen).
The word wife in the word housewife was a natural result of the position and duties given to the woman. The earlier one dwells in history, the more one sees that the concept of a man and a woman living together or sharing family together was strictly conservative. It is needful to say, it was the concept of marriage, whose definition was sacred and conventional such as a union between man and wife that is accepted by society. In fact, the main reason people got married was not for leisure or happiness but for the continuity of civilizations through children. A man specifically got married in order to carry his name to the next generation and have someone take care of his physical and environmental needs. As for the woman, she married in order to have security and a job that did not pay. This history is what led to the degrading lens that one looks at housewives as they were and still are seen as subservient and basically maids without pay (Parker).
Housewife in modern days
Today, the modern circumstances require that the term housewife is to be explained clearly because there are so many new concepts about it. Through traveling and media, people can now learn about others cultures in the different corners of the world thus compare and contrast their lifestyles and ideologies with them. Let us focus on how the word housewife and its meaning differ in different areas of the same world. Firstly, in countries such as USA and Great Britain, women have taken up very different roles than those before them in history. In these countries, women are on equal standing with men and are working as their bosses, co-workers and even political leaders. Industrialization has required that women work just as hard as men, and this has been accepted publically. However, the negative reference of the word housewife still exists because even though women have moved up the social ladder, their home duties are still there since a rare number of men are willing to switch roles. Therefore, even though a woman can become a doctor, she is expected to come home and cook and clean after her shift (Parker).
Moreover, working women who do not choose to stay at home look down on those who do. These housewives are seen as conservative and old-fashioned. In fact, the scale is tipping to the other direction in the current times and people are demanding that more and more women start taking up a career life. However, another contradiction in society is that women are highly encouraged to pursue their careers and educational goals only until they are married. They are scolded and looked down upon if they do not get an education. In addition, they are scolded when they do not get married and still they are looked down on when they do not wish to have children. On the other hand, housewives also look down on women who do choose careers over family life. Furthermore, it seems as if the term housewife is the center of all debates in modern society (Parker).
To further heat up the debate, some groups argue that the term housewife is the wrong label altogether since it is a prejudice against the male sex. Even though, the number is significantly lower, some men are willing to switch roles with the women entirely and stay at home fathers. They also face greater stigma since they are blatantly and aggressively challenging society’s old rules. It is for a reason that the family set up as was noticed previously has shifted and changed completely in some parts of the world. In America today, more than one third of families are headed by single parents who include men and women. This means that men and women are both carrying out the role of the breadwinner by morning and are the housewives or homemakers by night (Andersen).
Interestingly, in other parts of the world, such as India, housewives are still the majority norm and men are still hailed as the only breadwinners. Even though, in urban areas of India women are entering the workforce and challenging society’s limits, the rural areas are still led by strict gender laws. In fact, there is a large gender role gap that men are rarely seen taking care of children or helping out in the house. The woman is not only expected to earn money on the side but is still the neck of the household. An Arab proverb states that even though she is the neck, she has the power to turn the head in any direction she wants. For this reason, concept that people are attempting to teach to these rural areas and encouraging them to change their ways according to the needs of the changing and modernizing times (Parker).
Defining the term housewife can be controversial and impossible since today people are staying away from the conventional meaning found in the dictionary. People are customizing their lives to their own needs and desires; moreover, develop their own standards. Look at the case of the modern American woman. She is a college graduate, chooses a career and then chooses to become a stay at home mother as well. In fact, the modern Western woman customizes her life to include everything that she loves and does not feel that she has to choose anymore. Dr. Linda Papadopoulos states “This shift in attitude may be a testament to the fact that women feel liberated enough, sexually and socially, to not have to walk down the aisle, or it could be that today’s cynical attitude to almost everything has minimized the marriage to an outdated, over romanticized practice” (Gill). Today, women are choosing the menu themselves and have support from their male counterparts. They are giving the word housewives a new definition that is abstract and open to question.
Allen, Douglas W. “A Better Method of Assessing the Value of Housewife Services.” American Journal of Family Law. 23.4 (2010): 219-223.
Andersen, Kristen. “The Number of US Children Living in Single-Parent Homes has Nearly Doubled in 50 Years: Census Data.” Life Site News. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-number-of-children-living-in-single-parent-homes-has-already-nearly-doubled-in/
Gill, Charlotte. “Nine in Ten Working Women Want to Quit to Become Housewives.” Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-412178/Nine-working-women-want-quit-housewives.html
Oxford Dictionary. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/housewife
Parker, James. “The Housewife Industrial Complex.” Atlantic Monthly 311.3(2013).