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The tradwife. A seemingly innocuous but dangerous phenomenon that can be all kinds of problematic for a feminist growth of society.
When someone else’s nostalgia about the past causes me to question my feminism… like the current tradwives movement everywhere. What is a tradwife, you ask? Read ahead.
The other day, I finally got around to watching Daisy Jones and The Six and it truly transported me back in time. Not to the ‘70s, but to the 2010s – my middle school years. A time when my father had introduced me to the Stones, Don McLean and The Doors. I loved the fantasy of it all, from the hair and the clothes to the feeling of being ‘different’. Of course, I relished the thought that I alone in my class knew ‘true’ music while the rest listened to pop ‘trash’.
I know I’m not alone in my fantasising of the past. ‘Reject modernity and embrace tradition’, ‘getting back to our roots’, and ‘I was born in the wrong generation’ – all sentiments that paint a rosy picture of life in times past. Our nostalgia tends to alter actual events and make the present seem a little more bleak in contrast.
Usually, on social media, these sentiments refer to the ‘60s hippie culture, ‘90s fashion or a childhood without social media. But one trending buzzword on social media escalates from nostalgia to extreme glorification that I find disturbing – the tradwife.
A dictionary.com definition of tradwife says:
Tradwives (Traditional + Wives) hold that modern women aren’t truly happy and are, in simple words, a moral mess. Women let loose in society without constraints and defined behaviours have wreaked havoc – the gay agenda, weak men and high divorce rates. You name it, modern women are to blame for it.
But what is it about modern women that has caused such deep tears to our social fabric? Rabid feminism – at least that’s what the tradwives say.
For these self-professed tradwives, all is not lost. In tradwives’ nostalgic recounting of the past, there used to be a time when life had order and where people accepted who society said they were. The tradwife wants to bring back the good old days by calling for a rebellion against deluded and selfish ‘feminazis’. Instead, they push for the world to go back to times of clear binary gender roles and a patriarchal system that sets out every aspect of social and personal life (as if most of the world still doesn’t run on these terms?). Men, a.k.a the ‘sahibs’, lead the world while women stay subservient to them. A clean home, well-behaved cookie cutter children and a conventionally stunning wife – that’s what the world-saving mission needs. With happy men, the world is happy. And with the world happy, only then, the submissive and devoted woman is truly happy and fulfilled.
I first came across the tradwife when I saw a reel by Estee Williams on Instagram, titled – How to become a Traditional Wife.
A few tips according to this on how to become a true woman a.k.a tradwife –
1. be ‘ultra-traditional’ i.e. there are two genders only with assigned roles, sexualities, personalities, ways to walk, talk, dress, sneeze – you get the drill,
2. Learn how to cook, clean and host because your husband does not have the time to waste when he’s busy running the world and
3. Men are ‘designed to be visual’ so look attractive (but not slutty! But still sexy!).
The comment section reveals just how rebellious tradwives think they are – ‘You give us all hope. This New Thinks has poisoned the minds of many young women thinking they will be happy if they spend their 20’s being promiscuous. There are billions of women that are happy to be traditional homemakers; they just aren’t on the internet for the world to see. We support you all the way.’
These sentiments are not unheard of to me – we’ve all heard about how jeans and women’s ambition are all signs of the Kali Yug. I don’t bat an eye when I see ‘incels’ online go on and on about alpha males and how Andrew Tate is basically Socrates. So then why do I find tradwives disturbing?
You see, tradwives, at least those I’ve come across, are young millennial women. We all excuse the older generation because ‘that’s how they were raised’. But when I see adult women so close to my age argue so passionately for a life stripped of individuality and free will, my feminism goes for a toss.
As a feminist, I’m supposed to fight for free will and the right to choose. There is no one way of being a woman and there is no shame at all in being a homemaker. But the tradwife movement paints the actual oppressed as tyrant monsters while the oppressors are seen as some alt saviours, fighting against the Woke Agenda. Who is deluded here? Estee Williams or me?
I feel angry and I also (condescendingly I admit) pity these women. How can giving oneself up entirely and accept inferiority result in happiness? It feels like a slap on the face for women stuck in abusive situations and those who fought to escape iron cages. So what do I do? By not supporting all women, am I a bad feminist?
When I’m stuck in my own thoughts (main aur meri tanhai hits all of us feminists), I remind myself of Iranian women – the ones who are being forced to live what tradwives call utopia. Their abuse, their horrors and their resilience ease my dilemma. So does one more person – my grandmother. The perfect homemaker, who to this day, with all the problems that old age brings on, dedicatedly serves her husband, said to me one day – I have never felt truly free and like myself with him (my nanu). For 60 years, she edited herself, held back and let go – she still does. And it hurts me to know that there’s so much of her that is now lost.
I will keep battling with my own self. But the truest expression of happiness to me is dignity and individuality. That is something this feminist will not compromise on.
P.S. As much as I love ‘70s music, I love having rights, a career and Lady Gaga even more.
Image source: pexels
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