Op-Ed: Tradwives, a banal mystery, or something else?

Photo by Ivan Alvarez Gomez: pexels.com

Tradwives have been showing up regularly and usually negatively in the news for a few years. This is the “traditional housewife” with an attached ideology. “Traditional” apparently means the media-idealized housewives from the 1950s. The description of a tradwife Is almost unbelievably banal. It’s like a macro for an old sitcom.

Essentially, The tradwife is totally subordinate to the male.

That is quite literally the entire story.

This 1950s cookie-cutter image of a woman is somewhat ironic. Before the 1950s women were a cross between second-class citizens, day laborers, mothers, cooks, and household servants. In the 1950s, they were all of those things except with appliances.

Domestic violence was rampant. Quite a lot of that heavy-duty makeup went into hiding bruises and black eyes etc. Very high alcohol consumption was perfectly normal.

People weren’t really rich, but it was a boom time. The market image of the 1950s is as two-dimensional as most historical Images. Like most of the rare good times in human history that time is idealized to the point of absurdity.

This image is the working model for the tradwives.  The fact that that world barely existed outside upper-income brackets and TV screens doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Normally I’d say, “to be fair” and give a counterbalancing argument. That’s not at all easy in this case. The image of the tradwife is of utter conformity to the values of a society and culture that doesn’t exist anymore.

Pretending the last 70+ years didn’t happen cannot be a good idea. It’s totally unrealistic. These women are supposed to give up all their life opportunities, careers, and even basic self-determination. For what?

One of the popular theories is that the tradwife idea is that it’s a conservative anti-feminism media product. The Puritanical public image really does look very much like that. Tradwives are active enough on social media and are generally against feminism. The overall message is generally conservative to varying degrees.

They certainly get a lot of media exposure, particularly on YouTube. This looks very like the theory that all publicity is good publicity, another plodding trope from the 1950s. On TikTok, there are active tradwife groups.

A Google search will deliver a vast range of explanations of the tradwife. It looks very much like baseline marketing to me. People in idealistic settings explaining what is so great about themselves Is very much an acquired taste. Most of it is all about joining the movement, how great it is, and similar pitches.

People who don’t like the tradwife movement have a question to answer, though.

The question is:

How did this absolute vacuum of an extremely unoriginal idea get any traction with anyone at all?

What could possibly be appealing about it to any modern woman? Why would any intelligent woman want to become a cartoon picture of a housewife on a cookery book? The choice is being a possible millionairess, or a maid and you choose the maid?

The absolutely unnecessary nature of this idea deserves a mention. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a nice home a nice house a nice family and nice things. You shouldn’t have to condemn yourself to a life of servitude to get those things. More to the point, you don’t have to do it.

It is perfectly true that some people prefer to be led rather than to lead. Being told what to do is reassuring for these people. A hierarchy is the ideal environment for them. Subordination means less responsibility and lower expectations of them. It’s roughly the equivalent of becoming a floorboard.

Tradwives are a minority if a vocal minority. It’s a matter of opinion whether or not this highly idealized ethos can survive in a disintegrating world.

It looks like half-baked social engineering to me.  


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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