Over the past few months, TDS has made the decision to start using the terms Primary Bedroom, Primary Bathroom, and Primary Suite to refer to the largest bedroom and bathroom in a house. We have made the decision as a company to move away from the antiquated terminology of Master Bedroom/Suite.
Here at TDS, we recognize that it’s not enough to just make surface level changes. But we also believe that using the term “master” to refer to part of a home’s design implicitly normalizes a history of slavery, and for that reason can be considered a racist as well as sexist term. It’s a term that reinforces a paradigm for home architecture that we’re ready to move away from.
Some have questioned the direct connection of the term “Master Bedroom” to our country’s history of slavery. Historically, the term “master” has had many meanings that range from a teacher or mentor, to ownership of property. It’s unclear when the term “master bedroom” started being widely used—but given our country’s legacy of slavery, there’s no way for it to avoid evoking the history and social framework of American slavery on plantations. We believe that language matters; the words we use carry assumptions with them that shape how we view the world. And when those assumptions point to a history of violence, we think they are ready to go.
We’re not here for empty gestures. Changing the language we use is only the beginning of the work that needs to be done to address and heal the wounds of racism that are so embedded in our culture—and in the housing industry, specifically. As important as it is to revisit our industry’s terminology, we believe that doing work to reverse unfair housing practices that have disproportionately affected communities of color across our country is even more critical. At TDS, we’re committed to drawing attention to these issues in the housing industry, and amplifying and supporting groups that are actively working to reverse legacies of violence, discrimination, and segregation.
In addition, we recognize the lack of representation in the construction industry across the board. That is why TDS has established a scholarship fund in the MATC Construction and Remodeling department to benefit a Person of Color who is pursuing an education in remodeling.
Ultimately, we believe both language and action are important, because the language we use shapes the way we think about the world and the assumptions we bring to how we relate to each other. Choosing to adopt the terms “Primary Bedroom” and “Primary Bathroom” is one step among many to speak out against—and ultimately change—the ongoing legacy of racism and structural oppression in our country.
To learn more about housing access issues in Dane County and in Wisconsin at large, read about Urban League of Wisconsin’s $5 million initiative to increase black ownership in Madison.
And for more information on the conversation around the use of the term “master bedroom,” read this recent article in The New York Times.