Book Review: The Meaning of Wife - A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century

The Meaning of Wife - A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century, By Anne Kingston

What is this book about? 

This book takes a particular look at the many ways of being a wife. I was a little worried that it would be a bit of a repeat of One Perfect Day when I read the chapter "The Heart of Whiteness" on the wedding industry (which was hilarious on its own, I just didn't want to read the same book over again), but it quickly distinguished itself with its incredibly well researched and pop culture reference stuffed chapters on the revival of "traditional" housewife roles in the 90s, married sex, domestic violence, revengeful wives, and the simultaneous glamorization and yet stigmatization of single women ("unwifes"). 

Who would love this book?

I think most women getting married would enjoy this book, as it takes a broad look at a wide range of cultural phenomena related to American marriage of the past 40 or so years instead. It has a lot of 90s pop culture references (It was published in 2005, so that makes sense, you know!). One chapter in particular references Sex and the City about a bazillion times, so I feel it would really appeal to a lot of people of my generation and older.

My Favorite Parts

There's a running theme involving the seeming "fairy tale" marriage of Princess Diana to Prince Charles that starts in the intro and keeps circling back throughout the book wherever relevant. I wasn't sure where the author was going with it at first, but it became a really illustrative example of the fairy tale bubble bursting for a lot of her points.

The chapter chronicling the very very different beliefs between generations about the role sex should play in a marriage is pretty intriguing. The immediate back to back juxtaposition of chapters on domestic violence/the pop culture obsession with the "abused wife" trope  and the laudatory manner in which society greets women who "screw their husbands over but good," either economically or physically (a few pages are dedicated to Lorena Bobbit's story) is really thought provoking and simultaneously disturbing. 

Does it talk about marital surname changes at all? 

Yes! I can finally say yes! Not a ton - it's definitely around the edges - but they are mentioned! Lucy Stone's marriage to Henry Blackwell and her decision to keep her name is mentioned; the National Organization for Women's campaign to use "Ms." as the standard salutation for women.

Amazon Link: