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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


       The fact that this word exists is evidence that we have always lived – and continue to live – in a patriarchal society. By definition, uxorious is an adjective that describes men who are excessively attached to, dependent on, foolishly fond of, or affectionately submissive to their wives. Dating back to 1598, uxorious is derived from the Latin word for wife, uxor. Considering this derivation of the word, all that is suggested is abounding in or being characterized by one’s wife – nothing that bears any negative connotations. The ugly truth, however, is that the word is often used negatively towards men who are deemed to be too submissive to their wives’ desires. Rather than perceiving adoration for one’s wife as an admirable trait, the male-dominant culture of our society is prone to viewing ‘uxorious men’ with much scrutiny and mockery.  Without any conscious effort, this word paints an image of the hierarchy that’s expected within the family: an independent, chauvinistic man at the head of the table with his meek, submissive wife scrambling at his feet (because of course, unlike men, submissiveness in woman is socially accepted, if not encouraged).

       The definition of uxorious as being ‘excessively’ devoted to one’s wife is just as questionable. Where agape love and mutual dependency should be at the very basis of a marriage, the definition suggests that there can be such a thing as ‘too much’ love and adoration, as if either thing in large doses could be detrimental to a man. As if, for example, being too in love with your wife might upset the patriarchal hierarchy within the family, or even worse, invite the age-old and much feared question of “Who wears the pants in the family?”

       There isn’t a corresponding adjective in the English language that describes women who are overly devoted to their husbands – at least none that are in common use. The invented word ‘maritorious’ is derived from the Latin word for a husband, maritus, but there are only two examples of its usage in the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary, one from 1607 and the other from 1978. When women are expected to be wholly devoted and dependent to their husbands, there’s no need for a word that describes too much adoration for one’s husband. Furthermore, the term uxorious is only used to describe men in heterosexual marriages, since – at the conception of the word – it would have been punishable by death for two women to marry each other.  Obviously, the word was created and used most commonly in an era where men were recognized as the central subjects of society. Unfortunately, when someone today is ridiculed for being in love with their wife, it’s evident that gender inequality is still deeply embedded in the foundation of our social structure.

  1. "Uxorious." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/uxorious>.
  2. "Uxorious." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/220867?redirectedFrom=uxorious>.
  3. "Uxorious." Sesquiotica. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://sesquiotic.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/uxorious/>.

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