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Deja Vu Tradwives: Here We Go Again

Putting men first has failed for women over and over again, and tradwifery remakes those same mistakes. But so has feminism. Where's the happy medium?

Modern-day feminism is still such an adolescent girl, forever trying on new roles and identities, seeking the one that works.

She tries on her mom’s clothes. Then her sister’s. Then maybe her brother’s. She twists in the mirror, dissatisfied today with a look she’s adored for months. But it doesn’t work now and she’s looking for something new. What do boys think? Does it matter what boys think? Of course it matters what boys think! But it doesn’t! It matters more what girls think! It’s—

What no one tells you when you’re young—because even your parents aren’t really old enough to understand this themselves—is that what doesn’t work and hasn’t several times over just doesn’t friggin’ work. Capiche?

When I was young, I wasn’t much interested in marriage or children. I decided I’d rather play the field with my wandering eye.

Later, when I wanted to settle down (but not breed), marriage was falling out of favor. So was not breeding. Where were all the men women complained about who didn’t want children? Could you give me some phone numbers?

Today, romance is dead, pornography glorifies violence against women in a way Larry Flynt only ever flirted with, everyone is glued to their phones with loneliness, and young people aren’t even having sex.

Ergo, ‘traditional marriage’ is making a comeback.

Fifteen years ago, whiny and perennially victimized ‘feminist’ Jessica Valenti, still living in 1965, worried her pretty little head over America’s ‘obsession’ with female sexual attractiveness and purity in The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women. Which makes me wonder what her social circle looks like because I’m not sure if I even know any virgins, but if I do, they’re probably under thirty.

Now women are trying to figure out what went so hideously wrong. Conservatives blame feminism. Religious folk blame a turn away from God. Feminists blame unevolved men, conservatives, and religionistas clinging to their sacred privilege and patriarchy. Others blame the Internet, social media algorithms, ubiquitous phones, the pandemic, divisive politics and Zoom.

I think there’s a whole lot of right in all of it.

Here come the ‘tradwives’ with the usual liberal hand-wringing over Creeping Conservatism and a dialing-back of women’s rights.

Periodically, human society regresses when the world becomes too crazy to understand. Maybe things were better ‘back then’, with rose-colored reverse hindsight. Remember when things were easier? And they were. Sometimes. Today, other things are easier. Like being skilled enough and financially stable enough to escape a bad and/or abusive marriage.

I can’t completely blame some women for wondering whether perhaps fulfillment comes from letting someone else make the decisions. For committing themselves to home and hearth, to raising new human beings. I actually respect and appreciate people who accept that awesome responsibility. Every human life truly is precious. In my perfect world, only people who really wanted kids and had put a lot of thought into it would make new humans. No one would be forced to squeeze out a human life they never wanted, which wouldn’t happen if we had lots of cheap, reliable ways to prevent conception.

But still. Here we go with this shit again.

The magic recipe

Sixty years into yer grandma’s feminism, we’re re-examining the free love world the hippie counterculture wrought. In hindsight, it may not have been as good for women as it initially looked.

Or maybe it was a good idea, but got waylaid and sideswiped by technology, and male sexual interests (as always).

In 2024, women dominate college campuses and populate corporate boardrooms. Men have lost some ground in these areas, and it’s not all feminism’s fault. Many men have fallen down and refused to get up. To try harder. Study harder. Do we need affirmative action for underachieving men now?

The Feminine Mystique described the malaise the so-called Happy Housewife felt, even as she guiltily thought she shouldn’t. Why did the neighbourhood kaffeeklatsching include more and more vodka in the pitcher of screwdrivers as the months and years wore on?

And why did they pop so many ‘Mother’s little helpers’ as they condemned Today’s Kids for indulging in hipster drugs?

We still haven’t found the magic mating recipe, but we’re making progress, and both feminism and yes, the Tradwife Phenomenon will help to better refine and evolve a life we can all aspire to and live with. Because tradwifery isn’t all bad but it still re-makes some classic mistakes.

I for one am grateful the Counterculture gifted me with more career opportunities than I had in 1969. I don’t feel I chose wrongly. I regret not being able to find a man I could be happily childless with, nor today a man whose life isn’t over. Regrets, Oy’ve ‘ad a few-ah!

All things considered, I haven’t had a bad life, and I’ve begun keeping a mental list I call The Best Stories Of Anyone In The Nursing Home, to remind myself of the things I’ve done, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve experienced, the funny stories I have to tell, the things I learned how to do and the lessons I’ve learned. To remind myself I didn’t live a wasted life.

All things considered, I have much to be grateful for.

But romance, for me, has been largely unsuccessful, and I can’t fault Tradwives for giving conservative marriage a go again, nor do I know that it necessarily heralds the Republic of Gideon.

Nothing ever remains the same. Today’s women are better educated, more confident and raised in a different time and place, but they’re opening themselves up to risks generations of women simply don’t think through: The Fifties’ Happy Homemakers were sometimes physically abused by their husbands and had no recourse to get out. Society frowned on divorce, families told her to tough it out, religious leaders told her it was God’s will she stay with her abuser, and how was she going to support three kids on her own? She couldn’t even own a credit card without her husband’s signature! And what was she going to do, stock shelves? Work the cash register? And who would take care of the kids?

I suspect many of today’s Tradwives aren’t quite as helpless as all the TikTok complainers seem, but it’s never a good idea to give that much power to men. Even good men can abuse power, just as good women can do the same.

I understand the desire to turn your pretty, well-toned back on the corporate rat race, as I watch the expressions of TikTok’s scrubbed women in 1956 Better Homes & Gardens-reminiscent dresses, earrings, and Mrs. Cleaver hair embracing values that sound less frighteningly right-wing and more common-sense and mature.

