Why “The New Trophy Wife” deserves a closer look.


(Dragging out my soapbox ’cause I’m short)

Kristen Houghton published an article a few days ago called “The New Trophy Wife” that essentially suggests the new definition of a trophy wife is a woman who’s got looks AND brains AND power.

Overall, while it’s encouraging to see anything that remotely supports women’s success and intelligence… It’s hard for me to cheer for this specific message. At best, our inclination to accept it just highlights the dearth of positive messages about women, particularly married women.

This isn’t new.

The fact that people choose to marry intelligent, successful, beautiful women is not news.

An expose on how popular narratives have intentionally obscured the truth about women’s power, brilliance and accomplishments for centuries would be news. An expose on how policy limits women’s success and promotes hyper-sexualized views of girls and women is news. An expose on how women’s oppression has reacted with racism and classism to destroy lives all over the world is news.

Especially because so many of us women have been conditioned to avoid rocking the boat on our issues. God forbid I’m not only a woman, but a black woman as well the challenge is even greater. How dare I choose the wrong movement at any given moment? In fact, every moment of every day I live out the movement, demanding black lives matter. Yes all women. Bring back our girls.

We can see the eyes rolling, hear the uncomfortable silence, anticipate the dismissive counterarguments. Success, power, and a platform should empower us to support other women, particularly those who haven’t achieved a type of popular success.

Not to mention, why reinforce the idea that wives should be “eye candy”? We should absolutely be healthy and demonstrate self-care and self-love. I actually tried for years to convince myself objectification was a compliment (it’s not.) So how is objectifying a woman while saying the age of objectification is ending even logical?

Why promote the idea that a professionally successful woman is more intelligent, powerful and equal to a man than a domestically successful woman? This kind of limited standard setting, which deceptively reinforces status quo by suggesting certain marginalized groups are inching towards mainstream definition of standard, does us all a disservice. As a result ideals are consistently set below the true mark and we remain trapped in a cycle of patching up the problem of coming up short.

The fact that we live in a patriarchal society simply does not, by default, mean that the privilege of those in power is an ideal all might benefit from attaining. Accepting this default enables the mindset that women who fail to attain what men do are less than. A short step away from that is the mindset that women who fail to be what men want are less than.

We should absolutely value and celebrate the contribution of wives who are mothers and household managers. We should absolutely value and celebrate the contribution of single women who are caretakers, missionaries and students as well as those who are successful in the marketplace.

What if we celebrated strength of character and values, integrity, determination, overcoming, creativity and commitment… Instead of some version of dollars, beauty and stilettos?  Huh. Dollars, beauty and stillettos.

Dollars.

Beauty.

Stilettos.

What does that image conjure? Do we judge and condemn women for failing to meet the patriarchal ideal of the moment? Or do we reject other’s definition of success, beauty, and achievement and walk in our true power?

What example are we setting for our little girls who will grow up to be the “New Trophy Wives” and for our little boys who will become men seeking to become one’s husband?

If the article seemed more about celebrating womanhood and less like, “Hail the new and improved Barbie! She thinks too!” it wouldn’t feel so distasteful.

These are the messages we’re tempted to hold on to, because they seem so encouraging. At what expense?  When we examine what this line of thinking asks us to accept about ourselves, our husbands and sisters, is it really presenting the best version of us that we should aspire to embrace?  If not, do we really agree with all of it?

Okay I’m done.

Now, will someone ask my new husband to help me off this soapbox?

I need to get out of the office.

😛

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