Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death of a Housewife

Why not end this year with the death of a housewife?


MURDER by the BLOGGER!!!!!!! 

After having spent 2/3rds of my life in collecting various educational and vocational accolades including two post graduate degrees (from premier institutions, mind you!) and spending the other 1/3rd of my life in a self-indulgent and extremely gratifying way of being a stay at home mother, I find it disconcerting, depressing and eventually insulting to have to call myself a ‘housewife.’

I needn’t call myself one, and there are two ways to doing this. The simplest is that I don’t stay at home, but start work, so as to contribute to the economic growth of my country, and yes, my family as well. The second solution is the mightier and the tougher one, and this blog post is a miniscule attempt at achieving the titanic task.

Let me elaborate:

Whenever I used or heard the term ‘housewife’ my reaction was to clarify my status and disassociate myself with the term or the group; I would clarify by uttering, “Oh, I am a journalist by qualification, but I chose my kids over a career- for the time being.” But something was never right about such attempts. I was not salvaging myself. Definitely not!

And now I realise what was not right. The problem was not merely syntactical; it was the semantics that disturbed me. I am not so much in hatred with the term ‘housewife’ as I am with the idea of a ‘housewife’.

Doesn’t the word housewife have the mind conjure up an image of a sloppy woman, with near zero IQ levels; or a bitchy saas-bahu serial watching woman? That, ladies and gentlemen, is my problem with the term ‘housewife.

There have been tons of attempts to change the word and make it politically correct. Housewife to homemaker (home maker as opposed to home breaker???!!!!); home economist to home engineer (irrelevant but better sounding tags); stay at home mother? Still a better term but not general enough to cover all the members of the female species who do not “work” but have their priorities imported from a different world and are happy as they are.

The term has evolved but the idea has remained the same. How often I sense scorn when someone is branded a ‘housewife,’ especially when one has to fill up the column ‘employment status’ in any official form. It could be duly filled ‘employed’ or ‘not employed’ but instead the word provided is ‘housewife.’ Bah. 

There was a time when women needed to establish their independence by stepping out of home and working; there was a time when women driven by compulsion paved their way to work and had thus become a class apart from their counterparts at home. That was the birth of the housewife.

But just as women then had to step out of home for various reasons, some women today are forced to stay at home in spite of whims and dreams of the contrary. To journey from the past to the future, from the then to the there, we require a change. Of the changes I demand, one is the change in the demeaning and demonic practice of branding someone as a housewife and connoting a specific notion to that word.

Someone once pointed out to me that I was no longer compelled to establish my independence – my mother and mother-in-law had already done journeyed this path. I would not be the first one in my family to do so. 

My generation has been lucky to have had the snow shovelled off the road. The choice to drive on or sit by the road should be both personal and devoid of connotations. 

On another but not an irrelevant note, I wonder if a man who decides to quit work to take care of his children be not called unemployed, but something else. 

I would welcome not just the death of the term ‘housewife’ but also the death of the idea of a ‘housewife’. A woman should be given, just as a man, a chance to be labelled not by her state of contribution to the Nation’s commerce but maybe by totally marginal labels like gender and age.

Wishing all Men (employed and NOT employed) and all women (ditto ditto) a Happy Year Ahead.


  1. I would just like to quote Shakespeare - "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet."

    So housewife/homemaker/home minister doesn't make a woman inferior. In fact her superiority is clearly reflected in the choices she makes - Looking after her family's varied interest is one of the toughest job one can opt for. The superiority goes few notches up if she also decides to adapt herself to juggle between professional and home work.

    In fact the women's superiority has long been established. In a original game of 'Shatranj' - A 'King' had an ally 'Wazir' who could move only 1 step diagonally, but in the 15th century the same 'Wazir' was replaced by a 'Queen' with unlimited powers to move around anywhere on the board and so since then it clearly implies that women were seen as a strong & natural ally/support to men.

    So the term 'Housewife' can evolve over time, but killing it outright is not the way. Murdering a term would only undermine the strength of such women like yourself who opt for their family over a career.

  2. Kartik Sheth,
    What you say is absolute truth. A woman, by anyother name, would remain the same. But this murdering rage in me erupted when I read a report, compiled by/for the government of India, that classified housewives along with beggars and prostitutes!!!


Let me know what you think as well.