“Seriously?” I gripe, on what feels like a more and more frequent basis, “doesn’t anyone else see this?”
I rant as I walk with a friend through a bookstore. I groan as a roommate and I watch promos for a new show or movie. And just when I think that I’ve surely seen the end of the craze, it resurfaces, more vicious and obnoxious than ever. Or maybe my tolerance level has reached an all-time low. Either way, I’m not sure how much more of this crap I can feasibly face.
Wife. It’s such a loaded term, with so many expectations and fantasies surrounding it. Any number of images may come to mind, from heroic leader of the home, to working woman extraordinaire, to beaten and battered victim, and even haughty trophy. The word becomes even more complex when we take into account the historical and cultural aspects surrounding it. However, the place I see this reappearing buzz word most is in the media, who seem to be milking wives (pardon the crude imagery) for all they’re worth.
This last week, I have had an unorthodox amount of time on my hands and actually had some to spare for the tube. Whilst allowing myself to be simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the latest episode of “The Briefcase,” I changed the channel whenever a commercial came on. At one point, I reached the ABC channel and saw that a new show will be premiering on Thursday June 18th- a “gem” called “The Astronaut Wives’ Club,” based on the book by Lily Koppel.
I wouldn’t call it a breaking point per se, but it certainly got me to write this post, now didn’t it? Anyway, what I’m getting at here is what is swiftly becoming my undoing. But instead of saying it outright, I’ll let one of the wives from the show that I observed in the promo do some more exhibition for me first.
“Our husbands all want to go up [into space] first- it’s our job to get them what they want,” she informs the other wives. Fast forward to her on the phone, demanding to talk to the president (of the U.S., I presume). “Who am I?” she asks, obviously bursting to share with the person on the other end, “I’m an ASTRONAUT’S WIFE!”
And therein lies my beef, my intrinsic struggle- what the title of “wife” has come to mean in the media. It’s like a badge of honor to be worn; an officially unofficial way to place oneself on par with the triumphs and victories of one’s spouse or even a a stand-alone method to claim that a woman has an interesting story to tell due to her wifey status. And while I would say a husband or a wife is doubtlessly instrumental in helping their cherished one reach his or her goals, I wouldn’t support the idea that our spouses’ achievements are our own. If I gave birth to a child, I would say that I had given birth- I can’t imagine many eyebrows would raise at the fact that I hadn’t accredited this act to my significant other. I would certainly say he had been instrumental in making the pregnancy possible and would, in an ideal scenario, be by my side as a comforter/cheerleader during the actual birthing, but to say that he had also given birth wouldn’t be very accurate. That would be all me, baby, all the pushing and the sweating and the dilating- all that fun stuff.
In this same vein, I wouldn’t say that the wife of an astronaut had done the intense training and undergone the same strain as her husband in order to become an actual, bonafide astronaut. She has almost certainly been by his side and supported him every step of the way, but unless she too has gone through the proper channels and put in the time and effort, she is simply putting the “not” in “Astro-not.” And in reality, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this; there’s no shame in being the wife or spouse of someone who is wildly rich, successful, etc. These womens’ stories would probably be very interesting to watch based on the merit of all the things they’ve gone through, both as a support group for each other and as pillars of strength in their homes and communities. But when did our media become so obsessed with focusing on women through the lens of their status as wife? Why are we focusing more on astronaut wives than female astronauts? Or any type of wife, for that matter?
Another show, “The Real Housewives of (D.C., Atlanta, Orange County, take your pick),” follows the lives of several interesting, successful (albeit, sometimes quite catty), women, many who own their own businesses and lead fascinating lives, and yet, they’re still referred to first and foremost as wives, not women.
Although I am not one, being a wife seems just like anything else worth doing- a lot of work with the potential of great rewards for both parties involved. But both women and men are much more than their marital status, and it seems like a shame that in order to tell a woman’s story, it is more often-than-not done through the title that ties her to her husband. Patriarchal much? And to those who might feel inclined to huffiness or outrage at my observations, I ask of you- where are all my riveting books and movies brimming with exciting tales about husbands? “The Time Traveler’s Husband?” “The Bishop’s Husband?” “The Zookeeper’s Husband?” No? Well, at least there’s “Husband Swap.” Which would technically be an accurate title anyway but… le sigh.
So in honor of all the eye rolling I have done anytime a new novel, show, or film emerges that uses the word “wife” in the title, I have compiled a list below of several examples that come to mind. I’m sure I’m leaving out some juicy ones, so feel free to add to the list in the comments if you spot one I missed.
Wife-themed books, movies, etc. (in no particular order, I’m not a masochist):
*The Good Wife (T.V. show)
*The Astronaut Wives Club (book and T.V. show)
*The Bishop’s Wife (movie)
*The Time Traveler’s Wife (book and movie)
*The Zookeeper’s Wife (book)
*The Real Housewives of (Take your Pick) (T.V. show)
*Army Wives (T.V. show)
*First Wives Club (movie)
*Desperate Housewives (T.V. show)
*The Actor and the Housewife (book)
*How I Met your Mother (a.k.a. “my wife,” T.V. show)
*Silent Wife (book)
*The Astronaut’s Wife (movie)
*A Reliable Wife (book)
*The Lost Wife (book)
*Wife Swap (T.V. show)
Once again, this is not a comprehensive list; I welcome any other additions with great anticipation of additional eye rolls. 🙂