Anthony Esolen over at the Touchstone blog Mere Comments ponders the way we name things and how this affects our perception of what is named, particularly when speaking of women in marriage and family. His meditation was launched by a friend’s lament that among women she encountered at a school reunion, she was the only “stay-at-home-mom.” Esolen first notes that this term “… seems to describe somebody who lacks the imagination to do anything other than stay at home.” He goes on to consider the senses attached to homemaker, house-wife, and mother, as terms used to denote the nature or vocation of women today. He concludes by reflecting on the term hook-up, used commonly today for what a previous generation would have called fornicating.
What Esolen considers here goes beyond simple words. Try using Google or Live Search to search for images associated with the terms housewife or homemaker. Be sure to set the sexual filters provided by these search engines engaged.
As you scan the results, you’ll see one strata of images such as the ones in this blog. Homemaker or housewife often find graphical representation that signifies that they are archaic callings, antique avocations, redolent with sights, sounds, styles, and activities of an era half a century or more in the past. And, most such images of housewife and homemaker are rendered in a way that is graphically condescending or patronizing.
Now, what do you suppose happens when a married woman who devotes herself to her husband’s and children’s well-being fills out an application for credit, or a bank account, or an application for insurance, or any of the multiple forms the public schools insist parents fill out. Invariably, there’s a blank line labeled “Occupation.” Read the comments to Esolen’s blog to learn what some women think when confronted with this blank on an application.
There was one ray of hope down in the comments of Esolen’s blog. One woman commented:
I never liked home-maker” because … it makes me feel guilty: it evokes images of a peaceful, orderly haven presided over by a serene woman, with smells of something baking wafting from the kitchen …
In her situation, evidently, seven children contributed to a different effect. But, I cheered because in her mind, at least, was the notion that “homemaker” – at least in its ideal expression – is a serene woman, presiding over an orderly haven. It reminded me immediately of what Paul sets before older women to teach younger wives, and I think this particular woman may find herself one day achieving what looks to her, from the trenches, as a presently unrealized goal.
To get there, she will need to keep that serene woman and her peaceful haven clearly in her mind. The world despises such women and seeks to redefine the term homemaker for all of us.