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Judy Brady wrote her essay, “I Want a Wife,” as a description of the “modern” 1972 wife and what’s expected of her. The question is, though, does it hold up today? It is my belief that, though some of the descriptions still apply, the argument crumbles to the ground under today’s standards.
Brady’s description of a wife depicts her as a Cleaning Robot/Counselor/Nanny/Chef/Sex Doll. Basically, the wife is responsible for absolutely everything at the house. She clearly meant this as a way to show the extremes a wife has to live with. Today, however, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, today it seems as if these extremes didn’t even exist in this century. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in her 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” explains this; “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her the rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men – both natives and foreigners. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead. He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns” (582). The list goes on, including nine more detailed explanations regarding the nature of a woman’s being. It’s hard to believe that, between the 128-year time span of the two essays, only laws have changed in the favor of women.
But in the thirty-eight year time span between Brady’s essay and today, It’s much more acceptable in society today to be a stay-at-home husband and have the wife work full time. In fact, stay-at-home husbands have increased to three million in recent years, and full time working wives have jumped up to fifty percent, up from forty percent in the early 70’s. My mother works full time for my father, as well as taking care of two children (including me). On both job fronts, the work is split evenly, more or less.
Women have fought for and earned the place in society they have now. As a result, there have been some major changes in the way women have been treated over the past century. As society’s view on genders is a much more flexible one now more than ever, it’s not as easy to place a woman in the role of a Cleaning Robot/Counselor/Nanny/Chef/Sex Doll. Women have much more freedom to do whatever they want with their lives. They don’t have to get married, and they don’t have to stay at home.
Some characteristics have stayed the same, however. As mentioned before, stay-at-home husbands have reached three million. But that’s only one percent of the U.S. population. There are still more female nannies and house-keepers than male, and women are still paid less as a whole for the same jobs men do. Using my mother as an example once again, she and my sister are the only ones that really care about house cleanliness. My father helps when asked, but my stance on the subject is if it has a bed, a TV, a kitchen, a bathroom and a roof, it’s livable.
There are those still that treat women disrespectfully, though. As I mentioned before, women are still paid less than men in the same jobs, and there are those that still hold true to Brady’s 1972 description of a wife. Brady, in her essay, says, “I want a wife who is sensitive to my sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who makes sure that I am satisfied. And, of course, I want a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it;” (521) To me, it almost sounds like rape. There are many more charges against males raping females then there are vice versa. No matter how tough either job is, working full time or staying at home, both genders should be treated with full rights and liberties, even if society says no.
Though some characteristics still apply, Brady’s 1972 description of a wife’s duties have no real value in the modern society. Maybe if we just keep with what we’re doing now, we’ll see times with a wife that fits less and less into Brady’s characteristics. At this rate, we won’t have to worry about it being too far off.
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