The other day, when scrolling through my Instagram feed (as you do when you’re in lockdown), I stumbled across a very niche trend that is steadily becoming popular: tradwives. “What does this term stand for?”, I hear you ask. Tradwife is the shorter word for “traditional wife”. Tradwives are women “who promote ultra-traditional gender roles’ ‘, inspired mostly by the 1950s. In other words, tradwives happily exchange a career against being submissive to their husband, as well as taking good care of their household and children. In the past few years, several tradwives have started promoting this very conservative lifestyle on social media platforms such as Instagram or YouTube by posting videos of them baking apple pies or giving tutorials on how to iron your husband’s shirt. These posts come with a side of rather controversial captions, such as “A woman’s place is in the home” or “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman” .
Many tradwives also have a strong affiliation with the Christian faith. The message is clear: the house, the children and religion are a womans’ top 3 priorities.
This, as one can imagine, didn’t remain uncontested. Tradwives have received a lot of backlash for their posts, particularly from the feminist community, claiming that the role they were promoting was totally backwards, anti-feminist and alienating.
In several interviews, trad-wives have addressed this criticism and explained why, from their perspective, these accusations were unjustified.
This is their argumentation broken down:
Feminism is about choice
A recurrent discourse used by tradwives is the one of choice. To them, the most important aspect of feminism is the fact that every woman has the right to choose the course of her life. In other words, taking care of their household and children and therefore taking on the “submissive” role in the marriage, is a concrete choice made by tradwives. This explains why they emphasize the fact that they are happy and thriving, more than they would if they had chosen a career path.
In their opinion, feminists have denied women of their “predestined” maternal role, by promoting women going into careers, often alongside having children. In other words, tradwives claim that feminist movements implicitly pressure women into the working world and therefore rob women of the choice of being a housewife.
This leads me on to my next point…
Tradwives feel less pressure
Another argument often used by tradwives is that being a housewife involves less pressure and, in a way, less high societal expectations. Tradwives have the impression that feminist movements glorify having a career and children at the same time and being a so-called “working mum”.
This is a point that, in a way, I can understand. It is true that, in the media, be it on social media platforms, films or advertisements, the figure of the “working mum” is pictured in a rather unrealistic way: always glowing, super stylish, never stressed. A true girl-boss at work and a loving mother or wife at home. In other aspects of life, it is expected that women should be perfect at everything and effortlessly juggle work and family life because, unfortunately, at the end of the day women are often the ones who, when they come home from work, have to take care of the household and the children. It is a “double burden” on their shoulders.
This is a topic that the self-proclaimed tradwife Alena Kate Petitt, who has even created her own YouTube channel and website named “The Darling Academy”, addresses a lot in her videos. She used to work in a very corporate environment, but never truly felt comfortable. In one of her numerous videos where she explains why she loves being a traditional housewife, she states: “I worked with a lot of girl bosses throughout my career, but there was a lot of backstabbing and very little kindness. Being at home has been very beneficial for me and my children because I don’t bring the stress that I used to have at work, home. This leads to a more relaxed family environment” .
Even though one might not agree with this statement, one must admit that Alena Kate Petitt raises an important point which is, as I mentioned earlier, the tremendous pressure put on women to have a perfect work/household/family balance and implicitly not being allowed to address the stressful aspects of this lifestyle.
What opponents to the movement say
When scrolling through blogs and opinion papers, I saw a couple of key points raised by opponents or sceptics of the #tradwife niche movement. Here are the main ones:
Being a tradwife is by no means an act of courage or rebellion
In interviews or Instagram posts, #tradwives often come across as “against the system” or a form of “counterculture” and, in a way, present their choice of being a traditional housewife as an act of courage.
However, when it comes to this, numerous critics disagree. The only reason why these women can afford to stay at home is that their husband earns enough money to provide for the entire family. As a result, being a housewife by choice is a privilege, which is something that few traditional housewives acknowledge .
This tradition has close links to the far-right and white supremacy
This, at first, may seem far-fetched but can be historically proven.
The conservative gender roles advocated by the #tradwives were also promoted during the Third Reich. The slogan “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” (children, kitchen, church), was used during the 1930s in Germany to describe a woman’s role in society, which is the motto of several traditional housewives. When confronted with this fact, tradwife Alena Kate Petitt simply stated that she “wasn’t aware of it”.
This traditional “husband-at-work-wife-at-home” pattern is also a strategy used by white supremacists to make women have as many white babies as possible, which is a lot easier when the woman doesn’t work .
These aspects are extremely problematic and should also be addressed more openly by tradwives, rather than simply ignored as is the case today. The movement also needs to become more inclusive and diverse.
In conclusion, by writing this article, I don’t want to make a judgement on this very niche movement, but rather shed light on both sides of the coin. Personally, I think that there should be a less negative stigma around women choosing to be a housewife. However, the heavy historical past of this movement should also be critically addressed by the latter, rather than simply ignored, as is the case nowadays.