Death to the “WAF” (Wife Acceptance Factor)

The “Wife Acceptance Factor” has to go. It’s archaic, misogynistic, and the wrong way to think about our hobby.

As enthusiasts, we need to abolish the acronym “WAF.” Here’s why.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, in reviews and casual discussions about AV gear (usually speakers or big TVs), there’s a concern that “The Wife” won’t accept whatever it is into the home.

This is, unquestionably, sexist. I mean, duh, of course it is.

It’s one thing to say that your wife wouldn't like something, but for there to be an acronym assuming all women think the same, that’s just stupid.

I know many women who love AV as much, if not more, than their male spouses. As anecdotal as that is, it proves the stupidity of “WAF.”

It’s also the wrong way to think about this hobby. It’s dismissive and exclusionary. Instead of coming up with “witty” over-simplistic terms, maybe we should talk about why there’s such a term in the first place.

Because as I see it, “WAF” isn’t a discussion about gender, it’s a discussion about marketing. Specifically, the failure of.

Let me explain. Let’s say my future wife wants to tear out the backyard and build a temple to her favorite pastime: basketball (not farfetched, most of the women I know are far more into sports than the guys I know). She wants to build a court, bleachers, lights, everything.

I would see this as insane for myriad reasons, not least because basketball is godawful boring, the project sounds like a tremendous amount of money, and while she’d love it, I’d get nothing from it (other than her enjoyment, which is something).

This analogy sound familiar yet?

But instead of being dismissive and saying the idea doesn’t have GAF (obviously, Geoff Acceptance Factor), let’s say she tries to sell me on it. She explains that we’d save money by not going to games (stay with me here), we’d have a place to have fun with future mini Geoff and Geoffettes, and we can give back to the community by giving the local youths a place to hang out instead of creating mischief or whatever.

Look, the point is, I don’t understand sports. The real point is, future Mrs. Morrison knows I don’t give shart about sports, so she’s trying to show how this stupid basketball idea works for me too.

The deeper issue, as we keep going down this rabbit hole, is that many who espouse the idea of “WAF” are (consciously or not) putting a sexist moniker while obfuscating two perfectly legitimate issues. These issues have nothing to do with gender, though often women are often on one side, and men the other.

1) A/V gear looks like crap. All of it. No, seriously.
I have the style sense of plaid shirts and a rusty 914, and even I can look at a pair of 6 foot speakers and monoblocks and go, yeah, those are stupid looking. They may sound incredible, but come on.

Many people (again, not me), like to have a presentable, attractive house. BigStupidAVGear does not lend itself to a presentable, attractive house. I live in gear squalor and even I thought a 90-inch TV was a bridge too far (120-inch screen though, no problem).

Wanting to have a presentable house is perfectly reasonable, and it’s possible that many who use “WAF” aren’t knowingly being sexist, they’re just using shorthand for gear that’s ugly.

But why does it have to be ugly? There are lots of products that are at least less ugly than others. Why not more of that?

I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss a reasonable complaint with a stupid acronym because it’s entirely possible the spouse who wants a beautiful house wants that as much (if not more) than the other spouse wants gear, frivolous as it may seem to the other.

And again, assuming it’s always the woman in the relationship that cares about aesthetics is stupid. If you don’t think so, I think you need to meet more people. Some relationships (brace yourself) don’t even have women.

2) Money
This is probably the uglier of the two options. If the gear in question is given a “WAF” label because it’s too expensive, you know what, it is. This is a hobby. Don’t go into debt for it. It’s not worth it.

If you can afford it, but one half doesn’t want to spend it, that’s different. Now we’re back to the marketing issue. I’ve written about this before, but the key here is that even the women I know who are as into tech as much as your average tech-head guy, they’re not into it in the same way. This is key.

Generally speaking, guys are into the nuts and sprockets: lumens, watts, contrast ratios, HDR, THD, DLP, and P3. Women, for the most part, are more interested in the experience. Not “what it is” but “what can it do for me.” This is huge, because both sides can be equally fanatical, but since it’s a different kind of fanaticism, it’s hard for the other person to understand.

So don’t sell the watts sell the emotion, if you sense your spouse isn’t into the gear the same way you are.

Or, better yet, read It's Complicated: Understanding a Woman's Relationship with A/V Gear by Home Theater alum Adrienne Maxwell.

Bottom Line
Words, or specifically, the meaning behind words, mean something. WAF is a stupid and sexist acronym, implying it’s the wives that “don’t get it,” and are the gatekeepers to true enjoyment in this hobby.

