In this article:
- Self-proclaimed “tradwives” are women who try to embody a nostalgic ideal of the traditional female role.
- Picture a 1950s housewife putting on heels and a full face of makeup to mop the kitchen before her husband gets home. That’s what tradwives aspire to be.
- While there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be a housewife, the ideal has its roots in white supremacy and is founded on a myth that this 1950s housewife in heels ever really existed. (Spoiler: she didn’t.)
What does femininity mean to you?
For many people, whether they identify as female or male, femininity is bright red lipstick, high heels, and a dress that hides just enough to keep you looking. If you like your femininity softer, you likely picture it with pearls, modest hemlines, and long hair.
Whichever it is, the fact that many of us share a similar mental image of femininity isn’t a coincidence. We’re raised to think this way, either explicitly or through hints we get in our day-to-day interactions.
This is especially true for you if you were born as a biological woman. Growing up didn’t just mean figuring out how to do basic adult stuff, it meant being trained practically from the moment you can walk to fill a traditionally female role.
Don’t believe me? Think about how old you were when you first received a baby doll or a toy cooking set.
While a lot of us eventually settle into roles that aren’t 100% traditional, some of us are choosing to return to the good ole days of 1950s WASP housewifing in a suburban home.
They call themselves tradwives and they claim to be one of the last bastions of traditional femininity.
The Bastions of Traditional Femininity
R/RedPillWomen is a strange place to be in.
Its name is a reference to the original red pill subreddit, an online community dedicated to men who claim to have taken the red pill in a society they believe values traditional masculinity less and less.
If for some incomprehensible reason you haven’t seen The Matrix yet, the term “red pill” is a reference to the scene where Morpheus offers Neo the chance to wake up from the artificial reality they live in and see the truth for himself.
Neo can either take the blue pill, which keeps him ignorantly happy for the rest of his life, or take the red pill to see what the true nature of reality is like.
Why all the sci-fi references in communities that promote traditional gender roles?
Because both red pill communities and their associated subreddits, like r/incel, believe that the world we currently live in, with its growing feminist movements, is a false reality.
More to the point, they believe the real world is one where men deserve to have women who cater to them and where a woman’s value hinges only on her SMV (sexual market value).
At R/RedPillWomen, women actively evaluate each other’s value on the sexual market to see how high their chances are of capturing the elusive high-value man. At the same time, the subreddit teaches women how to leverage traditional gender roles in order to get the best possible results for themselves in the dating game.
One of the recent posts on the subreddit, at the time of this writing, comes from a 20-year-old woman who worried about her prospects for snagging a quality man because she had a body count of nine.
The replies are messy, to say the least.
Some comments assured her that there are still high-quality men around who will value her for who she is. Others are crueler, outright telling her that she’ll likely never find a good man who will take her seriously.
A few take a more measured stance on the issue, explaining that her body count puts her out of range for snagging the “top 20%” of men but that all she needs to do is find “The One.”
I know, it sounds like being on a different planet where you’re listening to stereotypical locker room talk between guys and not women talking about other women. To the women of r/RedPillWomen though, they aren’t tearing other women down: They’re just trying to help.
And honestly? I can see where they’re coming from.
This kind of rhetoric isn’t all that different from the stuff I was exposed to in my traditional Catholic and Christian private high schools. Though it seems weird that women are the ones enforcing these ideas, that’s exactly what it was like for me, for other women, and women who had their feet bound in China.
Admittedly, it’s a simplistic way of looking at gender dynamics that re-trains women into believing that as long as they check all the boxes on the “Ideal Woman” checklist, they’ll somehow magically escape the horrors of domestic violence and abandonment that often befell earlier housewives who fit their idea of traditional femininity.
It’s easy to pivot from here and launch into a tirade about how these women are working against their own interests, essentially ripping them to shreds like many older documentaries and articles on their community.
But here’s the thing: For many women in the r/RedPillWomen and r/Female Dating Strategy, this brutally pragmatic approach to gender relations is working.
When people think of these communities in relation to their male counterparts, they often portray them as one-to-one equivalents of each other. On the contrary, the goals of r/incel and the more focused women’s red pill community, r/FemaleDatingStrategy are strongly opposed to each other.
While incels see themselves as entitled to female bodies and female devotion, groups like r/RedPillWomen and r/FemaleDatingStrategy believe in making a man work for it.
Where their male counterparts actively encourage tactics like negging, which is when you make a woman feel bad about herself so she feels insecure enough to date you, r/FemaleDatingStrategy teaches women that it’s not their job to build a man.
