BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 11 January, 2002, 11:28 GMT
Wifework: Standing the heat, staying in the kitchen
wifework abstract noun, the belief that in spite of the sexual revolution, female emancipation, and equal opportunities, married women still find themselves adopting traditional roles, i.e. cooking and cleaning.

DEFINED BY: author Susan Maushart, who says it's "the unwritten contract into which a woman enters upon marriage. The job description most of us were determined would never apply to us".

BASED ON: Maushart writes that just after her first wedding, she and her new husband went home. "We'd been having dinner together most nights for two years. Like most graduate students, we mostly ate takeaways or grabbed a cheap meal at one of the many cafés around the university. And then we got married. 'I suppose I really ought to cook dinner,' I remember thinking to myself rather uncertainly."

CONFLICT 1: feminism? Maushart believes its achievements have been largely "in the public sphere", leaving family life mostly untouched.

CONFLICT 2: girl power? The Spice Girl-inspired empowerment campaign was once the toast of the media. The US Government also took up the cause, encouraging "positive values" among the nine to 14-year-olds. Will girlpower last until its followers reach womanhood?

CONFLICT 3: new men? The early 90s phenomenon in which men were supposed to be caring and sharing, especially in cooking, childcare, and considerate treatment of women. (cf new laddism) Or perhaps new men just become old men.

Your comments:

Reader Mrs Andrews adds:
I would happily be a housewife, or at least have more time at home. Feminism isn't always a good thing.

Reader Mr Carney adds:
My wife works from home whereas I go "out" to work, therefore so that we can have our evening meal at a reasonable time it is usually she that prepares it, while I invariably do the washing up afterwards. At the weekend this 'role' usually reverses. I cannot remember us ever discussing who should do what - the system just seemed to evolve.

Reader Mr Leitch adds:
In one way or another I expect my wife to cook my dinner and do the ironing, but only in the same way that she expects me to rennovate our house and sort out any correspondence. This was not imposed on her, but is in fact her preference for household duties.

But reader Ms Wilson adds:
Traditional roles? We don't have time! With two professional careers, the jobs have to be done by the one available at that moment. It's the only way we can work, run a home and still have lives.

And reader Mr Sheppard adds:
Any man who thinks he is too good to do his share of cleaning and washing up and so should think again. The real issue is behaving civilly.

Adopt your traditional role by submitting comments or questions here.

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories