By MAMAMIA TEAM
In the latest installment of odd things making internet headlines, an organisation called Rent a Wife has come under fire for… well… offering wives for rent.
A bit of back story: Rent a Wife was started by a woman named Juliette Bresnahan, who originally wanted to start a housekeeping service for other women who either didn’t have any time or any interest in doing things like doing a week’s worth of grocery shopping at Costco or planning a child’s birthday party. They’ve since extended to cater to everyone from single dads to overwhelmed female executives and “anyone who needs more time and eight more hands.”
There are three packages available: the Starter Wife, the Good Wife and the Trophy Wife. Each translates to different amounts of time you get with your particular ‘wife’. She doesn’t come particularly cheap though; a starter wife will set you back $40/hour for just five hours a month.
So what exactly can your wife do? According to their website:
We can wait in line at the Post Office, the DMV, the return line at Target or even the voting polls while you show up just in the nick of time. We can pick up your kids from school and deliver them to soccer, [with or without cupcakes].
We can organize your Tupperware, spice drawer and even your undies. We can plan your parties, send the invites, make the space look fabulous, and rent the bouncy house or the bartender. We can coordinate your home improvement projects with Bob the builder, choose paint colors, stage your furniture and take your house from drab to fab.
We can transform your office into a money factory, sell your treasures on Craigslist, assemble your Ikea furniture, cook your meals, and walk your dog. We can manage your move out of the old and into the new with ease and TLC.
Jezebel called the organisation’s name “dated and sexist-sounding”, adding that it reinforces the idea “that domestic work is always necessarily feminine”.
Salon equally disliked the name after taking note of the wife resposibilities: “What a progressive and romantic view of marriage!” (Sarcasm font there.)
The Cut suggested the organisation should be renamed “rent-a-temp” or “rent-a-situational-personal-assistant” because the name “equates being a wife to being a servant/personal assistant with great skill in negotiating a contract”.
Juliette, the founder of Rent A Wife, has previously explained the reasoning behind the name, saying that it was inspired after her single-mother friends said that they need a wife to help them sort their lives out.
And that’s a sentiment that’s also been expressed before – right here on Mamamia. Comedian and broadcaster, Meshel Laurie, wrote an entire column about why she’d really just like a wife:
A man will always operate like a man, no matter if he’s middle-aged and caring for small children, or 18 and living with six other 18-year old men in a two bedroom flat above a Chinese takeaway. A house husband will wash the clothes, but they’ll never make it to a drawer, they’ll remain in the “clean” basket on the laundry floor until they are worn and transferred back into the “dirty” basket beside it.
House husbands simply have no need for drawers. The house husband has no need for face washers, mops or tissues either, he has a tea towel. Tomato sauce is his signature vegetable, X-Box bans are his most powerful punishment, and the bath tub has no place in the lives of his children.
Ask yourself this: How many men do you know who can drive from one side of the city to another, all while answering the questions of several inquisitive children from the backseat, soothing a crying baby, sorting out a Medicare claim, hosting Wiggles sing-a-longs, being on the phone to their sick sister and thinking about what to serve the in-laws when they come for lunch on Sunday?
(Editorial Note: If you do find a bloke who can do this, then please direct them to the Mamamia office – we have some single women that would very much like to meet them.)
But does the ‘needing a wife’ thing come from the fact women are inherently better multi-taskers and pay more attention to detail? OR is it simply that women tend to end up doing the bulk of domestic, organising and caring work because they’re traditionally filled those roles? Do we need to challenge the stereotypes that this business name is based on in the first place?
And how does the business Hire a Hubby stack up? They are a popular Australian property maintenance company that allows you a hire a ‘husband’ to get traditionally ‘masculine’ odd jobs done, like tiling, fencing, putting together IKEA furniture or mowing the lawn.
Mia has hired one in the past and wrote about it here. She said:
My hired hubby arrived one morning right before my actual one went to work. They shook hands. It was very civil as far as polygamy goes. And then it was pure heaven. Odd jobs were done without any excuses, swear words or endless trips to the hardware store for forgotten parts. Furniture was assembled and moved around. Pictures were hung. Awnings were cleaned. And I didn’t even have to make encouraging noises or be grateful.
Surely if we’re going to call out the Rent-a-Wife organisation for reinforcing stereotypes, then it runs both ways. Equating a husband with a servant with a toolbelt and an intimate knowledge of Expedit shelving units, is pretty sexist too. Is it unfair to send the message to men that masculinity requires them to be able to own a chainsaw?
Over to you. Are organisations like Ren-A-Wife and Hire-a-Hubby intrinsically sexist or are they just clever advertising tactics that are taking advantage of what the community thinks already?