Tradwives: Refreshing or outdated?
BY MEENA ADUSUMILLI '27
From earning women the right to vote to electing the first female vice president, the feminist movement has made strides towards creating a less divisive, more equal society. However, as is the case for most big, progressive ideas, the movement consists of competing visions for how to achieve justice. Although all feminists strive to create equality and allocate more rights for women, they promote feminism in different ways. For example, many women have taken to social media to document their daily lives as “tradwives:” traditional housewives who maintain a historically stereotypical marriage. Tradwives are the source of much controversy as more of their videos gain attention, and while some people claim tradwives promote toxic misogynistic values, it is important to keep in mind that, by the original values of feminism, tradwives should be allowed to do what they want. After all, the movement was—and should still be—about allowing women the same freedom as men: the ability to decide how to live their lives. In this way, tradwives reveal the hypocrisy and constraints of modern-day feminism; as a society, we need to recognize the original goal of the movement and work towards achieving that vision.
Those who oppose this more traditional way of life view Estee Williams, an enthusiastic tradwife TikToker, as an example of how tradwives ultimately promote sexism. According to a CNN article, tradwives often encourage women to be submissive to their husbands; they claim that happiness is only found by returning to an old way of life and renewing the concept of traditional gender roles. This is exactly the content Williams posts. She says she stays in the kitchen five hours a day and one time wrote that “a homemaker should have the house ready for when her husband gets home. Clean, tidy, smells good, and warm fresh food ready for the family. Give him an environment he looks forward to every day.” She also wrote, “POV: You support traditional gender roles and believe your place is in the home.” Many argue that because tradwives believe in marriage roles typical of the past, they also promote the other troublesome values once wholeheartedly believed by the majority of society regarding women not being able to make wills or contracts, or getting told not to run for political positions. People opposing tradwives say that by positively talking about a time where women were suppressed, tradwives bring back misogynistic values. However, trying to return the 1950s “aesthetic” and nostalgia does not automatically make someone apathetic to all the negatives that once happened as well. At the end of the day, people are allowed to post about and believe in whatever they want. Diverse viewpoints and lifestyles should coexist without judgment or hate; especially with the rise of social media and the ability to hide behind a screen, it’s important for people to exercise empathy. After all, the feminist movement has always been about letting women live how they want to and giving them the right to choice.
Others say the opposite, claiming that tradwives are pushing back against the hypocritical messages that modern-day feminism shoves down people’s throats. In a Fox News article, Williams says, “Feminism started with a choice. Now it’s definitely gotten into this weird mix of all sorts of things. Some people have a problem with what I’m posting about my lifestyle, so it’s clearly not all about choice anymore.” She also says, “If women want to work, then work - do what makes you happy. We live in a ‘boss babe’ culture… But there shouldn’t be hate or negativity surrounding a woman wanting to focus on her family and reject[ing] the idea of a career.” Williams sums it up perfectly: just because someone doesn’t fit the cut-throat definition of what a modern-day woman should look like, that does not invalidate their lifestyle and opinions. Feminism is about letting women do what they want, just like men, not about putting women into a box of who they should be and how they should live. Ultimately, the essence of feminism is in liberation and empowerment, not restriction. Enabling women to choose any lifestyle they work to create allows for diversity; these differences should be respected and celebrated.
Although the roles of tradwives are certainly outdated, at the end of the day, women should not be ashamed of their femininity or desire to live a particular way, even if that way is stereotypical and sexist in the eyes of others. One cookie-cutter lifestyle is not for everyone, and while there are instances of sexism that still exist in the U.S., like the ever-present wage gap, it is important to keep in mind that being a powerful corporate businesswoman is not the only path a woman is allowed to take. Again, feminism, along with its values, has changed over time and has branched into different paths along the way. This is not necessarily bad, but what is bad is disparaging others for their individual decisions. We are pointing fingers at other women and telling them they’re oppressing themselves; maybe this is a sign that it is time to go back to the foundations of feminism and realize what the whole movement was really about: giving women the freedom to choose. It’s crucial to acknowledge that empowerment comes in various forms, and women should be free to pursue the paths that resonate with them, whether it's staying at home, working in a corporation, or any other lifestyle.