Feminism Ideas in I Want a Wife

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Over the past century, feminism has manifested worldwide to advocate for equal political, legal, and social rights between women and men. The movement has been divided into four waves, separated by decades and major influencing events within our society. Judy Brady, a large influencer within the second wave of feminism, became a staple for her time period after the publishing of her essay titled I Want a Wife. The essay, which shocked readers, challenged stereotypically female roles within the household, with the purpose to break down gender barriers previously built up by a male-dominated society. Written from the perspective of a wife herself, this response will demonstrate that although the style in which Brady writes seems to speak literally, rhetoric is combined with elements of satire to convince readers of such inequalities and their absurdity, as seen through the analysis of ethos, logos, and pathos.

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Ethos is an element used to appeal to the ethical considerations of the reader and often involves using methods to build credibility and trust. This can increase the reliability the reader has on the author’s point of view, therefore also increasing the level of respect given to the writer. Within Brady’s essay, this is immediately established within the introductory lines, where she states “I belong to the classification of people known as wives. I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother.” By mentioning this, not only implies that she has extensive knowledge of one subject matter, but also that she has personal experiences that directly apply to her arguments. Furthermore, when combining this display of her relation to the wife classification with the subtle arguments she portrays, the audience automatically builds connections that she is informed on the topic. Other examples where this is displayed can be seen when she lists off extensive tasks “assigned” to women within the household. This demonstrates that she, herself, completed similar tasks at some point, and can recall the different skills she possessed to complete them successfully. Examples of such lists include “I want a wife who will have the house clean, will prepare a special meal, serve it to me and my friends, and not interrupt when I talk about the thing that interests me and my friends.” Overall, her ability to convince the reader of her credibility is essential as the essay progresses, as it is used to assure the reader her arguments are valid. Along with this, the fact that being a woman gives her this credibility helps to retaliate against the stereotypes she suggests. This occurs as, throughout her essay, she suggests that within society, being a woman is often perceived as a negative due to their inability. However, by demonstrating that she is using her gender to empower her message, it indicates that the gender roles society has built are inaccurate and can be challenged.

Pathos is the second pillar of rhetoric and appeals to the emotional side of the reader. Brady’s essay in particular is effective at conveying subtle humor to the audience through the use of sarcasm and irony. These techniques are used to highlight the absurd tasks wives and mothers are given within the household, to the extent to which the audience perceives the message as laughable. An example of this can be seen with “If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a fresh, new life.” This acts as sarcasm as it insinuates that wives can be thought of as assets, where one can upgrade or trade depending on the newest “model” available to the market. Her word choice contributes to the humor as well, as it enhances the idea that wives are not seen as equal beings. Through her use of emotionless and sharp words that lack remorse, the reader can realize that these wives are treated more similarly to property than human beings. This allows her to lightheartedly joke about the fact that women face unrealistic expectations that do not correlate with our basic human rights. Furthermore, her ability to use satire and irony as literary devices demonstrates to the audience her wit. While this wit creates a sense of humor to lighten the message of this essay, it also deepens the analysis one step further by counteracting the very stereotypes she discusses. This is achieved as her ability to demonstrate this wit also demonstrates intelligence, indicating that women are much more than people who are supposed to “wash dishes and finish the laundry”, and instead are beings that have intellectual voices and opinions of their own.

The third and final pillar of rhetoric is logos and appeals to the logical side of the reader. Traditionally, this is achieved through the use of facts, statistics, or quotes to evoke a cognitive and rational response. Brady utilizes this method through implying, yet not implicitly stating, personal anecdotes within her essay. Once again, her ability to list off endless tasks beginning with the words “I want” implies that she has experienced extensive situations in which she has been required to fulfill a variety of different tasks simultaneously. When interpreted by the reader, it then makes logical sense that when compiled, those requirements are unrealistic for one person to complete. Another technique she uses is blatantly stating examples of the discrimination she faces. As mentioned earlier, many of her arguments are meant to be sarcastic and not taken literally. However, certain references she makes are real-life issues many women still face today. An example of this can be seen when she states “I want a wife who will work and send me to school.” This references a large societal issue in which the education of males is prioritized over the education of females, and demonstrates the sacrifices made by women as well that enable men to fulfill their goals. Combined, these create sound arguments presented to the reader and overall demonstrate that while being a wife and woman may not be seen as a draining task, society has created roles for both that are daunting and require too much of the individual.

In conclusion, Judy Brady was an author ahead of her time that tackled the issue of sexism within modern society. Through the publication of her essay I Want A Wife, she took a unique perspective to demonstrate the gender inequalities present within society that need to be challenged to progress as a whole. Along with this, she was able to counteract such stereotypes suggested as well, using her intelligence to highlight women’s capabilities. Her ability to connect with the reader was largely the result of rhetoric, combing ethos, logos, and pathos to argue her points while also remaining lighthearted on the topic. This created an effective essay that recognized the absurd societal expectations women faced and pushed others to consider the same.   

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