All you need is an “Occasional Wife”

30 03 2009

Do you need to organize your house? Do you need to arrange dinner parties, special events, business events, weddings, etc.? Do you need to eliminate the clutter you have lying around? Why don’t you call the Occasional Wife?! Ta-da!


What the fuck?!! Observe this wife’s super thinness. And her maid costume. With the high heels – because it’s easiest to run around the cleaning the house and taking care of errands when you’re tottering on heels. And of course she looks all happy, smiling like that. Because wives LOVE being stuck with doing all the housework all the time. She is also conveniently white, when in reality people working as domestic helpers or servants generally tend to be people of color.

The Occasional Wife is a New Orleans business founded by Kay Morrison, who got the genius idea when she was in the kitchen with her husband, and you know it was just “one of those days when neither our schedules nor our two young children were cooperating. At that point we realized that this family, our family, needed a wife.” What an epiphany, no? Wives – the perfect solution for your busy lives.

Excuse me? Needed a wife? Because wives are supposed to be housewives, doing all the chores and errands that you have to do but don’t want to do, or don’t have time to do. So what exactly does the Occasional Wife do? Just your typical wifely duties, you know.

The Occasional Wife will significantly simplify your daily routines and special event activities. By prioritizing tedious tasks, handling them in an appropriate manner, and organizing and streamlining work and personal environments, we make your life and special occasions stress-free and enjoyable. The Occasional Wife efficiently and effectively removes clutter, organizes spaces, cares for and manages your errands, tasks and other daily responsibilities, and plans and coordinates your complex social functions.

Do you need a wife? Want to rent a wife? It’s all do-able! One Occasional Wife goes for $40 an hour, but if you get two Occasional Wives then it’s $65 per hour. (Somehow I suspect that just because they charge $40 an hour per wife, or $65 for two, the wives don’t get paid that much.) What a bargain! And of course, the website says “Order as many as you’d like!” Get as many Occasional Wives as you want because your real wife is too busy or too bourgeoisie to do (gasp!) housework. Just pay women, these Occasional Wives, to do things that neither the husband or the wife wants to do.

Okay, so you’re super busy working your ass off to make money for your family and just can’t come home and deal with the clutter, the “tedious tasks”, all your errands, and everything else you have to do. You want/need some extra help around the house to lighten up your load, and you can actually afford it. Fine. But why on earth would the three women who started this business call it “The Occasional Wife”?!! Way to delineate all household chores to women.

Apart from being plain creepy (“Hi, I’d like to buy an Occasional Wife please.”), this also perpetuates the confinement of women to the domestic sphere. It bothers me that three women are the ones who started this, and that this business was awarded as the “Innovator of the Year” in 2007. It’s apparently innovative to reinforce patriarchy and commodifying women again to pay “wives” aka servants to do work that you don’t want to do.



6 responses

31 03 2009

Wow, this is so disturbing! I feel like this company’s advertising belongs in the 1950s. Our society should have moved past this attitude toward female roles by now.

31 03 2009

They have a similar thing with husbands, too. I think it’s called Rent-a-Husband, at least where I’m from. Only since they’re men, they do handyman-type jobs, not cleaning.

1 04 2009

The name and logo of this service does reflect social norms about housework and the role of “housewives,” but I think it’s pretty harmless.

I also think it’s nice that this service is targeted towards men AND women, since in families they typically bear most of the burden of doing the housework.

And if you have the money, why not hire one? This just seems like a maid service with a different name.

2 04 2009

What’s so offensive about this ad is that it both reflects AND perpetuates social norms of appropriate gender roles. The service may help both men and women (if the man happens to have formerly partaken in the domestic acts that the service is helping with), but it is women doing the work. That’s not to say I necessarily have an issue with the service as a whole.

Unlike many maid services or cleaning services, the three women pictured appear to be relatively successful at this line of work. However, I wonder if this service is just once again taking advantage of economically disadvantaged women, or if the three women in the picture are the ones who do the work. Something makes me think that they aren’t the ones doing the grunt-work. But I’m not sure about this. In so many instances, lower class and immigrant women are hired by higher-class people to take on domestic tasks and child-rearing. So, although a woman with the monetary means may use these services to lessen her workload in the domestic sphere and “challenge gender norms” by being successful in the work world, the domestic chores are actually just usually being re-appropriated to other less economically privileged women.

The advertising method is definitely sexist. Depicting a skinny white woman with long flowing hair in an apron, a dress, and high heels reinforces social definitions of what is appropriate for “wives.” The advertising implies that domestic tasks are equivalent with “wifely” tasks. By playing into age-old gender stereotypes, the advertising just reflects and perpetuates these stereotypes. It’s one of those awful endless cycle deals (play into stereotypes, reinforce stereotypes, repeat).

The trouble is this shit is thrown at us so often that people don’t even realize how problematic it is.

26 05 2009
Heather Leila

Hey! I’m glad someone else noticed that store. I posted about it too, here are my pictures of the offending wife:

19 08 2009
Heather Leila

So, just next to the Occasional Wife’s store on Magazine St. has opened up a store called A Queen on the Scene, check out their logo:

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