As participants in a modern world, most of us would shake our heads in disbelief to discover that a growing number of women are surrendering their careers to become ‘tradwives.’ Short for ‘traditional wife,’ a tradwife is a woman who embraces traditional gender roles by choosing to submit to her husband, give up paid work and perform household duties instead. And yes, we are talking about women in 2020!

It may be surprising to learn a sizeable number of tradwives weren’t raised in traditional households. On the contrary, many of these women were encouraged to be go-getters and even succeeded in high-flying careers.

Alena Kate Pettitt, who stands at the forefront of the movement, once worked as a marketing manager within the beauty industry and claims she’d grown up with the ‘women smashing glass ceilings’ narrative. But from a young and tender age, all Pettitt ever wanted to be was a housewife. Understanding society’s tendency to devalue the role of a housewife, she decided to forge a respectable career for herself in marketing. However, she wasn’t satisfied in her position and felt she was neglecting (what she terms) her ‘calling.’ She gave it all up and became a tradwife.  

Critics look upon the tradwife movement as a betrayal of feminist values. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be a housewife. After all, feminism is all about allowing women choices. Pettitt asserts that the tradwife movement complies with feminism, as becoming a tradwife is, after all, a choice.

However, the issue with Pettitt’s assertion becomes clear when we visit her website – The Darling Academy, which has been created for women who are ‘happy to submit to, keep house, and spoil their husbands like it’s 1959.’ By submitting to a man, prioritising his needs and bestowing upon him the power to make big decisions (which tradwives argue is only fair since he’s the breadwinner), women are surrendering their autonomy and their freedom to make choices. Critics appear to be right. This movement doesn’t sound supportive of feminist values.

The tradwife movement encourages women to leave their jobs and to adopt a 1950s lifestyle. Yet, through running The Darling Academy, Pettitt, along with other tradwives, has become an entrepreneur who monetises her tradwife life. Despite believing women should quit their jobs, she is contributing and engaging in paid work outside of her household duties. Without following the ‘rules’ herself, how can she encourage other women to give up their financial freedom?  

Although the tradwife movement seems to sit in opposition to feminism, the decision to opt into a tradwife life may point to an underlying issue that requires feminism to solve it. Despite more and more women working full-time, the burden of care still falls on women which means working women are bearing more responsibility than their male counterparts at home. Women are still expected to take care of the house and the children to a greater degree than men, leading to a poor work-life balance. Perhaps, the tradwife movement is a consequence of the pressures placed on women to do everything. At least, as a tradwife, the pressure of maintaining the house, the health and wellbeing of their family, as well as a career, is no longer present, (arguably) allowing for a better sense of wellbeing.

While less stress may be positive, the movement does seem to contradict itself when discussing the value of housework. If looking after the home and the husband is so important, why can’t tradwives make decisions? Why must this responsibility be passed to the breadwinner? Surely, this devalues the hard work a housewife completes, insinuating that it is unequal to the work of her husband.

Modern feminism needs to remember to recognise that being a housewife is a valid choice and the work a housewife does is still of value, but feminism is about choices, and by surrendering all choices to the male after enacting your last to become a tradwife, the tradwife movement ultimately flows in the opposite direction from feminism.