Blog post

From Scratch

Recent months have seen the inexorable rise of the tradwife: the social media influencer who embodies an idealized aesthetic of wifehood. Sarah Brouillette and Astrid Lorange draw up a morbid symptomology of the new anti-feminism.

Sarah Brouillette and Astrid Lorange22 April 2024

From Scratch

‘Mabel and I were craving graham crackers and milk,’ the caption reads. ‘So we made sourdough graham crackers and dipped them in fresh milk. It was just what we needed!’

The video shows a woman in a large cottage-style kitchen rolling out dough, sectioning it, and pricking it with a fork. She wears a white peasant dress, her long blond hair tied back. Attached to her is a newborn baby in a sling. Toddler Mabel is beside her. The milk comes from their own cows. They drink it from jam jars, and eat the crackers fresh from the oven, straight off the baking tray. The scene is perfectly lit. There is more than one camera angel. Seamless editing brings the runtime down to a consumable 44 seconds.     

This is a tradwife – a popular social media figure who embodies an idealized aesthetic of wifehood, positioning their lives as a return to traditional gender roles within sanctified nuclear families. Theirs, they argue, is the path to genuine happiness and fulfilment. It is not surprising that these messages, about exiting the workforce and focusing on one’s husband and children, occasion endless online debate. The most popular tradwife accounts have been viewed millions of times. But why is tradwife media proliferating now? 

Some tradwife content focuses on conservative Christian life: all bible quotes and reflections on faith as a means for guiding marriage and motherhood. Some is explicitly political, with anti-abortion, anti-immigration, pro-military, and pro-police memes promoting a hardline stance for which the home is an expression of American values at the same time as it is a privatized and securitized haven from the state-managed liberal campaign to erode everything that matters. Other content draws from the prepper movement and focuses on readying the family for the coming crises catalyzed by infrastructural failure and civil unrest. Most accounts overlap with the ‘homesteading’ movement and focus on a back-to-nature lifestyle predicated on the distrust of industrialized food production and environmental toxicity. What unites tradwifery in these many manifestations is the appeal to a mythic and irretrievable before of gendered difference and its tendency towards an apparent withdrawal from food and school systems.

The tradwife’s key tropes, splashed across accounts on Instagram and TikTok, include turning house into home, femininity not feminism, and ‘from scratch’. This last phrase most often describes a kind of cooking, but it is also used for other things made in, by, and for the homestead that would otherwise be store-bought and industrially made, like cleaning products, cosmetics, and medicine. The term’s origins lie in early twentieth-century sports (the ‘scratch’ was the starting line of a race for a runner with no handicap). It is thus to begin from a position against which all other beginnings are measured.  

The scratch of tradwife cooking varies. A homestyle broccoli soup involves cooking with vegetables, milk, and neon American cheese; more impressively a recipe for a meatball sub by a well-known tradwife begins with the making of mozzarella from a jar of milk, itself a product of the farm from which she sells and ships a branded line of consumer goods. Whatever the beginning, from scratch asserts itself a moral victory over convenience and a demonstration of prudence (the word scratch, we recall, is also slang for money). From scratch is better, healthier, thriftier: it is a gift of nourishment, an act of service, and an enactment of femininity. Above all, it is a form of insurance against the manifold risks of an unsafe and toxic world outside the family home. In this, it is continuous with the tradwife preference for homeschooling, which is presented as a form of intensive, from-scratch parenting that shields children from anything – and anyone – that might stand in the way of them becoming what their parents want them to be.

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If the content is self-consciously controversial, and often pitched against an assumed audience of ‘haters’, it is also aware of the power of the daydream it performs in a historical moment that Joshua Clover has called, with reference to Robert Brenner, the long crisis. In aestheticizing withdrawal from public school and mass food systems – from society, even – the tradwife media system is a cultural complement of the hegemonic ‘anti-state state’ form that scholars such as Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Melinda Cooper have examined in their work.

For Gilmore, the seeming paradox of the anti-state state accounts for the fallacy of the free market and redistributive state spending in the age of the long crisis. It describes, further, the discursive strategy of condemning the state while building it. This state is authorized to commit to deficit spending for the military, police, prisons, and tax cuts – all that protects private wealth and disempowers labor. Meanwhile social spending is rejected as morally irresponsible mismanagement that fails to respect the hardworking taxpayer and asset owner. ‘Antistate state actors,’ Gilmore writes, ‘insist that the withdrawal of the state from certain areas of social welfare provision will enhance rather than destroy the lives of those abandoned’. This withdrawal of the state is matched by the tradwife’s simultaneous identification and disidentification with state power. The suburban home has been coded as the threatened domain of the hardworking family man and his wife, Cooper argues, as a private asset-based wealth system has secured home ownership and control over local tax spending as the best routes to generational wealth. The era of long crisis entailes and induces the concentration of wealth and care within relatively small family units planning their estates. The figure of the tradwife instantiates this anti-state state form perfectly: responding to life in an unsettling, anxiety-inducing, risk-filled world, tradwives exit the social commons in favor of the small family enclave, where household contacts and inputs can be carefully measured and assessed.




If the tradwife is nostalgic in her desire to return to a mythic past when gender was neatly divided and women had a revered place in the home, at the same time her ascent is borne of contemporary platformized media culture and post-Trump, post-Covid conservatism. Tradwifery draws a distinction between a world gone wrong – a world in which gender equality has led to the destruction of sexual difference; where women have been forced out of the home and into the workforce, and in doing so, weakened the bonds and health of the family; and where whiteness, property rights, and private wealth are targets of state- and media-led conspiracies – and an aspirational world in which women have returned home.

