Wife acceptance factor, wife approval factor, or wife appeal factor (WAF) is an assessment of design elements that either increase or diminish the likelihood a wife will approve the purchase of expensive consumer electronics products such as high fidelity loudspeakers and home theater systems. WAF is a tongue-in-cheek play on electronics jargon such as "form factor" and "power factor" and derives from the stereotype that men are predisposed to appreciate gadgetry and performance criteria whereas women must be wooed by visual and aesthetic factors.
Larry Greenhill first used the term "Wife Acceptance Factor" in September 1983, writing for Stereophile magazine, and credited fellow reviewer and music professor Lewis Lipnick with the coining of the term. The majority of Stereophile subscribers in the late 1980s were men.
Women in the high fidelity hobbyist community have complained about the sexism in the community that is reflected by use of the phrase WAF.
At the start of the golden age of radio in the early 1920s, most radio broadcasters and listeners were men with technical skills. Covers of Radio News depicted humorous situations of women deploring their men's obsession with the new science. Women disliked homemade radio receivers' clutter; electrical parts were left exposed after assembly, the necessary multiple wet-cell batteries leaked corrosive battery acid, and a cable spaghetti of wires connected everything. Replacement acid was sold as "battery oil" to avoid women's reluctance to have the substance in homes.
A way of fitting radio into a home's existing decor was disguising receivers as furniture, a topic discussed in the press as early as 1923. As self-contained, preassembled radios using AC power became available, manufacturers recognized the importance of what a 1924 Radio Broadcast article's headline described as "Making Radio Attractive to Women". Radio News in 1926 held a contest to design the ideal radio receiver exterior; the winning women's entry suggested that it be useful as furniture.
As women increasingly influenced radio purchases, and the devices moved from the man's den to the living room, a 1927 article in Radio Broadcast stated that a "receiver, to be fully appreciated by the female half of the domestic republic, must be encased in housings which are esthetically as well as technically satisfactory". Elaborate radio cabinets often composed most of the price difference between models that used similar electronic components. The components could be replaced while retaining the cabinet as permanent furniture; they had doors that completely hid the radio when not in use. After 1930, elaborate cabinets became less common as newer, smaller table radios became popular, and because the technology was widely accepted by men and women.
- Reynolds, Sallie (Spring 1988). "Dames in Toyland, Part 1: The City of the Plain". The Absolute Sound. 13 (52): 64.
Wife Appeal Factor
- Du Pre, Vanessa Vyvyanne (1994). "Women Against the High-End: Audiophilia is a Dead End". The Absolute Sound. 18 (93): 30.
- Carnoy, David (2006-10-28). "Commentary: Top products with high 'wife-acceptance factor'". CNET. Retrieved 2023-10-23.
- Morrison, Geoffrey (2015-06-14). "Death to the "WAF" (Wife Acceptance Factor)". Sound & Vision. Retrieved 2023-10-23.
- Carnoy, David (September 16, 2003). "Taking the sting out of the whip". CNet.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-10.
- Greenhill, Larry (September 1983). "Quad ESL-63 loudspeaker, part 3". Stereophile. 6 (4). Retrieved August 10, 2009.
Thanks again to Glenn Hart, who did not coin this term—it was Lewis Lipnick—but from whom I heard it for the first time!
- Thorau, Christian; Ziemer, Hansjakob (2018-11-01). The Oxford Handbook of Music Listening in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Oxford University Press. p. 409. ISBN 978-0-19-046698-5.
- Brodbeck-Kenney, Kirsten (2014-12-06). "No Girls Allowed: Why I Hate "Wife Acceptance Factor"". Part-Time Audiophile. Retrieved 2023-10-23.
- Brown, Michael; Dennison, Corley (1998). "Integrating Radio Into the Home, 1923-1929". Studies in Popular Culture. 20 (3): 1–17. ISSN 0888-5753. JSTOR 23414552 – via JSTOR.