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Desperate Housewife

May 1, 2013

I know what the word desperate means, and I know the definition of housewife.  But, I have never been able to really wrap my mind around what women mean when they claim to be a desperate housewife or call someone that.  They never really seem to be desperate.

I just don’t get it.

One Comment
  1. May 1, 2013 3:29 pm

    I take a historical class-based analysis of this. Back in the day (and in many non-Western countries still), being a housewife (i.e. being out of the paid labor force) was hardly a choice. And in the days when most households survived on a subsistence, mostly non-cash basis, there was hardly anything to feel desperate about–relative to the poverty and lack of opportunity around you. This changed in the 19th century, as middle-class men increasingly gained access to college educations and the professions. As a result, intelligent middle-class women felt there was little for them to do that challenged them, as much of their work was taken up by servants. This culminated in Betty Friedan and the Feminist Mystique.

    I don’t know that working class women ever felt that being a housewife was oppressive as much. Many seemed to be relieved to be out of the factories or shops where they were subject to extremely low wages and terrible working conditions. It meant they could avoid a double shift of work at home and outside the home.

    Wealthy women were seldom really bored housewives. They had access to all kind of arts, travel, and charity work to keep them busy and entertained. Of course, their husband often didn’t really have jobs themselves–they just lived off their investments. It was a life of leisure for all. Not surprisingly, many high-income women even today who have the choice decide not to work. Who needs the aggravation? Plus, it’s something of a new status symbol to be a “stay-at-home” mother who doesn’t have a paying job. In an era of dramatically increasing income inequality, not having to work for a paycheck is considered Cool. The old work ethic is just for squares.

    I for one am not convinced that wage work is all that liberating. Having resources is freedom. Not being a slave to the man from 9 to 5. Or longer.

    I don’t want to be economically dependent on a man (not that I have any choice in the matter). But heck, if I won the lottery tomorrow and could do exactly as I liked, I’d hardly despair.

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