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I need a derogatory term for housewife. I couldn't find any in online dictionaries and I'm not sure I have ever heard of any in any language I'm familiar with.

But I'm thinking there must be something with modern connotations, in the sense that it is used for someone who prefers motherhood over a career or freedom of choice.

What I want to say is tied to the way I wrote the character. After the failed marriage, she battles depression, she bounces back and starts a career in science. She sees her previous choice of being a homemaker as stupid and the career empowers her. Being a housewife feels like a prison, hence the "freedom of choice" bit.

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    – tchrist
    Aug 5 '20 at 2:53

12 Answers 12

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@livresque's answer makes the most sense to me of the answers here, but with the context you give in comments, I think "Stepford wife" would also be a useful term. It has stronger negative connotations than hausfrau or wifey, which are often used casually or even playfully to refer to one's own wife.

From the Wikipedia page for the book the term comes from:

The term "Stepford wife" entered common use in the English language after the publication of Levin's book and it is generally used as a derogatory term which refers to a submissive and docile wife who seems to conform blindly to the stereotype of an old-fashioned subservient role in relationship to her husband.

And from the Collins dictionary:

informal, derogatory

a married woman who submits to her husband's will and is preoccupied by domestic concerns and her own personal appearance

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A term with precisely that meaning that will be readily understood in the United States (at least by those who are middle-aged or older), but probably not elsewhere, is Suzy Homemaker. The term was originally a brand name for a line of toys intended for girls, that enabled them to pretend to be homemakers, but as the Wikipedia article on these toys puts it, the term

eventually became an insult directed at women judged as excessively domestic. It was used in this context by feminists initially, to imply that a woman was reactionary and overly conservative in her habits. In this sense, the "Suzy Homemaker" term meant any woman who embodied conventional social expectations without questioning them.

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Hausfrau carries a pejorative sense in English. Examples from Lexico liken hausfrau to "hoover-wielder" and describe a henpecking and fretful homemaker.

A woman regarded as overly domesticated or efficient.

This was the first thing to come to mind as an insult after "little wife."

Wikipedia also offers:

Hausfrau, pejorative: frumpy, petty-bourgeois, traditional, pre-emancipation type housewife whose interests centre on the home, or who is even exclusively interested in domestic matters (colloquial, American English only), sometimes humorously used to replace "wife", but with the same mildly derisive connotation. The German word has a neutral connotation.

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From Oxford (Lexico), there is wifey:

informal A condescending way of referring to a person's wife.
‘men I had met had always wanted houses and a nice little wifey to cook for them’
‘It's no longer all about the little wifey having the hubby's meal on the table at 6pm on the button.’

Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster definition doesn't mention that it's either informal or derogatory (or even anything other than that it's just a synonym for wife), yet I immediately got that impression upon reading the word.

Although there are other example sentences, I find those that pair it with little to be the most condescending.

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  • As has been commented by several people before, Lexico seems to be rather heavy-handed in declaring the term to be condescending, without qualification. Within an intimate setting, the term may be an endearment, and used without any condescending implications. It is, however, often condescending and derogatory when used outside such a setting, and that is probably what the authors of that dictionary entry unjustifiably generalised from. (The comments in which this point was made were deleted for a reason that was not related to their content.)
    – jsw29
    Aug 12 '20 at 21:22
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Skivvy is defined as

A female domestic servant who performs menial tasks (British informal).

I have also heard it used in the sense you want: "Get back in the kitchen, Skivvy!"

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    This term would cause many readers (particularly in the US and Canada) to think you were talking about underwear. Aug 4 '20 at 16:19
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'er indoors

I first heard it in the TV series Minder but it may well be widely used in the Cockney environment. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%27er_indoors

It is described as slang but the impression is that of a person who just stays at the home while the men are out doing the business.

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If slang phrases are appropriate, "ball and chain" or "battle axe" are two such, implying extreme controlling restrictiveness and aggressiveness/bullying respectively.

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If it doesn't need to be a noun then domesticated is a possibility. It's essentially a pun with the double meaning of "domestic" meaning "pertaining to the home" and "an animal adapted to serve humans". So suggests (probably as hyperbole) that in being focused on the the home the subject has become more akin to a pet or livestock than a person.

It also works without the double meaning in only suggesting that the subject has become a pet rather than a person. This is more common with men although with or without the double meaning could apply to either gender given the right context.

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From the comments, the OP elucidates

She sees her previous choice of being a homemaker as stupid and the career empowers her. Being a housewife feels like a prison,…

An “obedient” but unhappy wife might define herself as

  • a (husband's) servant “he treats me like his servant”

a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.

To be like “a bird in a gilded cage” is to live in luxury but without freedom

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Mombie

Contemporary word used, based on Urban Dictionary to describe:

a woman who has a child and becomes a different person than she was before [...] her conversations all revolve around toilet training, feeding schedules, and the occasional housework; so-called because there's a certain glazed look in the eyes and she appears to have been brainwashed

Note: this expression is really derogatory and one would likely never use it to describe her (past) self, but depending on the context it may be the right choice.

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A modern slang adjective that could apply is "basic". It is good to be aware that it is more common on the web, I'm not sure how common it is in everyday life.

The meaning of "basic" here is meant to suggest an everyday simplicity and/or dullness that suggests a lack of intelligence or anything interesting about the thing/person.

Excuse the rough language, but I've seen it be used as "she's such a basic bitch", but the adjective is adaptable - you could say "those women are so basic" or "she is so basic" or "she is such a basic wife".

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    "Basic" as far as I'm aware has no connotations with someone who is a stay-at-home mother, so none of your examples quite match the request other than maybe your last suggestion, and that one somewhat loses the construction of how "basic" is used in this sense
    – Kevin
    Aug 4 '20 at 20:17
  • You are correct, as a descriptive adjective you would have to connect the word "basic", describing these qualities, to the object that you are targeting. The object you target would have to carry the context or connotation of being a homemaker/housewife. Aug 4 '20 at 20:24
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Keeping in mind a housewife not necessarily has children, an accurate term could be trophy wife:

a woman who marries for money and sits at home all day looking pretty

Soccer mom is a common derogatory term in the US, and seems to be a popular entry in Urban Dictionary:

people who have no real purpose in life other than to pick up there children from school, take them to an after school program, (Karate,Soccer,Baseball, Football)and to be the trophy wife of a husband that hardly spends time with his kids.

Boss babe is also trending with the rise in popularity of MLMs, but has a much narrower target audience (since she has a "career"):

A woman who gives you a transparent window into her “messy” life through perfect social media posts. She cannot believe she ever survived before using her MLM products and wants you to finally live and be free with her.

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  • Trophy wife and soccer mom are well-established phrases that are defined and analysed in the sources that are much more reputable than the Urban Dictionary. The quoted 'definition' of soccer mom from the Urban Dictionary is wrong in treating soccer moms as a kind of trophy wives, while there is, at most, some narrow overlap between the two concepts.
    – jsw29
    Aug 13 '20 at 19:33

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