TW: Contains mentions of spousal abuse including marital rape. Also contains mentions of right-wing extremism and the harm it causes. Reader discretion is advised.
So recently I’ve been indulging in my more, what might be considered more ‘traditional’ interests. I’m knitting again (hopefully socks at some point!) reading up on Home Economics.
We didn’t have Home Ec when I was in school, and despite its (at least when I was a teenager) view that it’s outdated, I personally believe that it’s important to be learned by everyone regardless of gender.
For my own reasons of trying to be more sustainable to do my bit for the planet, and being more savvy around the house, I feel some of the old-fashioned ways of doing things is better suited to me. Given how modern conveniences can either be unavailable or break down on us, I think it’s good to have a back up as well, just in case. It just makes sense to me.
THE HOUSEWIFE: MY TAKE
You might wonder why I’m talking about this. I’ve been very curious about a revival of the traditional housewife, and more modern takes like being a househusband or house-spouse, where one partner is the primary breadwinner, while the other takes care of the home. For the purposes of this post, I will be focusing more on the housewife archetype.
My take is this: I consider myself a mix. I’m very modern in a lot of ways and more traditional in others. I consider myself quite feminine. I like my flowers and pastels, I like classic silhouettes in my clothes etc. I’m also a lover of vintage aesthetic, particularly the 1940s and 50s. Always have been, always will be.
When it comes to household tasks, I generally favour the more, what would be considered the more ‘housewifely’ things, as those are my strengths in that department. Homemaking is hard work and even with modern technologies to help us out, it’s nothing to be sneered at. It’s a full-time job in and of itself. I might not be able to change a tire, but you bet I can tidy a house and get dinner on the table for when you come home!
In a kink context, that can play a part, in the part of my personality I fittingly call “The Housewife” . I personally have nothing against choosing to be a housewife. If it makes you happy and you have the means to do it, more power to you. Yes, I am a feminist and fully support women shattering glass ceilings, but the whole point is the freedom to choose what works best for you, whether that’s in the home or being the CEO. It’s when it’s forced or expected because of a preconceived notion of gender roles, I personally take issue with.
BROUGHT UP AMONG TRADITION
I grew up amongst these dynamics. My Mum was a stay at home wife and mother, with pockets of part-time work during the day when me and my sister started school. She always wanted to do this and my parents decided this would work best, despite being financially worse off for it, (no holidays to Florida or expensive clothes, make do and mend where possible etc.).
They agreed for one parent, regardless of gender (my Dad also had a stint as a stay at home Dad in the late 80s when my sister was born, when for men it was pretty much unheard of) to stay at home, so me and my sister could have a constant in our lives i.e. if we got sick at school and had to come home, would always be able to attend school assemblies, plays, didn’t have to worry about making our own tea because someone was always there etc.
Despite our humble means, my parents made it work and I can definitely say me and my sister didn’t go without. But even then, and especially now, most couples can’t survive on just one salary, even if they wanted to. That being said, even in the 90s, with more of a shift towards the workplace, it wasn’t uncommon for my mother to be met with a bewildered reaction when she told someone she was a housewife. The reactions were fairly mixed, from bewilderment to wanting a similar arrangement, but finances not allowing them to.
NOT ALL AS IT SEEMED?
My grandparents were the embodiment of the 50s and 60s dynamics. My grandfathers were the main breadwinners, while my grandmothers looked after the home and kids, with bits of part-time work here and there when the kids were of school age. They saw and treated each other as equals and saw their work as a team effort, rather than the sexist views certain magazines and videos of the time can portray.
But to my surprise, most videos I’ve seen emphasises the importance of partnership in a marriage (cohabitation was a societal faux pas, and at the time being openly queer was not accepted) and the husband to respect the sheer amount of work the wife does running the home etc. there were of course, the heavily sexist, ‘the woman must serve the husband in all ways because the man is superior.’ nonsense.
I’ve had many a conversation with my grandparents about these views at the time, and as my Grandpa quite bluntly (to my paraphrased memory) put it:
“Most men didn’t treat their wives like that. I never treated your Nan like that and the men I knew certainly didn’t with their wives. Yes, our roles were different but that’s just how it was back then. And it was hard work for the husband and the wife! Any men who did think, “I’m the man, you’ll obey me!” we thought they were absolute prats and had nothing to do with them!”
My Grandpa is and always has been, a man of his word. You should have seen when I showed him a magazine article from 1960 that was circulating the internet on married relationships, with some very sexist advice. Upon reading, he burst out laughing and said, ‘What a load of rubbish!’