So let’s kill it. Kill the acronym. Because once we take a look at why people use it, why they might feel that way, perhaps we can get a better idea why others don’t feel included in this hobby.

Because isn’t getting more people into loving AV a good thing?

KikassAssassin's picture

Thank you! I've always cringed whenever I've seen that term thrown around, so I'm glad to see someone at a major A/V publication pointing out how sexist it is. You're also right that it's not a very useful term, and is usually used to brush off legitimate complaints and issues that deserve to be addressed directly.

eugovector's picture

+1000, but good luck getting some simpleminded forums to join the movement.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
Apparently, from the comments here, not just the forums.
brenro's picture

My wife enjoys an immersive theater experience and well reproduced music. I have a dedicated theater room with no windows where the gear is visible only briefly when it's first powered on and a movie is inserted. No problem there. I have a second surround sound system in our family room- 65" plasma wall mounted and all in wall speakers. No visible cables. No problem there either. My baby, however, is an old two channel system. Martin Logan Prodigies powered by Krell Class A mono blocks. This is in our living room, which is vast and has very high ceilings. The ML's, being dipoles, have to be pulled out into the room somewhat and there are sewer pipe cables running everywhere. She will sit and listen to it and be appreciative of it but she will also grumble about it's intrusion into our living space and the fact that she, rightly, can never clean around it the way she does the rest of the house. Obviously, I ignored anything resembling WAF but it does, in my case, have some merit.

cme4brain's picture

This is a nice PC article, but were the mag to run a poll on which sex purchases A/V equipment, I would think you find that it would be men vastly more common than women. The same for sports cars and pick up trucks. Sure most women like them and want to ride in them, but who actually buys serious sports cars (not a Miata)? A google search revealed The top ten models that had greater than 50 percent retail sales to males and at least 1,000 annual retail sales in 2010 were: Porsche 911, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-Series, BMW M3, Ford Ranger, Toyota Tundra, Dodge Ram and Audi S5, TrueCar said.

So I'm tellin' ya', buying A/V equipment is still now and historically a male purchase, if not initially (it was/is), certainly for upgrades. Silly article.

chrisheinonen's picture

Yes, it's a male dominated area, but using terms like WAF keep it that way. In the past few months I've seen AV publications make a joke about spousal rape when talking about a product, something that has no business being in a review. I saw the head of another website rant against a male editor of another site as having his "time of the month" while accusing digital music lovers of "being on the rag". With major AV publications and websites running content like that, are you surprised that women aren't jumping to join the hobby?

No, the term WAF probably isn't the difference between the AV industry being 50% female and whatever it is now. But it's a solid first step to at least be aware of what you're writing and how that might impact half of the population. And as the article points out, it's just stupid to begin with.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
Since you're using "PC" as a pejorative, there's clearly no point in having a conversation, but FWIW I have run polls like that and guess what, it's near on 50/50. So your premise is incorrect.
cme4brain's picture

please read the nice comment by musicalfox supporting my position. My premise- that women make fewer of the electronic purchasing decisions than men- is absolutely true with any and everyone I come in contact with- and I come in contact with a lot of couples. Just go to bestbuy on any Saturday and see who makes the stereo/TV purchase decisions. The wife may want a TV, it is the husband who wants a particular large screen size or an upgrade in speakers. In addition, the home decorating decisions in the house are 99% women. How many men care or are allowed to comment on drapery color/design? Color of the walls? Theme of the furniture? Carpet shag or burber? Nope, pal, it is women who make nesting decisions and therefore decide what goes where, how big speakers are.

musicalfox's picture

I'm sorry, Geoff, but this is trendy, liberal, PC nonsense. Men and women are different and always will be. The reality is that 95% of the women we all know are nest builders, and they don't like ugly black boxes in the living room.

"This is, unquestionably, sexist. I mean, duh, of course it is." Geoff, if you think WAF is sexist, you should listen to what women say about men.

I've never met a woman who wants to build a basketball court - or any other sports arena, for that matter - in her backyard, but if you stumble upon her, I can tell you she will be a rarity. And you'd better check she's not a dude.

