Can We Please Cancel The Phrase ‘Wifey Material’?

After Love Island’s Adam Collard brought it back this week, Georgia Aspinall argues that it's not actually compliment at all.

Adam Collard

by Georgia Aspinall |

Love Island always seems to have a knack for representing the worst parts of modern dating. From love bombing to lads holiday betrayals, the male contestants are here to remind us – year after year – why finding peace in singledom is our best bet for a happy life. It’s the vocabulary used to describe women that always gets me, the way female contestants are put into certain boxes that denote their value as a potential partner. For example, Adam Collard describing Paige Thorn as ‘wifey material’ this week.

It happened after a few swimsuit-clad conversations and one singular date on the terrace. Minutes after Paige put down her barely filled flute of prosecco, Adam was catching up with the lads about his speed-date with the 24-year-old declaring, ‘Mate, she's class. It's clear as day when you actually get her by herself as well, which is kind of what I was hoping for at some point…but yeah, wifey material.’

It shocked viewers to say the least, not because Paige isn’t a beautiful woman worthy of being anyone’s wife, but because Adam had been in the villa approximately one day – the man barely knows her at all. But it’s that classic male-brained response to meeting a woman isn’t it, declaring your worth based on first impression alone – quick to either build you up or break you down. If you’re not wifey material, what are you? The girlfriend who’ll never get the ring material? The sneaky link never made public material? The one night stand they regret material? And the irony is, even if you make it to the holy grail of the ‘wifey material’ category, isn’t that much of a compliment at all – nor something women necessarily aspire their date to call them.

‘Wifey material’ is an incredibly loaded term. At one point, it would be used to describe a woman worthy of marriage because of how well she cooks and cleans. Or how 'classy' she is. Or the number of sexual partners she had. As if eating microwave meals, swearing or enjoying casual sex makes you any less deserving of a loving commitment.

Nowadays, men often claim that it simply means a ‘woman you can take home to your parents’ – at least, that’s what I got from a quick scan of male friends. But make no mistake, slut-shaming and archaic expectations of female partners are still heavily embedded in the ‘wifey material’ description – I have no doubt that a man would renounce their claim of said potential wifey were he to find out she slept with more people than him.

But even when you consider what it means to be worthy of being taken home to meet someone’s parents, ‘wifey material’ is shrouded in sexism. Yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to want a partner who can maintain adult conversations with their elders – but frankly it’s laughable that men judge a woman on that basis when most of us began having mature conversations with adults while they were still crawling in nappies. Women are forced to mature faster than men in many ways, so trust us we’re much more concerned about your inappropriate behaviour in front of parents (including your own) than our own.

It pits women against each other as if we're not all capable of being incredible partners in marriage.

It's that judgement I take issue with, and why I see it as a red flag when men use the word, because it pits women against each other as if we’re not all capable of being incredible partners in marriage. It doesn’t serve me to date a man that judges women in this way, because just as easy as you can be ‘wifey material’ one day, you can fall out of favour when they find out something about you that doesn’t quite fit their description of a ‘wife’. What if I decide I don’t actually enjoy cooking dinner most nights, am I now a selfish shrew unworthy of a ring? What if you find out I enjoyed a threesome four days before we met, am I now a slag you would’ve humped and dumped had you have known earlier? And what if we met five years prior when I was raving every Saturday night, eating pizza for breakfast on Sunday morning? I’d be the same beautiful, hilarious, smart and kind woman – but I certainly wouldn’t be 'wifey material' by many men’s books. I’d be knocked right off the pedestal that I never even asked to be on, made to feel bad about myself because you decided I was worthy of marriage before you really got to know me.

The irony of it all is that many men use the phrase at times they don’t even want a wife. ‘It’s manipulative because men will use it to give you hope that there’s a serious future, but by the same token they’ll use it as an excuse to dump you when they admit they don’t want anything serious,’ a colleague commented as we discussed Adam’s use of the phrase. And she’s right, Adam proved that during his first go at Love Island, constantly coupling up sweet women who were besotted with him and then casting them aside for being ‘too keen’. You're wifey material until you actually want to be their wife, then you’re just a nag.

So, sorry for the downer on this glorious Friday, but even the so-called compliments men give on Love Island are backhanded – just another reason to stay embracing single life ladies…

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