I learned a new word (or term) this week, courtesy of Amber Athey at the Spectator. Apparently, “tradwives” is a thing now and it’s short for “traditional wives.” These are defined as women who stay home to take care of their husbands, their children and their house. Ms. Athey (who is neither a mother nor a wife currently) took advantage of being locked down by the coronavirus by using her time to launch into some culinary experimentation in the form of baking bread from scratch, among other things.
Tie up your apron strings— it’s time to get to work, ladies. The coronavirus threat has forced all of us into our homes as the CDC and the White House encourage strict measures of social distancing. The disruption to American life and the economy is no joke, and it’s going to take some serious resilience and creativity to make it out the other side. The good news? Now is the perfect time to adopt the much-derided tradwife lifestyle, and it seems many women are already on board…
Baking from scratch and home cooking is just one element of the tradwife lifestyle that’s been embraced by women since facing the threat of pandemic. Other homemaking skills have proven essential to taking care of yourself and your family at a time when the home has become a sanctuary. Women who are staying at home have rediscovered the value of developing routines, tidying the house, and keeping restlessness at bay by adopting self-improvement based hobbies like knitting, sewing, drawing, or exercise.
Starting off a column with instructions for the “ladies” to tie up their apron strings and “get to work” sounds more like a thinly veiled suicide attempt to me, particularly in the highly charged feminist environment that’s characterized the Democratic primary thus far. But Athey is talking about skills that truly do have value, even if feminists write them off. The model of the working woman who succeeds professionally and shops out most of the home and childcare duties to others may be seen as the preferred order of things on the left, but the ability to be self-sufficient – particularly when the government is locking you in your house – is an important one.
The division of labor in our house is more evenly divided since both my wife and I work. She does most of the cooking while I take care of the lion’s share of the house cleaning, washing dishes, etc. She does the laundry, but I carry the clothes baskets up and down the stairs. You get the idea. And we have both baked bread from scratch, though we don’t do it all that often because of the time involved.
While I was previously unaware of this entire “tradwife” meme, it’s apparently been around for a while and it draws the derision and scorn of plenty of younger women in particular. The Guardian published an op-ed on the subject in January, where Hadley Freeman described the trend as being for “submissive women” and having a “dark heart and history.” Annie Kelly, writing at the New York Times in June of 2018, somehow managed to tie tradwives to white supremacy.
There’s apparently some sort of war going on between the tradwives and feminists, with plenty of opinion pieces being published describing where the battle lines are drawn. But having gone for a brief dive down this rabbit hole, I freely admit that I don’t see how this turned into a battle. Not every family can afford to get by on one income and obviously, not every woman (or man, for that matter) would choose to stay home instead of working even if they could. But for those who can manage it and find that lifestyle more rewarding, how is their decision impacting anyone else? Why would it be anyone else’s business?
The entire thing seems kind of strange to me. At any rate, if you’re interested in this debate, here’s a video from the BBC from January of this year titled, “Submitting to my husband like it’s 1959.” Enjoy.