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'Housewife' - derogatory?

(102 Posts)
eatssleepsfeeds Sat 09-Feb-13 18:26:03

This has probably been done to death in times when I hadn't discovered MN joy. So sorry in advance for the yawn.

I was at the opticians today. The 25 yr old optician (I'd say) asked me what my occupation was. I've got 2 teenies but my DH was looking after them outside. I said I look after my 2 children all the time now. I used to be a solicitor. She said, 'Ummm, I'll say housewife then.'

This isn't the first time someone's said this.

I accept I'm a wife and that I'm in the house quite a lot. But I feel that there is a difference between being a SAHM and being a 'housewife' - looking after children, namely.

louisianablue2000 Sat 09-Feb-13 22:37:09

I'd say 'housewife' was a derogatory term. If you are in any doubt think about this. When Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry the Daily Mail headline was 'Oxford Housewife wins Nobel Prize'. If the DM uses it it must be bad!

But since there is no acceptable term maybe it says quite a lot about how society view women, bit like there is no generally acceptable non-offensive slang word for female genitalia.

WifeofPie Sat 09-Feb-13 22:38:45

Nah...I don't think it's anything to get het up about. We still use the term 'midwife' after all....In fact it might be term to 'take back' the name, as it were. It has been used in a derogatory fashion in the past, but it shouldn't be.

Jizjones Sat 09-Feb-13 22:39:24

Indeed scottishmummy...but as Whoknowswhocares said early on in the thread "I'm a bit shocked that the optician needs to know your occupation. What possible difference could it make?"

Unless OP does not feel somewhat diminished by answering the question with 'SAHM' or 'Housewife', there is fun to be had in answering stupidity with stupidity.

WifeofPie Sat 09-Feb-13 22:40:32

time to, not term to.

WifeofPie Sat 09-Feb-13 22:45:05

...and remember that next time you have to fill in one of those forms, you could also put MYOB or 'International Woman of Mystery'.

Dancergirl Sat 09-Feb-13 22:47:48


It's only 'degoratory' because you lot are all saying it is. Be proud of what you do.

microfall Sat 09-Feb-13 22:48:27

I am happy to describe myself as a housewife and I don't see it as derogatory. I have dc but they are teenagers at boarding school, so I don't feel sahm is an accurate description. I'm pleased that we have a high enough income from dh's work and my investments so that I don't have to work, as I've never enjoyed the restrictions of having a job.

Opticians need to know your occupation because certain jobs will affect your eyesight, e.g. office work involving a lot of computer use.

Permanentlyexhausted Sat 09-Feb-13 22:50:05

I'm not married to the house

If the term 'housewife' implies being married to a house, do you regularly refer to yourself as a 'manwife' because you are married to a man? Of course not because you'd sound deranged, and like something you might find in a dodgy Thai bar!

Bearbehind Sat 09-Feb-13 22:50:15

Jizjones' an opticians form is one where it is relevant what you do all day, spending 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen does impact your eyes in a different way to running around after children

Latara Sat 09-Feb-13 22:55:12

The problem with saying you are a SAHM is that it's too long winded to write out on forms in full.

'Housewife' does sound dated; but are there any good alternative words that are less old fashioned yet mean the same thing??

Jizjones Sat 09-Feb-13 22:57:31

True microfall, my own previously 20/20 eyesight is now ruined by reading MN in bed at night on a mobile phone sad

The term 'Housewife' does have negative connotations in Society...I imagine OP's 25'ish year old Optician receiving the reply with a small moue.

Best to shaft the system in your own small way and do as WifeofPie and I would do...MYOB, or BYOB, as you see fit.

Jizjones Sat 09-Feb-13 22:59:20

Bearbehind Agreed - see above. Though CBEEBIES is seared on my retinas for all time.

Birdsgottafly Sat 09-Feb-13 22:59:58

"I suppose that technically it should be unemployed really"

If it was a tick box list, it would come under Caring, or Caring responsibilities.

I was a member of the GSCC (now disbanded) and every week from leaving school had to be accounted for, so Carer was acceptable for even your own children.

Unemployed suggests seeking work (in theory) which Carers, aren't.

Certain occupations puts you at risk of disease and eye strain etc, so it is an information gathering question, as the eyes show many medical conditions and an eye test is a medical examination, of sorts.

SolomanDaisy Sat 09-Feb-13 23:00:48

It is used by some as a derogatory term, including by several aggressively anti SAHM posters on here. I'd never use the term as it defines the role in relation to a husband, when it is usually about the children, I.e. the woman exists only in relation to the man.

redbobblehat Sat 09-Feb-13 23:06:47

i think full time mum is the most often used term these days in reallife
sahm online

Bearbehind Sat 09-Feb-13 23:11:06

Jizjones, good point, maybe they should have a seperately tick box for thatgrin

zzzzz Sat 09-Feb-13 23:12:12

I don't care what anyone calls my occupation, "housewife" isn't particularly accurate, but explaining would take ages.

I occasionally tell horrendous lies fabricate a little, but that is only to amuse myself.

SoldAtAuction Sat 09-Feb-13 23:14:29

We use the term homemaker, as it doesn't refer to gender, or if there are kids at home. I think it sums up what I do rather well.

nailak Sat 09-Feb-13 23:17:24

"Reading the Plowden Report from 1967 for my literature review, I'm intrigued that several members of advisory council describe themselves as "housewife and parent".

I wonder, would anyone choose that description today for their formal as a committee member?

It made me think about how much we value job titles and roles now; in the 60s it seems that it was possible to claim one's worth in other ways.

The report, by the way, is scathing about childcare for working parents: “some mothers who are not obliged to work may work full-time, regardless of their children’s welfare. It is no business of the educational service to encourage these mothers to do so”.


redbobblehat Sat 09-Feb-13 23:31:00

yeah homemaker is agood one

Jizjones Sat 09-Feb-13 23:31:16

eatssleepsfeeds How you/we are defined is clearly important for 'data collection purposes' and I'm very Hmmn about that. I do take on board that looking at a screen for +++ hours per day may have an impact on your eyesight (though differentiating between for work and MN'ing may not be so easily distinguished!) - may I ask, in all honesty, what would an Optician do differently if you stated you were working in I.T as opposed to a SAHM/Housewife, when carrying out an eye test?

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 09-Feb-13 23:35:18

I don't like it as a term- I think it is a bit derogatory. I think I would just like to be known by name or 'not in paid employment' or something similar and nothing with reference to my marital or parental situation.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 09-Feb-13 23:36:06

Homemaker is also awful! It's like something from 1952.

Bearbehind Sat 09-Feb-13 23:39:15

jiz apparently it's all to do with your eyes drying out when you stare at a screen all day.

Homemaker is a horrible term IMO, it makes me think of someone trying to fix one thing that is broken.

Bearbehind Sat 09-Feb-13 23:40:09

*something not one thing

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