The debate surrounding the use of the term ‘master’ bedroom is reaching critical mass in the real estate world. The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) removed the word ‘master’ from its database and uses the word ‘primary’ now. However, it doesn’t force agents to discontinue its use.
But what is this debate, and where does it stem from? Let’s talk about it.
What is a master bedroom?
The term ‘master bedroom’ was first used in a 1926 Sears catalog. It described the largest bedroom with an attached bathroom in a luxurious house. Since then, the term has been used to signify the largest bedroom in the house, which typically would also include a large closet and an attached bathroom.
Why does it need to be changed?
The word ‘master’ has negative connotations, and that’s why it should be avoided. It is considered problematic socially and racially, and some agents even claim that it’s sexist.
‘Master’ connotes the presence of a man in a dominating or authoritative position, and implies that the bedroom is reserved for them. This is not inclusive of women who are sole homeowners and, consequently, will inhabit the ‘master’ bedroom.
The term is also historically linked to the problematic master/slave dichotomy. This doesn’t bode well, as the term is thus non-inclusive and also racist. In areas and communities with rampant exclusion of minorities and women, the term can have serious implications.
Some people even deem the term inappropriate to use because it’s misleading. A master bedroom implies grandeur and luxury, and the bedroom may not necessarily reflect that.
Several agents are replacing the word, as they believe that it may come across as insensitive or induce negative emotions among clients. Making the other party uncomfortable is a great disservice, so the practice needs to end.
What’s the alternative?
The HAR has officially discontinued the use of ‘master bedroom’ and is replacing it with ‘primary bedroom,’ which is a neutral term. Other popular neutral alternatives include the ‘owner’s bedroom’ or ‘main bedroom.’
The National Association of Realtors, however, feels that the term doesn’t violate any housing laws, and hence refuses to change its usage. Regardless, the conversation is brimming at the national level, and the word may go out of use within a few years.
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