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Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife” as Feminist Manifesto

Judy Brady’s I Want a Wife is a feminist manifesto that dissects the early 1970s’ social stereotypes about the role of women in marriage and motherhood. Using rhetorical language, she paints a rather impressive new perspective of the seemingly familiar and clichéd picture of a married woman. Her essay is a pure satire that represents an unpleasant aspect of the society’s ubiquitous consumer behavior towards women and their value. With a brilliant and humorous writing, Brady uncovers a cultural misconception of woman’s main role in life. Moreover, she decides to condemn the men’s opinion on the matter, ultimately persuading both men and women to notice the heavy toll of masculine privileges. The author intends to make a deep impact on society’s view of gender roles and how unjustly the responsibilities are divided. Throughout her essay, Brady uses numerous rhetorical strategies to achieve these goals. The mocking and humorous tone of the essay illustrates author’s heartfelt beliefs that the social issue of gender unfairness truly exists. She strives to leave a lasting impact engraved in her readers’ minds to ponder on every time the topic comes up in their future conversations.

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It is clear that Brady tells her audience right away her position on the matter by stating “I belong to that classification of people known as wives” as her opening line (1). She hooks her readers, using emotions and sympathy to take over her desired audience’s attention without hesitation. After her second statement “And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother” (1), the obviousness of the stereotype that Brady is now pointing out rises into the question, calling to the women who do not wish to uphold that standard. Of course, a man has the right to have children, acidly comments Brady, and his wife must obey his wish – she is his property, after all. From there on, she describes rather harshly all the reasons why she would like to have a wife. The author recalls each of the particular expectations placed on women in general and gives the mocking impression that these specific responsibilities are the only purpose in life for any woman. It almost feels like to the reader that Brady agrees with men on how a proper wife should behave.

However, the reader only needs to follow the author a little further to understand that she, in fact, despises masculine point of view. Using simple statements and almost Aristotelian logic, Brady depicts the conflict behind the sorority’s roles in society: how demanding yet self-degrading they are becoming. The author lists women’s responsibilities somewhat sporadically, apparently out of order of importance. Her list ranges from emphasizing maternal responsibilities, outlining mandatory housewife chores, to the sexual life expectations men place on the married women, without structuring it. Respectively, this leads to a “ranting” impression of her essay, which reflects the author’s point of view. However, what Brady truly seeks to achieve is for her male readers to constantly read this phrase and see how ridiculous their demands are. The author ends her essay with a rhetorical yet deep question “My God, who wouldn’t want a wife?” (2) that asks the reader to reflect on the answer. This awareness is the glue that holds her whole argument together. Finally, a potentially life-changing paragraph concludes the essay, calling the readers to analyze not only the society’s rotten view on the women’s value, but their own judgement on the matter, too.

Works Cited

Brady, Judy. I Want a Wife, Ms. Magazine, 1972, pp. 1–2.

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