What’s in a name?

by Melanie Epp

A few months ago, a lively debate unfolded on Twitter about the term ‘farm wife’. As I’m neither a farmer nor a wife, I decided to keep quiet. But I did follow the conversation closely.

It all started when Canadian farmer Megz Reynolds posted this tweet:

I’m not sure what led Megz to post it, but I do know it created a bit of a stir. The responses were varied and many. Some women chimed in with comments of support, thanking Megz for advocating on their behalf. Others resented being told that the title they wear with pride is outdated or degrading. Some said it was not meant as degrading, but defined a lifestyle, and many questioned exactly who was pushing this narrative. Most of the comments, though, were from women who said they preferred the title. I remained silent, wondering if all the fuss really mattered. But then my career has never been defined as a mere extension of my partner’s.

In true internet fashion, the conversation took a sometimes-ugly turn. A few brave men dared to joined in, some saying they’ve tackled the situation by pointing out that their wife is an equal partner in the business. Others said their wife prefers to be called a farm wife. Some opinions were considered valid, while others were deemed sexist.

Throughout the conversation I found myself wondering just who are these people pushing the farm wife narrative? I can’t speak for Megz, but I think I know what types of situations she’s referring to. A seed salesman comes to the farm and asks the woman of the house if the boss is at home. The veterinarian shows up and asks to speak to the decisionmaker. A sales rep stops by, accepts the hot coffee he’s offered, and asks to speak with the man of the house. I can understand how frustrating it must be for women farmers when they are not taken seriously or overlooked and bypassed in business. And I have to admit, I’ve made the mistake myself, requesting interviews with only one half of the farm family. It’s a mistake you only make once when confronted.

But let’s be honest; the farm wife debate is not an easy one. I tend to agree with Billi J. Miller. It seems to me it comes down to the individual. If someone calls you a farm wife and that’s not how you see your role, correct them. If it’s a title you’re proud to wear, own it. It’s your choice. What’s in a name anyway? As Shakespeare said: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”                                   







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