RTHK series on 'real' housewives to debunk obvious myths in poll

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2008, 12:00am

Housewife may be a relatively neutral and well-defined word in English, but the Cantonese slang for it, see lai, doesn't sound very nice and it is anything but well-understood. That is, at least, according to a survey by RTHK about how people perceive women stuck with the label. The stereotypical image, with which 75 per cent of people in the survey agree, sees housewives as middle-aged, overweight, low-key, generally unsexy or unattractive, and rarely putting on makeup.

The survey polled 110 men and 406 women aged 30 to 49. Eighty per cent say the slang is only applicable to women; almost one in two thinks it means women aged from 25 to early middle age. Eight in 10 say see lai must be female and married, but 15 per cent think women can behave like see lai while staying single.

The survey has been released to coincide with a new RTHK series of 10 independent television episodes, each based on a real-life see lai, on ATV on Friday nights. They aim to be authentic, so they won't be anything like the highly amusing North American hit series Desperate Housewives. The RTHK episodes, however, will offer some intriguing housewives: one obsessed with dieting, another with a teen idol, one who moonlights as a hooker, and a househusband who believes men can positively take on the role of see lai.

Denny Ho Kwok-leung, an associate professor from Polytechnic University's department of applied social sciences, said that judging from the survey, people got it all wrong with their stereotyping. See lai today can be any person, mostly women, including working mums, well-educated people, sexy housewives and guys.