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The Meaning of Wife

A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-first Century

Anne Kingston

Picador

The word 'wife' is, as the 21st-century begins, so fraught with ambiguity that it has become a litmus test, eliciting from women emotions ranging from longing to antipathy, anxiety to derision. This telling ambiguity is at the heart of Anne Kingston's The Meaning of Wife.

Delving into the complex, troubling, and sometimes humorous contradictions, illusions, and realities of contemporary wifehood, noted social critic Kingston takes us on a fascinating journey into the wedding industrial complex, which elevates the bride to a potent consumer icon; through the recent romanticization of domesticity; and across the conflicted terrain of wifely sexuality. She looks at "wife backlash," and the new wave of neo-traditionalism that urges women to marry before their "best-before" dates expire; explores the apotheosis of abused wives and the strange celebration of wives who kill; and muses on the fact that Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, two of the world's wealthiest and most influential women, are both non-wives whose success has hinged on their understanding of wives.

The Meaning of Wife is an entertaining mix of social, cultural, sexual, historical, and economic commentary that is sure to challenge, inform, and enlighten and even as it reframes our view of both women and marriage.

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The Meaning of Wife
Chapter 1The Wife GapWife. Four letters. One syllable. Simple, or so it seems. Yet this common word has become one of the most complex signifiers in the English language, weighted by past definitions, blurred by personal biases. The associations it elicits are bipolar in their scope: by the beginning of the twenty-first century, wife was variously presented as the source of female damnation or salvation, enchantment or disenchantment, captivity or rescue. Take your pick. Evidence can be marshaled to support either case. The truth exists in neither.At one extreme, the role
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Meaning of Wife

"The Meaning of Wife styles itself in the tradition of Backlash and The Beauty Myth: It's a pop-culture-literate survey of the last 25 years that serves up feminist ideas with a lively touch."--Joy Press, The Village Voice

"In The Meaning of Wife, Kingston ruminates with wit and wide historical range over the peculiar female estate of wife and its modern incarnations. . . . Kingston's spirited romp across the kitchens and boardrooms, bedrooms, courtrooms, and shopping malls of modern culture yields important . . . insights about wife-hood in the twenty-first century."--Chicago Tribune

"Provocative, smart."--Elle

"Entertaining . . . Kingston's quirky sensibility (shades of Caitlin Flanagan) and her clever readings of pop culture make this book stand out. . . . The analysis is delightful."--Newsday

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Anne Kingston

  • Anne Kingston's writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Saturday Night, Toronto Life, and The Chicago Sun-Times Magazine. She is a columnist for the National Post, where she writes on social and cultural issues.
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The Meaning of Wife

A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-first Century

Anne Kingston

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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