Wives: A Glimpse of the Past and Present
In her essay “I Want a Wife,” author Judy Brady satirizes the ordeals faced by married women in the hands of their partners and the perception of husbands towards marriage and their partners. To a certain degree, the theme of Brady’s essay still applies to the contemporary society, especially in parts of the world where traditions and old marital customs still thrive. There are also certain societies where marriage and gender roles have gradually changed through time.
But with the advent of the increasing roles of married women beyond the household in contemporary society, wives are faced with the risk of more expectations from their husbands whose perceptions are still confined in stereotyped gender-roles.
Brady portrays wives in her essay as though they are commodities at the disposal of their husbands, toiling with the household chores while faced with the threat of being left by their husbands usually through divorce. Moreover, the author also portrays married men as care-free with respect to their responsibilities towards their families and always on the verge of replacing their current wives with someone who they see as better in serving their demands.
In strictly patriarchal societies where not even modernity has overhauled the prevailing traditions and marital customs, wives are confined in houses doing the usual household chores and looking after the children whereas husbands are doing work outside of the house.
In some African tribes such as the Samburu tribe, for instance, the wives are still left in their huts looking after their children and doing basic household duties while the men are away hunting for food, oftentimes to feed their different children from different wives (Holtzman, p. 73). A considerable population of African native tribes still dwells on their old customs and traditions when it comes to marriage and gender roles even though much of the world, including Africa, has already changed in the past decades (Holtzman, p. 70). These things, point to the idea that there are still marriages that are dictated by old marital customs in contemporary times. Brady’s assumption in her essay that the value of wives are predominantly seen in their ways of fulfilling their tasks associated with gender still holds considerable ground in today’s times.
Even in modern societies, certain groups of married women are still tied to the old knot of traditional marital customs. The fact that modern-day America still has a significant number of the so-called “stay-at-home-mothers” who balance their time looking after their kids whether at home or in school on one hand and completing daily household chores on the other signifies that Brady might be right in this respect. It is interesting to note that much of the qualities of wives sought after by men she has listed in her essay are the same qualities that are reflected by contemporary “stay-at-home” mothers.
On the other hand, there are modern societies which have transcended, either fully or partially, the boundaries of old marital customs. For instance, there are several countries in the world where married women have taken corporate roles similar or close to the corporate roles of other males in the society. Wives are no longer treated in some societies as mere household “servants” as they have begun to initiate and manage their own business, to work in what may have once been thought as an exclusively male workplace and to take control of their lives through their own decisions. In fact, there are several notable wives who have gained prominent spots in the society even in several third-world countries. For example, Corazon Aquino became the first female President of the Philippines and of Asia and even became honored as the 1986 Woman of the Year by Time Magazine, thereby breaking political conceptions that the presidency in a third-world country is merely for males. Aquino was both a wife to a family of five children and a socio-political icon for many Asians and other people in the rest of the world (Burton).
Another common example is that of the contemporary image of the “corporate wife” or a wife who works in much the same way as men who earn a living in companies. Some of these women even go to greater lengths by working abroad in exchange for a bigger pay. Either way, the typical “working mom” is one who fulfills both the duties of a mother to her children at home and to the company she is working for.
Moreover, gender discrimination especially in the workplace is legally prohibited in some parts of the world, giving sanctions to the perpetrators of the crime. This only indicates that the society or parts of it has already learned to acknowledge the contributions of married women to the welfare of the society, especially in the field of labor. It seems that even though a significant portion of the workforce is still occupied by males, either bachelors or married men, a part of the same workforce is also composed of married women who may also have children of their own. With these increasing roles of wives in the society, Brady might truly be right when she asked: “who wouldn’t want a wife?”
Brady’s question seems to point yet another idea which few may have began to ponder upon: the increased role of wives outside of the household in contemporary times may lead to more “abuse” from their husbands. That is, Brady’s list may eventually be filled with additional qualities such as a wife who has, perhaps, a high position in an esteemed company, or a wife who can do all the work for the family’s survival while the husband is comfortable at home spending time with his male neighbors talking about football in their idle hours. In that case who truly wouldn’t want a wife?
The difficulty for these “modern” women lies on how they will be able to further overcome the possible increase in expectations of their husbands. It is not a secret that more and more women are becoming aware of their potentials outside of the household. If wives have already taken part in the competitive corporate world, for example, would they still be needed to take full responsibility of the basic household chores and of looking after the children? Would husbands take their wives’ increasing roles outside the household as yet another one of their criteria in looking for a better replacement for their working wives? Indeed, these thoughts seem to compel the mind to protest against the wanton disregard of certain husbands towards the roles of their wives for the welfare of their families especially in contemporary times. I agree with the message of Brady in her essay that wives should not be treated as mere commodities that husbands can simply “want” and “have” at their disposal. Husbands should learn to appreciate the worth of their wives, even more so when their wives share with them the duty of earning a living for the family. While husbands may also have their own sacrifices if only to support the welfare of the family, it should not be forgotten that the role of their wives from both within and outside the house is equally important. Without their wives, men will have a hard time trying to take care of the children and to earn a living as all of the burdens of providing for the family are all on their own shoulders.
With these things in mind, giving wives more roles outside of the household is not enough. While abandoning restrictive marital customs and gender-roles may be needed, ensuring that wives will not be abused with regard to their so-called liberation is also a must. Judy Brady’s satirizing of the ordeals of wives should serve as a guide for men and the society in general to secure and preserve the welfare of married women in contemporary times. Only then can we ensure them and the society of a future devoid of gender-bias.
Brady, Judy. “I Want a Wife.” Literature for Composition. Eds. Sylvan Barnet, et al. Third ed: HarperCollins Customs Books, 1993.
Burton, Sandra. “Time 100: Corazon Aquino.” Time Magazine 1999.
Holtzman, Jon. “The Local in the Local: Models of Time and Space in Samburu District, Northern Kenya.” Current Anthropology 45.1 (2004): 61-84
Jacques, Jeffrey M. “Changing Marital and Family Patterns: A Test of the Post-Modern Perspective.” Sociological Perspectives 41.2 (1998): 389.
Cite this Wives: A Glimpse of the Past and Present
Wives: A Glimpse of the Past and Present. (2016, Oct 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/wives-a-glimpse-of-the-past-and-present/