I do not complain about my husband to anyone who will listen.

I protect my husband’s heart by not broadcasting his shortcomings.

Out of mutual respect we keep our disagreements and spats in the family, in public we are a united front.

Divorce is not an option or threatened.

There really is something about doing things the way our ancestors did. It kind of puts your heart back into this thing we call life. (Isn’t that what Martha Stewart does? Make everything from scratch?)

And is making your husband a customized owl cookie such a terrible way to show him you love him?

I found these expressions in a TikTok compilation about tradwives. There’s plenty in there to disagree with—too much Christian ‘submission’, especially the cringey black woman extolling these ‘virtues’ to her white husband. But maybe I’m being too political.

Conservative Christians, like feminists, seek to improve upon practices, ideas, and values that clearly don’t work, but too often focus only on what we want. Conservative Christianity is patriarchal, feminism matriarchal. Tradwifery should expect more from men than it does, as feminists should from women, yet neither do.

There’s a downside, of course

One former tradwife never considered how much her good life in million-dollar homes rested on her marriage. She worked in the family business with money that went into her husband’s bank account—not a joint one, and she had no bank account of her own. When he divorced her 25 years later, she lived in her car and made $44/day as a teacher’s assistant. “I have no retirement, I have no savings, no education, no resume.” She wonders why she never had “a fucking backup plan.”

Gee, who could have seen this coming? (Feminism, are you there? It’s me, Sister Margaret!)

It’s the age-old dilemma that challenges Tradwives past and present, consensual and not: If you have no education, no skills, and no resume, you’re sentenced to low-paying jobs and no future. Or a shit marriage.

You might get lucky like Nicole Brown Simpson (for awhile) and get a good settlement from your celebrity husband, or you might get nothing.

It’s never a good plan to allow a man to take complete care of you and be especially aware of ‘submission’.

It gives him carte blanche to screw you if it all goes—pardon the sexist expression, ladies—tits up.

Another video revealing the downside to Tradwifery warns, “You’ll never see tradwives in their forties advocating for this life.” Another warns, “A man is not a plan,” and notes that “…your finances should not depend on someone being in love with you.” Another realizes her tradwife life was dependent on how pretty she remained and good at her housewifery.

Some spoke of losing their identities and ability to make decisions or even knowing what they themselves liked. When you bought toothpaste you thought of the brand your husband liked; you made the dinners your husband preferred; his identity, even his name, was yours. It reminded me of the mothers we used to make fun of when I was in the old Usenet forum; the mothers who would show up and try to turn us away from our selfish, childfree ways, or combat the child-haters (and we did have some). When you’re extolling the joys of being a mom and giving your life to raising another’s, maybe it’s not the best image to post under the address “”

One lady counsels wannabe Tradwives, “I think freedom and autonomy and confidence are more important than making my kids think that having a mom and dad in their home is what makes a home perfect.”

So why can’t I wholeheartedly condemn the Tradwife phenomenon?

I think we should take a ‘salad bar’ approach to life: Take what works and leave the rest.

It may be one-sided still, but the TikTok women making a real commitment to preserving their marriage and not running for the divorce court at the first sign of minor domestic strife are a complete one-eighty from the stomach-churning, loathsome new fad for wannabe ex-non-Tradwives: Women dumping their husbands and families on a whim when they get bored with marriage and want to sleep with boy toys and travel and do all the things they didn’t do before.

Not women who are escaping hellish abuse or controlling men or life in a tin shack in the Ozarks. Entitled, privileged, and deeply narcissistic young women seemingly feel their husbands aren’t human beings with feelings but mere accessories, along with the children they’d have carried around in their oversized purse like chihuahuas if they could have.

This is what the social-media-induced narcissism of the modern age has wrought: Women ‘empowered’ to be exactly like a stomach-churning Mad Man of yore—one who dumps her family to trade her hubs in a for a younger model (or three) and to gallivant around without a care, leaving a familial wreck in her wake. (Fuck ‘em! Let men know what it’s like, amirite my faithful followers???)

Can’t there be a happier medium somewhere? One in which the TradHusband is as beholden to cleaving unto his Tradwife as the Empowered Mom throwing herself a Divorce Party to celebrate her reclaimed single freedom? Might she rethink her position before she books the banquet room and consider the other human beings she’s destroying?

Both movements demonstrate exactly how ugly and narcissistic life is when one sex or the other has so much power. Funny how TradHusbands don’t declare on TikTok their commitment to not divorce their wives when they’re more drudge-y than the girl they married.

I support women’s empowerment and the ability to leave a bad marriage if she truly has to, if he doesn’t want to work on it or think it’s his God-given right to beat her into submission, whether he believes in God or not.

But it’s a complete abrogation of responsibility and ‘adulting’ to just dump everyone and leave it all in your ex-husband’s lap, no different than when a man does it!

Equality means women must hold themselves to the same high standards they demand of men. And to demand of men what they demand from us.

What we once derisively called a ‘sperm donor’ we must apply to an equally execrable ‘egg donor’.

I see some real, laudable values in the Tradwife movement, as I see them in genuinely empowered feminism. Pure Tradwifery really doesn’t work for women and never has, and updating it to include more lifetime commitment for a Tradhusband will remove the Trad from marriage and home life. But it’s not all just about me me me me me and what I want.

For thousands of years that’s the world men set up for themselves, with women objectified as sex toys, wives and mothers. Her job was to perpetuate his seed and raise them so he could go off and live his life as he wanted.

It sucked for women, and it still does.

But the ‘empowered divorcee’ movement looks every bit as hatefully misandrist as ‘patriarchy’ looks hatefully misogynist.

There’s a happy medium somewhere, but it won’t be truly ‘traditional’. Nor 100% feminist. We need to explore this ‘marriage’ of values more.

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