So with a lot of my generalised perceptions completely lampooned, I started taking a different view of this dynamic. If it’s what you both want and enjoy, go for it. Not to dismiss the problems of the time, because oh Lord, they were aplenty! Stigma around divorce and society (police included) not officially recognising domestic abuse? An even greater wage gap, lobotomies, and women’s opportunities severely limited, among other things, we’ve indeed come a long way in many departments. But we’ve still got a long way to go.
TRADWIFE: A TERM STEEPED IN CONTROVERSY
You might have seen a revival of a traditional model, more commonly known by the hashtag #TradWife, meaning ‘traditional wife’. This movement involves the wife being a traditional homemaker and mother, at times incorporating being quote, “submissive” to the husband, whom is the breadwinner and head of the family.
This, from what I’ve seen in my internet excursions, tends to vary greatly in degrees. However, within the TradWife movement, there are controversies. Pockets of extremists with very problematic ideology, in amongst the regular people just sharing their days looking after the family and home with like-minded people.
This varies from a ‘different role yet otherwise equal’ dynamic, to an ‘idyllic’ 1950s-like model steeped in tradition, to extremist religious fundamentalist circles, alt-right ideology, the justification of marital rape and believing women shouldn’t vote, to even Neo-N*zis. Yes, in a few mere clicks, that’s where I ended up, much to my absolute horror.
These types of content by people linked to alt-right and far-right circles, often have very rigid views on masculinity and femininity, with equally rigid gender roles and whole lot of sexism, leaving no room for anything other than the strict pigeon-holing that most people could never, and would never want to fit into.
Of course, not every house-spouse follows a TradWife or extremist model. In fact, most don’t. From what I’ve read, even a lot of self-identifying TradWives, conservative or otherwise, are horrified by white supremacists going by this name. But given the controversy surrounding this movement due to its alt and far-right, for lack of a better word, hijacking, this is (from what I’ve found) what the term is often associated with online, with particular focus on those in America.
I’ve also seen mentions to seriously (not in a tongue in cheek joking manner) looking up to the “Stepford Wife” archetype. This particularly grinds me, as if we look at the book by Ira Levin, and its subsequent film adaptation in the mid-1970s, the wives are murdered by the husbands and replaced with subservient robots, embodying a stereotypical housewife of the times, hence The Stepford Wives.
This story was a cleverly written piece, a social commentary on sexist men’s backlash to the Women’s Liberation Movement of the time. They were intimidated by women having more autonomy, and felt threatened by it, wanting for a stereotype of a ‘perfect’ wife he could be the boss of, who would cater to his every whim without question. The only way to do that was to murder his wife and replace her with a robot replica. Trust me when I say, it is not something to aspire to.
While there are British housewife figures such as Alena Kate Pettit, who has said multiple times to be vehemently against white supremacy within the TradWife hashtag (from what I’ve seen of her content, while I personally disagree with Mrs. Pettit on quite a few things, I do respect her stance against this, and her stating on feminism being the freedom to choose, and that being a house-spouse shouldn’t be forced) there are others who use the term, or even the terms ‘traditional’, ‘homemaker’, ‘feminine’ and ‘housewife’ as effective recruiting tools for the alt-right, which is deeply worrying.
From what I have seen of certain creators found to have to this terrible ideology, their content can be padded out with homemaking and skincare material, before gradually dropping in certain views every so often. It’s the frog in a pot analogy:
Do you really need an education? (*Yes. Housewife or CEO, education is necessary and important.)
Do you really want to be a feminist? It’s ‘destroyed your femininity’ after all. It makes you more ‘masculine’ and taking away from your ‘true feminine nature’. (*This is not true and a very pigeon-holed view of gender roles, even by old-fashioned standards. Being a feminist or wanting a career does not mean you want to be a man. It also doesn’t mean your ‘discrediting the nurturing side of you’. Being a feminist means you believe in equality, and for me, the freedom to choose.)
Do you really want to support women in the workplace? (*Of course I do!)
Do you really think that men who wear makeup/in touch with their emotions/not traditional etc. are masculine? Are they really a ‘real man’? (*This one drives me up the wall so much! It’s not hurting anyone, so let them be themselves!)
Do you really want to say no to your husband if he wants sex, and you’re just not in the mood tonight? It is your job to serve him in all things, remember? (*THIS IS NEVER OK. Consent is everything, regardless of gender and the nature of your relationship.)
It’s important to be discerning if you’re looking online at homemaking creators and be careful. You don’t want to end up down an internet rabbit hole like I did when doing my research for this! There is a very big difference between being an enthusiast for old-fashioned lifestyles and etiquette, and trying to get people to subscribe to disgusting ideologies, one gradually heating frog in a pot at a time.
This is a subject I’ll be writing at least one more post on, so stay tuned! 😊