Yesterday I finished up Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I read the majority of the book on Saturday, curled up on the sofa with the computer by my side so I could Google names and watch key SNL sketches. And then I discovered that season six of Parks and Rec is finally available for streaming on Netflix and so I watched the first episode before going to bed. That night I dreamed about Amy all night long. Talk about a total immersion experience.
Despite the above paragraph, I’m not actually an Amy fan—I’m more of a Leslie Knope fan (I’m over-the-moon happy that I get to veg out with her for a whole string of evenings)—but I did enjoy the book. However, the real reason I’m bringing all this up is because of a section of the book in which Amy talked about how every mother needs a wife.
In her words, more or less, she says that every mother needs a person to cook her a meal, ask her how her day went, take care of the kids, free her up to work, help her be a better parent, etc. And she calls this person a wife.
To which I said, “No, Amy. That person is called a partner, not a wife. Gender, my dear, is irrelevant.”
It’s ironic to have to explain this, especially to someone as supposedly forward-thinking and open-minded as Amy, but when it comes to raising kids and running a household, wives are not for give-give-giving. And neither are husbands! Wives are partners, not at-your-beck-and-call servants. To talk about them as such just furthers the demeaning stereotype of women as superhuman (and, consequently, not fully human). If you need a servant/nanny, get one, but don’t call her your wife.
Now granted, Amy probably meant that every mother needs to be taken care of. And she’s right! If the spouse isn’t able to help carry the load, then good friends, relatives, and hired help make up the support team.
But not wives, Amy. Please, not wives.
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (4.7.14), yellow cake, cardamom orange buns, writing it out, and an effort.
Lucy Bryan Malenke
Interesting thoughts! I agree that partnership is the point. I haven't read Poehler's book, but I wonder if she was nodding to (or ripping off) Judy Syfers-Brady's famous feminist essay "Why I Want a Wife"–first published in Ms. Magazine in 1971. That essay uses satire to critique sexist assumptions about the roles and identity of a wife. I suspect it's author would share your take on partnership. Perhaps Poehler wasn't able to pull off the rhetorical move as well as Syfers-Brady did? If you want to read "Why I Want a Wife," it's available here: http://www.cwluherstory.org/why-i-want-a-wife.html. (Love the picture, by the way.)
The satirical tone of that essay you linked to (which I'm pretty sure I've read before) is completely different from Amy's essay. It felt like Amy's essay was affirming assumptions, not critiquing them. Which was both surprising and frustrating. Thus the giant eye roll.