The Meaning of Wife

I am such a sucker for those “people who looked at X also bought Y” at the bottom of the page on Amazon. That is how the little treasure The Meaning of Wife by Anne Kingston came into my life. I was just going to buy one book for book club and suddenly I had a cart full of books on modern wifehood. Perhaps this coming transition isn’t all about tulle and cupcakes.

Kingston explores the often contradictory aspects of the modern wife, from the sex object v. virgin dichotomy, abused wives, what being a ‘wife’ is worth in terms of divorce settlements and more. While a bit dated, with references to Laura Bush as ‘our current First Lady,’ Kingston is still able to suss out the hidden assumptions about what being a wife means.

What I found really powerful was at each turn, from fairy princess wedding doll, to abused wife, to consumer, to divorcee, Kingston is able to show how the social narrative continues to remove agency from women. These events are acted upon them; rarely do women actively seek out these roles. It is this that makes me so angry. Perhaps I need to rethink Bitch in the House.


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