There are many generalities you can observe of the differences between the sexes, and we ignore them at our peril. That's not sexist, it's just common sense. Not only is the WAF expression funny, it's also correct. And the hilarious paradox is that I think you'll find most women would agree too.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
Actually, making judgements based on a person's gender is literally the definition of sexist.
musicalfox's picture

Only because the media have conditioned you to think that, Geoff. How do you know that women, or the wives in question, are offended by that term? Have you asked them? It's entirely subjective, and utterly pointless to rewrite our language just to accommodate every person who might possibly be offended by a few words. It's pathetic. We're turning into soulless automatons, and certainly losing free speech in the process.

chrisheinonen's picture

My wife finds it offensive. What the term implies is that all a wife can bring to the conversion about AV is to not reject something because it's ugly. Not that she might enjoy it or benefit from watching it, but as long as it's pretty enough she'll like it. That's inherently sexist.

Since you seem to really like the term WAF, enlighten us as to what it brings to the table that another non-sexist term couldn't convey? Could writers not simply talk about the design or style of a component and get the same message across? Or is there some inherent nature to WAF that makes it better than any other term to convey this? Because if the reasoning is because it has been used before it should continue to be used, that's a really bad one.

musicalfox's picture

Actually, I don't 'really like it', I just don't think the term should be banned from use, as GM suggests. I'm sorry to hear your wife doesn't approve either, but can she put her hand on her heart and say she's never made a generalization or funny comment about men?

chrisheinonen's picture

But if someone made her aware of the fact she was doing so (much less in print), she'd apologize for it and then try to not do it again going forward. That's what the piece is about in the end.

musicalfox's picture

Oh, come on. With her girlfriends too? If we can't laugh about the opposite sex, what's the point in going on? Men and women are different and we should appreciate and enjoy those differences - and have a good laugh at each others' expense in the process. When did the world get so serious? Gosh.

chrisheinonen's picture

I'm not with my wife and her friends all the time, so I can't guarantee everything she's ever said in her life. However, I'd be highly surprised if she said something disparaging about a whole gender on purpose when she was around them. It's the same reason neither she or I would use retarded in a sentence, or gypped. Even in private company we wouldn't say something we'd think was disparaging to a whole race or class of people because it's wrong. There are plenty of other words we can use to communicate ideas without choosing ones that do that.

BlueBirdWings's picture

Just change it to "Woman Acceptance Factor" since it does not apply only to wives.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
Yeah, that doesn't change anything.
Tangential's picture

Is it sexist though? More often than not that way of speaking (or writing) is someone writing or speaking about their own wife. Rather than trying to perpetuate some kind of male dominance in this hobby I suspect most of the men are jokingly referring to their own home life/marriage. Men and women are different. Obviously we shouldn't stereotype, not all men like soccer (I'm British) etc. But, at the same time while I try to impress people who visit my flat with my AV equipment it tends to be guys who are impressed. Girls tend to be more concerned about how I'm using the living space, ways that I can make the flat more welcoming etc. And that's good isn't it? If i were to get married and live with someone wouldn't it be good for us to complement each other in this way?

prerich45's picture

Yes, that term should be deleted from our vocabulary!!!!

prerich45's picture

I believe all of this has to do where one places their vanities. I know men that want big sounding systems with "invisible speakers" - they want a house that when people enter they gawk at it's beauty. I believe in having a presentable home, but what does that do for me? My wife has areas that are all her own and she enjoys them. What do they actively do...nothing! They are full of llardo, Hummel, and Capodemaonte'. They look pretty but after that....meh! Many even have AV gear just to say look at what I have or what I can afford....that's the same type of vanity! My wife's rooms provide her a type of pleasure....and that's ok, even if it provides me none (I remember her saying - just sit and enjoy the pretty...Lol)! I'm just happy to be a home owner, not trying to have a better home than someone else (I can only live in one room at a time). A pretty bathroom with cheap TP is a turn off for me, but a clean bathroom with that ultra soft TP that begins with a "C" I can enjoy that when the time comes. It's functional. I don't think its a gender thing - I think its a value thing - and many of us - because we are people that value seeing - are more form than function - while I'm more function than form....and there are many men that value form over function (my son-in-law is like that).

Biffstar's picture

What about the HAF (Husband Acceptance Factor)? I happen to think my wife spending piles of money on pointless purses and shoes that she buys at a whim, and will only wear once or twice before being dumped into storage in the basement is a perfect counterargument. Is me thinking that's ridiculous sexist too?

gfrancis0's picture

The underlying meaning of WAF is perfectly valid, just including a gender in the term is a bad idea. AV equipment is just one instance where one half of a partnership may not have an entirely utilitarian viewpoint and judge it solely on capabilities, how it looks be damned! I might refer to it as Form vs Function (FvF) or maybe Interior Design Friendliness (IDF). Both are terms which could apply to ANYONE and not be considered offensive in any way.

prerich45's picture

Yes, I agree!

