Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Fetishizing the Good Wife

with 5 comments

The problems start with the subhead: A new generation of female bloggers is championing the importance of being a good wife and partner.

Yes, a new generation of bloggers, eons removed from those paleolithic female bloggers of 2003 who, incidentally, aimed to be terrible wives and atrocious partners! But blah blah blah; people like to cover housewives. The green/locavore/whatever movement is providing a wonderful new hook for doing so.

What’s more interesting, I think, are things like this:

And then there’s Taryn Cox, who isn’t afraid to put it all out there, unabashedly writing about stereotypically uxorial topics ranging from themed baby showers and creating her own cocktail-style dresses to the art of ironing a newspaper and how to clean with vodka at a blog she has titled TarynCoxTheWife.com.

Cox’s posts showcase classic glamour and gorgeous parties as songs such as “Sunny Side of the Street” play in the background.

“I’ve always just been so completely fascinated by the idea of marriage and dedication,” says Cox, a trim 26-year-old with a penchant for pastels and an e-mail address that starts with “stepfordwife.”

No, she’s not married and she doesn’t have kids, but “this [blog] is for those dreams and fantasies. I believe my own vision. I believe there’s an art to being a good wife.”

Clearly, Taryn is taking things a little far. But I think for a certain subset of post-post-feminist (or whatever we are) Gen Y women—especially the particularly horrifying strain who perhaps read a lot of Sylvia Plath or worked in a vintage clothing shop in high school, who were raised by Republicans or Catholics but later got a lip ring or an ill-advised Kanji tattoo, and who appreciate a good cocktail, a man who will take out the garbage and the erotic possibilities of gender roles—well, it’s not too hard to get sucked into the ‘good wife’ allure. Not to the degree Taryn has, heavens no. Just a little bit.

Maybe it’s seriously all libido. Or maybe it’s just another facet of that grasping 20-something desire for some model for how to be Good at Life®.

The rest of the article—which ran in Sunday’s L.A. Times—is mostly a rehash of some book about being your husband’s “at home business partner” or something that came out a few years ago, sprinkled with a little bit of two-bloggers-as-Trend anecdotes. And of course there is the Angry Feminist response:

“They want to live in this perfectly art-directed world,” says Michele Kort, senior editor at Ms. “It’s an illusion that if you have all the right clothes and right accessories that your life will be perfect. This is a throwback to stuff like [Marabel Morgan’s 1974 self-help book] ‘The Total Woman’ … that a wife should be subservient and be all about making a man comfortable and having the perfect household … for the women of the ’50s, it wasn’t so happy-making.”
Which is one of those arguments that just seems silly, for anyone to endorse or for anyone to take as the standard belief of all feminists. To me, it seems that for some women of the 50s, it probably was “happy-marking,” to use Kort’s awkward phrasing. It’s possible that then, as now, there were some women who really did enjoy being completely dedicated wives and mothers. And that this being true in no way negates the fact that many women do not enjoy being full-time housewives, and that women should pursue whatever path makes them happiest. I mean, while I appreciate all the current research and publicity about how women who don’t work could be in for a lot of financial misery if their husbands dump them … at a certain point, god. All of our life paths are a gamble. If we really want to protect our young women’s financial futures, we should tell them not to become journalists, or actors, or major in sociology.


Written by Elizabeth

May 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Interesting. I guess I fall into this category as I’ve been developing a cooking/crafts/entertaining/decorating blog as a creative outlet. I pray that it’s not like that Cox girl, but I think of this period of my life as practice for when I have a family.

    I think a lot of this is a combination of personal values and reactions to being raised by second-wave feminists. I’m usual in that my grandmother was an early feminist and my mom rebelled against her and is the perfect housewife who puts Martha Stewart to shame. Perhaps my mom brainwashed me, but I can’t think of anything better than being a housewife. It’s hard and not glamorous, but one day it will be worth it.

    Liz, I think we should write a book about post-post-post feminism from our differing perspectives. 🙂


    May 18, 2010 at 11:07 pm

  2. “If we really want to protect our young women’s financial futures, we should tell them not to become journalists, or actors, or major in sociology.”



    May 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  3. […] LA Times focused on the trend of women purposely opting for traditional housewife roles. My friend, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, wrote about it and drew my attention to the story. The article focused on several female bloggers. […]

  4. Oh, god, A, that would be a terrible, terrible book, haha! Or, I mean, we’d kill each other writing it … My mom wasn’t a “feminist” by any means, at least not in the pronounced sense; her and my dad have a very traditional relationship (and they’re high-school sweethearts who started dating at 15 & 17). But I think the more “feminist” or maybe more accurately progressive way that they raised me was in sort of always encouraging me to think for myself. I’m not saying yours didn’t; but I have a lot of friends whose parents were much more agressive in dictating their children’s decisions and college majors and beliefs, etc. I also think it’s kind of cool that my dad never really treated my sister and I like “daughters,” at least not in that ‘daddy’s little princess’ kind of way. I’ve always been super close to my dad, as has my little sister. And he was originally disappointed to have two girls! But he taught us to play sports, and when I turned out to be terrible at all of them and much better twirling baton with my mom, my dad & I started relating on the level of books & politics & music & history, which we both loved to discuss. It’s not that he didn’t sometimes try to intimidate my boyfriends – but my mom was definitely the more intimidating one! (everyone always loves my dad)

    Oh, god, that was a tangent and I’m not sure where I was going with it. P.s. Hi, Mel!


    May 22, 2010 at 11:02 am

  5. Your dad sounds very cool, Elizabeth. I really enjoy your blog.

    The Truffle

    May 24, 2010 at 8:40 pm

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