As both a long-time hater of working and a straight woman, I’d be lying if I wasn’t tempted by the tradwife way. But anyone who has ever actually dated a heterosexual man should know better
A spectre is haunting the west, and she is wearing an ugly floral print dress while making TikToks espousing the joys of female submission.
As abortion rights are overturned in countries from Poland to the US, YouTube pushes alt-right backed propaganda about a victim of domestic abuse who is essentially being humiliated in public for daring to speak up against her famous ex, and 137 women a day continue to be killed at the hands of the men who are supposed to love and protect them, an alarming number of young women are taking to social media to declare themselves as being “over feminism” and dreaming of a different, better life as a “trad wife”. A shortened neologism for “traditional housewife”, the ideology champions the idea that a woman’s place is in the home: fixing meals, doing the housework, raising children, and crucially, submitting to male leadership and living off whatever allowance they are given by their husbands.
At the more “modern” end of the tradwife spectrum is the “stay-at-home-girlfriend”, a role which argues for a similar dynamic but without the bonds of marriage and children. Twitter and TikTok are awash – some serious, some not – with young girls proclaiming that women should not have to work and should instead get to spend their days lying in meadows reading books and eating fruit while men go out to engage in hard labour. Feminism, they argue (or joke!) has ruined the natural order of things, when men were men and women were women and it was 1952 and nobody except straight white men had any rights. Reactionary podcasts like Red Scare – hosted by two wealthy women who happily espouse this dangerous rhetoric under the guise of ironic revolutionary edgelordism, while themselves making over $50,000 a month and being in no danger of being financially controlled by a partner – are culturally spearheading this movement on the “left”. At the same time, the alt-right champions tradwifery as one prong in the attack against the morally corrupt tide of liberalism that has given us too many genders and not enough white babies.
As both a long-time hater of working and a straight woman frustrated at the state of modern dating, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a modicum of sympathy for these rose-tinted visions of gendered labour. Given the choice between spending your days luxuriously slow-cooking meals while never having to worry about rent versus commuting to a hideously-lit office where you stare at a screen for nine hours a day, just to come back home and then have to begin your second shift of domestic labour, it seems that only the most unhinged girlbosses among us would choose the latter. It’s not hard to look around and feel like the “equality” our second-wave feminist forbearers envisioned for us was a scam; we were sold a dream in which we could “have it all”, but instead seem to have ended up doing it all instead. Women are still doing 60 per cent more unpaid domestic work than men, with even supposedly feminist modern male partners often only helping out if they are specifically asked, blind to how little weight they are pulling and to how exactly the bathroom magically never seems to run out of hand soap even though they haven’t bought any in four years.
In this climate, it is hardly surprising that women are dreaming of another way. We are all overworked, underpaid, and all too often under-appreciated, wondering what the point of it all is if we’re now just doing double the work, playing both breadwinner and homemaker while being statistically underpaid for the former and not paid at all for the latter. Why not just give up, find a wealthy man who can afford to support you both, and live happily ever, after doing nothing more strenuous than getting a weekly manicure and figuring out what flowers to buy for the guest bedroom? The girlboss is after all, apparently, dead.
As Blink 182 once so wisely said: “work sucks, I know”, but it’s worrying to see modern women advocate for opting back into a system that costs us our freedoms, independence, and in worst-case scenarios, our lives. A system that leaves women wholly at the mercy of a man’s kindness to survive may seem like a viable life choice if you are a naive adolescent, but anyone who has ever actually dated a heterosexual man should know better than to advocate it as the way to win for an average woman under patriarchy.
For some tradwives, such as Alana Pettitt who runs The Darling Academy – a Tory woman’s blog about making scones and being polite – submission means accepting her husband as in control of the family’s finances, while she is given an allowance to look after “her department” (the home). “If I’m frugal with it, whatever is left is mine,” she explained to a thoroughly unimpressed Holly Willoughby on This Morning.
The latest woman-of-tradwife-experience to bless us working women with her superior knowledge is Aly Villa, a content creator and SAHW whose video about “How to marry a high-value man and become a housewife” went viral on Twitter. The clip was duly commended by a bunch of pick-me’s and unemployed men who also hope to one day be able to keep a woman chained to a stove through the power of crypto investments, defending “her right to choose” while calling any woman offering criticism ugly and bitter and unable to keep a man. Villa’s TikTok handle is @realfemsapien – a term that seems more suited to an alien trying to fit in, than the real human woman she is trying to convince us she is.
Listen, I do not give a flying fuck if these women want to spend the rest of their lives meeting the needs of their “high-value man” while wearing hideous Little House On The Prairie knock-off dresses, but the problem with choice feminism is that private choices are not made inside of vacuums. The choices we make are informed by structural constraints that are shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political conditions, not to mention that this one-income lifestyle is something available to almost no one in the modern world, and that even housewives as prolific and perfect as Betty Draper relied on the underpaid labour of a non-white nanny to keep their homes in order for their alcoholic, philandering husbands.
Indeed, it is not surprising that the romanticisation of gendered norms that are harmful to women are happening at a time in which women seem unable to win no matter what we do, when our rights to our own bodies are being eroded, when we are seeing the progress made by Me Too eroded in real-time, and when the right is making political gains all across the world by exploiting the sexual and financial anxieties created by their own ideologies. The tradwife is both a symptom of and a reaction to the increasing insecurity of our times, but this insecurity is the fault of capitalism, not feminism.
It’s looking unlikely that we will find ourselves living in a socialist, egalitarian utopia anytime soon, but it should be obvious that the answer to the question of female liberation does not lie in directly upholding the patriarchy by advocating for young women to become live-in servants to men who are likely to trade them in for a younger model as soon as they hit the ripe old age of 30. Sorry if this seems a bit feminist (ew), but I’d rather spend the rest of my life alone and in debt than with a man who doesn’t even know how to wipe his arse properly but expects me to “submit” to him.
Also, as a final note, why are so many of these traditional women so opinionated on social media? I’m not sure real tradwives who are truly happy with their lot in life and aren’t shills for dubious political agendas would spend their time talking down to other women on the internet in order to increase their ad revenue. Pick a side ladies! You either believe you belong in the kitchen cooking for your ugly old husband and being given an allowance or you’re out here with the rest of us – because if one thing is for certain, it’s that as women, we are still absolutely not allowed to have it all.