A housewife, a stay-at-home mum, or a tradwife? Now imagine a 21st century woman wearing a floral print pink dirndl dress, poodle hair, and cooking an apple pie like it’s 1956. Visualising it? Well, this is what a tradwife is, she is a 21st century woman who has embraced traditional and conventional gender roles, wholeheartedly submitting to and spoiling her husband while taking care of the house and the children like it’s 1956.
My first reaction when I heard the word was an ode to ‘choice feminism’, “Yes, 1956 has passed but her life, her choice, no?” Well, the reality is a bit more complex. The (private) choices we make do not happen inside of vacuums, especially if you vlog your entire life on social media. After all, the personal is political right?
This new “movement” champions the idea that a woman’s place is in the home and calls on social media for other women to choose this traditional way of life. Yes, apparently this is not an oxymoron, being conventional can be modern as well. These women will explain to whoever asks that they are housewives by choice, that submitting to their husband and taking care of domestic work, such as ironing, childcaring, cooking, cleaning, or washing, is a chance. While lavishing in the joys of women’s submission, some tradwives also critique the feminist movement.
According to them, feminism has spoiled the natural order of things. Accordingly, we should go back to a time, in 1956, when men were men and women were women, even if during that time, nobody apart from straight cis white men had any rights. Yet, in a time when everyone, especially women, are overworked, underpaid, and often under-appreciated, and when women must primarily accomplish the double shift of breadwinner (underpaid) and homemaker (unpaid), it isn’t that bizarre to see some women leaving that behind. Tradwives may then be seen as a reaction to the growing insecurities of our era but what if there are parts of the symptom as well?
When a woman decides to embrace traditional gender roles, she should also be aware that her choices are informed by structural constraints constructed by socio-economic, cultural, and political dynamics. Not to mention, that many seemingly perfect housewives still rely on the exploitation of non-white nannies to take care of their home and children. Many have also highlighted that the term ‘tradwife’ originated from alt-right, white supremacist movements, predominantly in the US, as means to encourage women to be good and submissive to their husbands.
So, yes, choosing not to work because of unbearable conditions might be seen as a true feminist and anti-capitalist moment but choosing not to work while submitting once again to the patriarchy might be more of a gateway to sexism than anything else. Choice and agency are not synonyms, making a choice doesn’t necessarily reflect agency. Taking decisions may very well reinforce patriarchal values. It isn’t about fighting the system anymore but simply loosely patching up some insecurities.