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[Opinion] Work Wife

Posted November. 25, 2004 22:42,   


One U.S. liberal-minded Internet press agency recently described the relationship between U.S. President George W. Bush and prospective Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a “work marriage,” which has become a hot potato. It also added an expression “9 to 5 wife,” which means that, unlike with the real wife, they are married only during the working hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Simply put, these words indicate an intimate relationship within the workplace rather than being sexual. This well illustrates the strong faith that Bush has in Rice.

There is a similar example in France, though different in nature: the relationship between President Francois Mitterrand and Edith Cresson, who became the first female prime minister in France by earning the president’s confidence. However, unlike Condoleezza Rice, Cresson has a husband. The French press, more generous in terms of politicians’ privacy, was aware that the president and Cresson were having an “affair,” but it did not officially take issue about it. It only blamed her incompetence by comparing her to “Madame de Pompadour,” the famous mistress of King Louis XV of France.

The U.S. press is good at coining words that describe “power relations” between husbands and wives. They use such expressions as “small husbands” for those who are overwhelmed by successful wives and “house husbands” who take full responsibility of the housework. A man whose wife is very successful socially and financially is called a “trophy husband.” According to the business magazine Fortune, out of top 50 businesswomen in U.S., a third has “trophy husbands.”

In the United States, because of privacy reasons, people do not jump into conclusions in determining if the woman is his wife when two persons of opposite sex are together.

They encourage using the word “spouse” or “partner” instead of husbands or wives. You will get into big trouble if you do not watch your mouth in front of gay or lesbian couples. That is why we are curious about the “house wife” First Lady Laura Bush’s reaction as to describing the unmarried Cabinet nominee as a “work wife.” Rumors of similar kind spread in Korea for a while, but without solid proof.

Oh Myung-cheol, Editorial writer, oscar@donga.com