I was not really surprised to read this week that almost 40% of modern women consider the term “housewife” to be obsolete and, frankly, insulting.
I’ve hear women say being described as a housewife suggests you are you lazy (or stupid) to have a “real” job.
The world has changed beyond recognition since my parents’ days. I remember my mother making soap, darning socks, baking bread, cutting out dress patterns to make dresses for my sister and spending hours in the kitchen baking biscuits for the family and making bottles of ginger beer with corks tied down with string.
Running a house really was a full-time job. How many of those routine tasks do any of us do today? I haven’t heard of anyone darning a sock for years, and who makes soap nowadays? Or ginger beer.
Today’s world revolves around the shopping mall, where people buy the things our grannies used to make - from ginger beer to potato salad, it’s all there, ready to take home and enjoy without even untidying the kitchen counter.
The automatic washing machines handle the family’s laundry and the tumble drier saves the effort of having to hang out the washing on a clothes line.
Modern products remove stains, clean surfaces, sanitise toilets, shine metal ware and polish furniture at the press of an aerosol button.
In fact, housekeeping has all become so convenient that even men can do it. No wonder women feel insulted.
There’s also the fact that very few women can afford not to go into professions or jobs to share home expenses. Every member of the modern family dashes off to work or school in the morning and the house often stays empty until late afternoon when the family comes home exhausted and ready for a frozen, pre-cooked meal a pre-stirred drink and an hour in front of the TV set absorbing the day’s depressing news.
Even now, however, women and men need to do the many chores necessary to keep a home running, even if it’s just to remember to start the washing machine and clear the dishwasher.
It’s time for us to come up with a new, non-sexist, non-insulting, gender-neutral word to replace the obsolete term “housewife.” Home technician? Domestic executive? Habitat operator?
None of those sound important enough. Running a home requires many specialised skills and technical know-how. I’d be interested to receive suggestions from readers. My email address is at the foot of this column. Send me a brief message if you think you have a suitable word.
The Waterfront was bustling with Christmas shoppers and sightseers and a white-faced mime artist was performing for the crowds. He pretended to be shut in a closed glass box, feeling the invisible walls and roof and trying to escape. There was a hat on the pavement next to him for tips and donations.
One man in the crowd was obviously impressed by the mime’s performance and walked over, pretended to tap on the imaginary glass box, and when the mine looked at him he mimed the action of placing a banknote in the hat.
* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.