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
"The underlying meaning of WAF is perfectly valid, just including a gender in the term is a bad idea."


philipjohnwright's picture

Spot on Geoff, of course WAF is sexist.

Mildly so compared to some of the stuff that goes on in society, so let's not get too worked up about it. But it is sexist, and as others have said it will put females off our hobby (which as others have pointed out is very male dominated at this point in time). Gosh you have to type a lot to ensure you don't offend anyone.

Anyway, the ladies don't have a monopoly on aesthetics, and you are also right Geoff in that all hi-fi looks bad (well virtually all, some stuff is tasteful). But much is also decidedly bling, of the look-how-much-I-spent this-would-even-look-out-of-place-in-Star-Wars type (you know what they say, the bigger the car the smaller......!). And it is all about the music anyway isn't it? Gosh you have to type a lot to offend people!!

Stands back and waits for the bricks to rain down on me :-)

nb dry British humour, not trolling.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
Yes, it is all about the music (or the movie). That point is too often lost.
James.Seeds's picture

I no longer use the WAF Factor when purchasing and or presenting new gear, I now use the Compromise Factor.
I wanted my 7.1 system front and center in our family, she wanted a Bose Lifestyle System instead because it was small, out of the way not too intrusive and cute and also granite counter tops in the kitchen.
I agreed and got my system and the wife got her counter tops

David Vaughn's picture
Couldn't agree more...strike a bargain and both parties are happy.
William Lee's picture

Spouse Acceptance Factor

Mr. Hatcher's picture

It's just a term used to describe a compromise we have to make. I don't like WAF, call it SAF (spouse acceptance factor) SOAF (significant other acceptance factor) RAF (roommate acceptance factor) or whatever other acronym you want that caters to both sides. Webster is putting garbage like selfie in the dictionary, that's retarded...oops...did that word offend someone? It shouldn't because I'm not referring to a person in that context, it's just a word that drives a point home. I can't say; oh man, that's handicapped! That sounds dumb, LOL! Religious people get worked up when someone says the GD word. It's not like when we say that word we're litterally swearing God, it's just a saying. People are so sensitive, you got an issue...I got a tissue. Imagine the words we'll be using 10-20 years from now.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
See, that's the point. All those other terms aren't sexist. Any of them would be fine.

Also, I recommend checking out Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style. He talks a lot about words being added to the dictionary. The basic point is that we use a living language, and words aren't added on a whim.

For that matter, if it weren't for words that didn't exist 20 years ago, this website (also a new word) and magazine would have no words to use.

Mr. Hatcher's picture

Thanks for the book link Geof, it actually looks really interesting.

I'm an advocate for using "proper" language syntax, grammar, and pronunciation (linguistics). I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I learn new methods to convey my opinions more effectively every day. The day we stop learning is the day we stop growing; knowledge is power.

How I explain my point of view also depends on the situation. Every situation is different, and the way we decide to convey our message(s) has to be tailored to that specific scenario. Age group, setting/location (messaging via mobile device or online, face-to-face chat or group chat), how well you know the audience, etc...all correlates to how I decide to express myself at that given time. Heck, if I have a couple drinks in me, that can totally influence how I react to questions and explain myself.

Some people are a lot more sensitive than others, and/or are very religious, political, or closed-minded. I'm not any of these things so I don't get upset as easily as some. I do have my views and beliefs and am entitled to my opinion, and as such I try to always remember to start controversial conversations with IMO (in my opinion). Simply starting a conversation with those three words can save you from a lot of destructive arguments.

There's so many variables that affect how we decide to express ourselves on the fly and this will only get more and more complex as time goes on. But so long as we have good intentions and keep arguments constructive, then I'm not going to give anyone a hard time.

I do really enjoy reading your articles. And I admire how well you keep your cool when trying to explain how HDMI cables are all the same. ;)


Jonasandezekiel's picture

Oh no Geoffrey, there you go again: finding a problem where there really isn't one. Picking a fight and then calling people names simply because they don't agree with is not a good way to conduct your life.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
This article was based on several conversations I've had with multiple people. You only think there isn't a problem, which is in itself part of the problem.
Jonasandezekiel's picture

I've rolled my eyes so many times at your ridiculous articles, I think I've developed vertigo.

sirwilliamlee's picture

get over yourself. lame ass leftists. go knit an afghan.