The End Of The Master Suite

Dated: 09/18/2015

Views: 6648

When you go out looking for a new home, please don't ask to see the Master Suite. You will reveal yourself to be out of step with our new progressive society, and possibly be laughed to scorn as an insensitive rube. 

Master no more?

I remember hearing about this several years ago, and then not much since. There was this article published in the Washington Business Journal that Washington D.C. area builders have begun phasing out the term "Master Suite" or "Master Bedroom," as it could have connotations that reflect back to plantation style slave owners. And if the racist implications aren't enough to turn your stomach, there is the obvious sexist implication that, what? only a man can own a house?! Or for sure, if the house is owned jointly by a man and a women then he is the dictator of the house. (I offered to start referring to my own bedroom as the "Mistress's Bedroom," but my wife nixed that for some reason.) 

I am by all accounts an innocent soul, and so these thoughts had never entered my mind. I figured the term "Master'" was a relative term as it related to the other bedrooms of the house. As in, "These bedrooms are small and feeble, they tremble and cower in the face of the superiorly square footed Master of all rooms." I still think that can be one valid interpretation. 

So the new preferred phrase is, I guess, "Owner's Suite." Which definitely wipes out the sexist angle. Either a man or a woman can be construed as an owner without having to modify the noun. But as far as racism goes, weren't those who practiced compulsory agriculture also referred to as slave "owners?" 

It also creates a new brand of prejudice. If this is the "Owner's Suite," does that alienate any renters? Where are they supposed to sleep? Maybe they can think of themselves as honored guests in the owner's home. (And who is more honored than he who pays his rent every month on time?) So would it be appropriate to call it a "Guest Suite," in that case? 

There was a whole slew of opinion pieces that came in the wake of that one article. (This came out over 2 years ago, in April of 2013, and I haven't heard much about it since then) To be honest with you, looking over the commentary articles, it isn't very clear who is supporting the idea, who is against it, and who is mocking the very idea of it. It's a  real mess. Just google "master bedroom racist," and knock yourself out. 

So what are we to do? I think if a builder or architect has written "Owner's Suite." on the plans, (Or "Secret Dojo," or literally whatever) I will just use the terminology they suggest. I also think that for a little while I will try using "Owner's Suite," just to see if anyone even notices. If it brings up a conversation, great. If literally no one cares, perfect. That's more or less what I expect. 

* * * Legal disclaimer. Friends, I believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect. If someone is truly offended by certain terminology, care can be taken to accommodate them. Just as you would leave out most swear words when speaking to a child or in a church, it is sometimes the best path to tailor your message to the comfort of your recipient. It's also okay to discuss different opinions in the marketplace of ideas, and that is where this post falls. Hope this helps. * * * 

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Gavin McCaleb

Gavin has lived in Boise for over 20 years. In 2003 he got his start in real estate as an investor and since then he has personally bought and sold over 100 houses. He got licensed in 2009 and is now....

2 comments in this topic

  • Posted by Amy Long
    How about "main bedroom suite?"
  • Posted by Gavin McCaleb
    That's a good idea, except in real estate "main" is used to describe the ground floor. As in upper level, main level, lower level. So if your "suite" was on the upper level it would sound contradictory to say, "the main bedroom is on the upper level." Or if it's a single level, all the bedrooms are "main."

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