The phrase “master bedroom” typically refers to the main and largest bedroom in a home. Although the term has been commonly used for many years, some realtor groups are now dropping it from their listings due to concerns about racist and sexist connotations.
“Words like ‘slave’ and ‘master’ are so folded into our vocabulary and almost unconsciously speak to the history of racial slavery and racism in the U.S.,” Elizabeth Pryor, an associate professor of history at Smith College, told CNN.
The Houston Association of Realtors has replaced the terms “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” with “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” in its listings database, but they will not ban or fine agents for using the terms in their own marketing materials.
“We changed the terms ‘master bedroom’ and ‘master bath’ to ‘primary bedroom’ and ‘primary bath’ in our internal MLS entry platform after a diverse group of members expressed concern that some consumers might perceive the terms to be sexist or racist,” a spokesperson for the organization told ABC News.
The Atlanta-based home construction company PulteGroup stopped using the term “master” years ago, opting instead for the words “owner’s suite” and “owner’s bath.” GetBurbed, an Illinois-based brokerage, will also discontinue use of the term in its materials and listings, replacing it with “main.”
“It pretty much suggests that a white, Anglo-Saxon male lives in that room,” Holly Connors, managing partner of GetBurbed, told “Good Morning America” of the term “master bedroom.”
“As a woman and a woman-owned business, I think it’s appropriate to change our line of thinking,” Connors concluded.
Beyond real estate, the move to eliminate the word “master” is gaining traction in other industries as well. Software developer site GitHub will stop using the coding term “master.” The Court of Master Sommeliers will also stop using “master” to address wine experts who have attained the “ultimate title.”
“Some of these changes are simply good faith exercises to demonstrate awareness of historic improprieties or inequalities,” Dietrich von Biedenfeld, associate professor of business at the University of Houston, told ABC 13. “Particularly in the south, we’ve had master-slave culture … to say that the master lives in a certain place, then it sort of creates a tone that minorities are excluded.”