The Myth of the ‘Wife Acceptance Factor’
Not long ago, while binge-watching the recent season of Game of Thrones with my wife, Silvia, she turned to me and remarked on how much better the dragon scenes and overall sensory experience is when we’re streaming the show in our home theater. Not only was this validation and music to MY ears, but it also got me thinking about how easy it is today to enjoy awesome and immersive video streaming experiences with full digital surround sound in a home theater. The current apps on smart TVs and Blu-ray players are seamless and easy to use, and Wi-Fi reliability has improved to the point where anyone can enjoy streaming to its full potential, visually and sonically.
Right around the same time I was arriving at this insight, our PR rep mentioned to me a conversation he had with a custom integrator about subwoofers. The integrator remarked that women were “predisposed to disliking bass,” because their ears were more attuned to high frequencies, “like the sound of babies crying.” Furthermore, he said, women were generally a nuisance during the technology integration process, and that the “Wife Acceptance Factor” (WAF) was one of the biggest obstacles he faced during projects. Notwithstanding the idiocy of this belief about male versus female biology, I think the entire “wife acceptance factor” mindset is counter to the mission of any smart CE retailer or integrator.
Before I go any further, let me preface that I understand “Wife Acceptance Factor” is a joking term that gets thrown around lightheartedly, and that there may be a grain of truth to it as a wedge issue in relationships. As far as I can tell, it was born entirely out of the audio industry as kind of a joke about the appearance of speakers, and permeated through forums, reviews and elsewhere. Though once considered a visual statement of elegance and showing an appreciation for great sound, high-performance speakers were, at some point, relegated to the “Man Cave” while wireless solutions and architectural speakers, incapable of creating the same immersive experience, earned favor for portability or disappearing into walls and ceilings. It is my contention that just because you can see something, that doesn’t make it ugly.
Upon closer inspection, “Wife Acceptance Factor” is actually a sexist and misogynistic term that has dogged the audio industry by feeding the stereotype (no pun intended) that it was somehow not permissible to have audio equipment in certain parts of the home, and that women are not interested in enjoying audio to begin with. I can’t trace the original usage, but in my blunt opinion, I think the term was coined because many of the earliest and most passionate fans thought a solitary experience, sitting in the sweet spot between two speakers, was the ultimate audio experience. Purposeful or not, by hiding away, they rejected family as part of the experience so their hobby became something that needed “acceptance,” and not something everyone could just enjoy, whether alone or together.
WAF is also harmful because it makes the decision about values and listening preferences without ever giving “wives” a chance to form their own opinion. That’s not to say you can’t sit and enjoy a record by yourself. I often listen to albums this way, especially new ones. But I also encourage Silvia and my teen boys to do the same and take an interest in the overall experience and in trying to get as close to suspending disbelief as possible – not just the mindless consumption of music and home theater.
Acceptance vs. Embracement
The availability of world-class audio experiences at lower price-points has certainly become more prominent since the term “Wife Acceptance Factor” was created, so it’s time we moved on from a mindset of needing “Acceptance” toward one of “Embracing.” And it’s not just for wives. With all the ways we have access to music, gaming, sports, live performances, movies and more, anyone can enjoy a more immersive audio experience if they are treated inclusively. If you’re not thinking of ways to engage women and Millennials to the benefits of home theater and high-performance audio now, you’re probably going to be a footnote in a few years.
It is my goal, as a member of the CEA Audio Division Board, CEO of an audio company and as someone who’s passionate about great sound, to engage wives, children, plumbers, landscapers, babysitters, pets, and anyone else who will listen that they can enjoy these awesome, immersive experiences in their own living space. We need to let go of the sexist and misogynistic part of our industry. It limits us. The “True Believers” hold everyone else back because they propagate a stereotype that somehow an appreciation for great audio is a character flaw.
Not everyone on the planet will embrace this, but many times, a high-performance system is not even offered as an option in the sales process. It’s ridiculous to think that women, or anyone, for that matter, have a specific prejudice against speakers. My wife loves salsa music, and I am not particularly fond of it. Does that mean she needs my permission to blast her favorite albums while we hang out? Of course not. But I appreciate the fact that she likes it – and likes it even more on a great stereo. We can’t always be passionate about the same things, but at least we can share in the benefits together.
Oh, and for the record, Silvia loves thunderous bass in movies.
What do you think: time to do away with the WAF?