Has the housewife really had her day?

The Scottish Women's Rural Institute is divided over whether the term 'housewife' is outdated.

The Scottish Women's Rural Institute is divided over whether the term 'housewife' is outdated.


Victoria Beckham may be basking in the footballers' wives limelight during the World Cup but despite her fame and fortune, it's the role of humble housewife that she most identifies with.

“The truth is I see myself like one of the characters from the series 'Desperate Housewives' - the one who has the most kids,” she said recently.

“All day with the kids. Up and down, trying to cook and clean.”

But unlike her designer fashions, it seems Victoria's career choice could be a little passe in the eyes of the Scottish Women's Rural Institute.

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The organisation is facing a great divide over the use of the term 'housewife'. Some members have branded the word “outdated and derogatory” and are calling to ditch the housewives description.

Alison Bayley, chair of the SWRI, said: “Among some of our members, there is a feeling the name of the committee has served us well for 90 years and it should continue. Their argument is along the lines of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it',” she said.

“However, in the other camp there are very strong feelings that the role of women has changed and we need to reflect that. Our members are not necessarily wives or are in the house that much.”


Women have been putting careers on the back burner for decades for a life of 'domestic bliss' in the home.

But Zelda West-Meads, relationship counsellor and agony aunt for the Mail on Sunday and You magazine, believes the term should be left in the Dark Ages.

“The term housewife implies that you're married to the house. To define someone as a housewife is out-of-date and old fashioned - the majority of women today are now juggling home life with work.

“The word housewife doesn't empower you with any particular role other than looking after and running the house, which is the least important job that women do nowadays,” she adds.

“Looking after children, partnerships and working take priority. The other stuff has to be done of course, but you don't have to be named after it!”


The Desperate Housewives of Wisteria Lane have had the nation glued to their television sets. With glamour ruling the gaggle of women, does the term simply need sprucing up for the 21st century?

“At the moment we're experiencing a bit of a housewives revolution,” says Tracey Williams, editor-in-chief of women's website, iVillage.co.uk.

“The housewife role has become much more glamorous and fashionable and people like Nigella Lawson have been making it so for quite some time. It's now considered trendy to stay at home and bake fairy cakes and knit great jumpers!

“Depending on your social strata, it's quite desirable to stay at home these days and be a yummy mummy.

“We have a message board on our website, which is categorised 'stay-at-home mums', however, we don't ever use the term 'housewife'. But there are women out there who don't have children but choose to stay at home, so what do you call them? I think we're ready for some new words.”


Women do still exist that aspire to Bree Van De Kamp-style standards of housewife behaviour. It seems some of us still relish scrawling 'housewife' in the occupation box.

“As a professional housewife I am very proud to be called just that 'a housewife',” says April Harris, founder of 21stcenturyhousewife.com.

“There is nothing outdated or derogatory about it. As housewives we need to own our talents. Whilst our role may have evolved over the years we are still an important part of the fabric of our society and make up a large proportion of the workforce.

“Rather than eliminating the title of housewife, as a society we need to honour the craft that housewives pursue.

“I do not mean to sound as if I feel all women should be housewives nor to promote a 'Stepford style' housewife but each woman who chooses this career should feel the potential to be fulfilled within it - and have no hesitation to call herself a housewife.”