You know, like any typical self-respecting modern feminist would.
r/FemaleDatingStrategy explicitly discourages overinvesting in men who don’t value you as much as you value them.
In sharp contrast to the red-pilled men who claim they want a traditional wife, much like the “loser back home” types who actively target Asian women because they think they’ll be well-behaved housewives, r/FDS knows that this kind of man is rarely the high-value man they’re looking for.
Their handbook scathingly says, “Some dudes say they want a traditional woman, without being willing to be a traditional man and often without really wanting that or knowing what it means.”
Despite their diametrically opposed approaches to dating and marriage though, these groups of women and the incel types they dislike so much converge in one space you already saw coming: the alt-right.
What Does the Alt-Right Have to Do With Tradwives?
R/FDS and r/RedPillWomen, like all ideologies, exist on a spectrum. Closer to its more extreme ends is the tradwife or traditional wife.
The name sounds innocuous. After all, what’s wrong with letting women live their lives if what they really want is to be a housewife? Nothing, of course. But it starts to get shady when you realize the ties that the tradwives movement has with white supremacy.
Frankie Hope Sitler-Elbel unpacks this phenomenon in her paper.
Tradwives aren’t like your regular housewife. Unlike modern middle-class housewives in more traditional societies who are all for seeing their daughters establish their own lives, tradwives are a strictly white and first world trend.
The tradwife exists in societies where she has more freedoms than most women in the world and uses that freedom to build social media followings where she teaches other women a narrow view of femininity that tells them their only great purpose is to become a housewife.
In true WASP style, she uses biblical justifications for her housewifely submission which she believes will inspire tenderness and love in the man of the house and will help keep her children on the right track.
So why do tradwives try so hard to preserve the “traditional nuclear family?”
Because they believe the revival of traditional femininity can bring us back to better times when there was less social degradation. Tradwives are here to make femininity and the nuclear family great again.
But this isn’t about the tradwife herself. It’s about whose wife she is.
The alt-right and its beliefs about a superior white race hinge on racial eugenics with one goal in mind: ensuring the white race doesn’t die out. For that, your big scary neo-Nazis need tradwives who are onboard with bearing lots of white children who will help them outbreed the existing and incoming “others” who might become a majority.
Unless the “other” is an Asian woman, that is, in which case she’s almost as good as a white tradwife.
Tradwives also serve a social function: They make white supremacy more palatable.
You can think of the tradwives of the alt-right as the public relations arm of white supremacy. They organize picnics, create seemingly innocent mommy vlogs, and participate in community service.
As Annie Kelly puts it, tradwives create and curate a “hyperfeminine aesthetic” to “mask the authoritarianism of [white supremacist] ideology.”
Enraptured with the post-war fantasy of “chastity, marriage, and motherhood,” the tradwife is held up as a bastion of true, untainted femininity whose magical thinking is only shattered when they leave the alt-right and are suddenly exposed to white supremacist misogyny.
Katie McHugh, a former far-right journalist, found that even white supremacist men weren’t keen on fully accepting her unless she relegated herself to a more passive, organizer role.
She was an outspoken alt-right supporter and was very active in the movement. Turns out, not even the fresh-faced bastions of traditional femininity, for all their rhetoric about being submissive yet a partner, get a pass from sexism.
But Is This Ideal of Femininity Even Real?
There’s one thing r/FemaleDatingStrategy gets right: the tradwife ideal is a myth.
“The saying goes that behind every great man is a great woman, for most of history that’s been a lie,” u/VelvetKnuckleduster writes. “Behind every great man was at least several women, maybe even a large team of women, men and children depending on how great we’re talking about.”
She couldn’t be more right.
Even when the original WASP housewife emerged in the 19th century, the household manuals catered to her made it clear that she wasn’t the average tradwife we see today.
She was more of a household manager who oversaw her husband’s home and played supervisor to an army of servants. Wind the clock back even further and the illusion of tradwives dissolves.
European women in the Middle Ages, who were definitely whiter and more religious than your average tradwives, were never entirely homemakers. They spun wool, brewed beer, tilled fields, and worked in guilds alongside male craftsmen.
Richer women worked with their husbands, brothers, or fathers as merchants and amassed enough influence that later in the period, they began to appear in legal documents, a far cry from the near non-existent women of the early part of the period.
Elsewhere in the world, women were warriors, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, and political powerhouses. The vast majority of women have always worked and were rarely the purely domestic creatures that tradwives portray them as when they say they want to return to a more “traditional femininity.”