In recent weeks, there have been a number of articles in the press about the tradwife trend. The hashtag #tradwife has been trending on Twitter, and women who call themselves tradwives have been interviewed on television. The thing most of these women have in common is their decision to not only be housewives, but to submit to their husbands like, as one woman put it “it’s 1959”.
The Tradwife Trend
Now it may seem strange for someone who has been writing as The 21st Century Housewife® for the last 18 years to be concerned about a trend like this. However, the tradwife trend referred to in the hashtag #tradwife isn’t really referring to “traditional housewife” in terms of what being a housewife has evolved to be in the last fifty years or so. It’s an extreme, and it isn’t what most of us who call ourselves housewives or stay at home mums today would consider ourselves to be.
The women of the #tradwife trend are embracing the values of housewives in the early part of the century and up to the 1950’s. Housewives of this era deferred to their husbands in almost every respect. Their lives focussed solely on home and family, often to their own detriment, putting everyone else’s needs before their own. Most housewives of this era received an allowance out of which they were expected to run the household as well as fund themselves. They had no access to (and in some cases no knowledge of) the family budget or finances. Pampering your husband wasn’t just something you did because you loved him, it was an obligation.
Most women who label themselves #tradwives today say they would like to keep things as they were back then. In my article Being a Housewife in The 21st Century, I stress that feminism is all about choice. So if submitting to their husbands on that level is their choice, then that is up to them. It is not, however, a choice I’m willing to embrace. It is absolutely not how I define my role as a housewife. I also find it very worrying.
Being a Housewife in the 21st Century
Most housewives today have a life that is wildly different from that of our fore-mothers, or fore-grandmothers in many cases. Yes, I am a housewife. The definition of my role may be traditional, but like so many of my fellow housewives in this modern era, I’m anything but.
Most of us today make our own decisions and choices, often in consultation with our husbands, but not in submission to them. Many of us didn’t choose to be housewives but have grown to love it. Some work part time or have home-based businesses. We may even hire others to help us with housekeeping tasks so we can get on with other things. We are feminists, and we don’t submit to anyone.
Why I’m Not A Part of The Tradwife Trend
I respect my husband, and I hope I honour him in the way that I vowed to when we married. But do I submit to him? If you asked my husband that question, you would definitely have to wait for him to stop laughing before you had a reply. There is not a lot about me that is submissive.
My husband and I are a partnership, and we support one another. My husband is the breadwinner, but I’m in no way belittled by that. His earning potential is far greater than mine, and that is to our family’s benefit. Our finances are held jointly, and we work on our budgets together. We both have access to all of our funds, and we both operate a policy of full disclosure. (You won’t find shopping bags hidden under my bed!) It’s how we got to where we are today, and it works.
It’s no secret I love to cook, but there’s absolutely no pressure for me to have dinner on the table at a certain time. I’m so busy I often lose track of time and more often than not, I’m throwing something together last minute sometime after my husband has come through the door. My husband will often clear up for me after dinner. I may do his washing but I never have to worry about looking after my car beyond filling it with petrol. It’s a two way street. We enjoy helping each other and working together.
As I said when I was interviewed by journalist Emily Brown for Unilad, caring for others isn’t solely a feminine trait. I am constantly inspired by the way my husband’s generosity and the way he puts my needs and the needs of our family before his own. Yes, there are times that I do it too. In my opinion, that is what marriage is all about. Submission has no part in our marriage, it’s about supporting the growth of two individuals who make a great team.
Why The Tradwife Trend Worries Me
As a feminist, I believe every woman has the right to choose her own path, whatever that might be. However, the level of submission those who label themselves #tradwives are embracing worries me. It has taken a very, very long time for women to get where they are today. Misogyny still exists. Women are still working on shattering glass ceilings, equal pay for equal work, and being accepted on the same level as men are.
As Harriet Hall writes in The Independent, “Women are capable of being just as misogynistic as men.” Taking steps backward like the women of the tradwife trend are doing isn’t helpful. It has the potential to reawaken prejudice against women and undermines our equality.
There is no reason not to undertake a traditional role, but it seems such a waste to be defined by an outdated version of it – or indeed to be defined by it at all. Whether we work outside the home or in it, each woman has tremendous potential to achieve her best self. The last thing any of us need is more limiting beliefs to hold us back. As for me, the only hashtag that will ever define me is #apriljharris.
By all means, be a submissive wife if that suits you and your beliefs. As a good friend of mine says, “You do you”. But please don’t undermine the rest of us who are proud to be housewives but who would be horrified to be labelled #tradwives.