In this, the tradwife’s persona turns on the rejection of one kind of work – waged labor, conducted outside of the home – for another – unwaged labor conducted inside the home. This home-based activity then comprises the content for yet another kind of work: producing social media content and engaging users. Some tradwives promote recipe books, kitchenware, textiles, and soap; some offer paid tutorials on becoming an income-earning tradwife. The ideal tradwife works to sell the image of a woman who doesn’t work by showing how one kind of work can replace another through the fantasy of non-work. This contradiction finds its way into two persistent tropes in tradwife media: a woman’s work at home is not work because she does it naturally, expertly, and out of love for her family; a woman’s work at home is work, but it is not recognized as such because feminism has rejected femininity and devalued the stay-at-home mum. Tradwife content is therefore a kind of daydream out of the reality of domestic labor and waged labor.

Tradwives are influencers – participants in a media system in which the work of content creation is highly feminized. Such work is contingent, much of it done for free in the hope that it will eventually turn into a more lucrative arrangement. For every successful tradwife, there are hundreds aspiring to the same status, and this is what makes the media system work: the user base sold to advertisers. Producing popular content can be laborious – monitoring engagement and maximizing monetization possibilities adds to how time consuming it can be to create an effective account – and as feminist studies of social media production have charted, involves the extensive work of self-performance and digital media management that people need to take on in order to find an audience for their content. Simply to monetize your hobbies or get paid to ‘just be’ is usually a fantastical (though easy to relate to) pipedream. For the tradwife, the recording and sharing of content adds a new layer of activity to the perpetual effort that already goes into femininity itself – time-consuming and expensive processes that enable the assumption of a natural role as the ostensibly passive recipient of a man’s interest and wealth.

As wages stagnate, wealth inequality intensifies, debt suffocates, and social spending perpetually decreases, young people are increasingly rejecting overidentification with work. I don’t dream of labor, as the social media hashtag goes. The tradwife speaks, however obliquely and however disingenuously, to this disenchantment through content presented as a solution to the problem of work. Their solution is the reinstatement of the natural laws of gender which allow women to return to their rightful job as wife and mother and men to resume their rightful place in a workforce that recognises masculine authority. The tradwife’s critique of wage labor is intended not as a critique of work per se but a critique of feminism’s disruption of work as a mechanism of division and as a structure of family. To this end, tradwife media understands the allure of the end of alienated labor while promising men, implicitly, a prosperous future in which they do not compete with women for work. Economic crisis appears as a symptom of the social crisis of gender.

The conspicuous absence of visible smartphones from the content enacts yet more deeply the longing for unalienated labor – something less constant, harrying, and disintegrated than making and consuming social media. Retreat from the wage is therefore coupled with the equally fanciful relief from the ubiquity of digital mediation. This adds another paradoxical layer, in which platformized content imagines itself into a world before – or after – platform media. Tradwife content cribs from other social media genres that focus on highly skilled tasks being performed, often by a pair of disembodied hands – cooking, weaving, cleaning, drawing – and that take the form of sped-up and slickly edited videos. Like this content, most tradwife posts are short cuts of housework set to a clip of music or ASMR-style sound effects. Videos show hands cracking eggs into flour, kneading dough, slicing freshly plucked apples, crimping crust, and cutting a slice of steaming pie. Homemaking is presented as an ecstatic life through which one reconnects with nature, finds self-fulfillment, and nurtures a latent capacity into the skill of baking, gardening, beekeeping, homeschooling, canning, and sewing. The tradwife performs these intensive activities with what appears to be an unwavering elegance, ease, competence, and pleasure. Distinct from the genres it borrows from, tradwife media also includes, overlaid on the videos themselves and extended in the captions, significant tracts of text. These follow certain scripts: articulating the tradwife subject position, responding to imagined antagonists, comparing their prior selves to the enlightenment of tradwifery, proselytizing, instructing, and, often, selling




In a video by thedelightfuldaughter, a woman prints a onesie with text reading ‘I am a child of God.’ She is about to open an Etsy store. A lengthy caption clarifies some of the complexities of the tradwife vision of home and work as it is mediated by platformized labor. She has been working a job outside of the home but, anticipating marriage and motherhood, it is ‘just not in our belief/morals’ for her to continue to do so. She instead wants to work from home, ‘doing a small business/feminine job’ – that is, creating a ‘Christ led business’ and producing content about it for social media. Work outside the home is anathema, but her home-based business is congruent with her faith: ‘I can focus on prioritizing my role as a Godly wife & mother’; ‘he will be the breadwinner/provider, but I’d still like to contribute and stay busy in a form that channels my femininity’. Even though she is not making clothing for her own children, instead printing text on store-bought items, her project is close enough to the more traditional ‘from scratch’ activity of sewing the family’s clothes that she can still understand it via the domestic ideology of separate spheres. It is enough like women’s nonwork that it hardly counts as labor.

Here platformized business interests become a kind of hybrid nonwork-work that is compatible with one’s identity as a stay-at-home mother and homemaker. However profit-making they may be, they nevertheless protect her safety and exhibit her subordinate position within the economy of the home. That the ideal tradwife is a money-making influencer is less paradoxical in this light. Earning an income via content that suggests women shouldn’t work makes perfect sense if you conceive TikTok and Instagram as safe, home-based craft industries that allow a woman to exhibit her feminine commitment to her family’s care. That Etsy takes a cut, that TikTok makes more money the more users it attracts – is all erased. Instead, the work is conceived as continuous with care for the family. There is nothing laborious here, and so it is barely experienced as work at all.

Another account, run by a user named solieolie, comprises straight-to-camera videos advising and disciplining tradwives, alongside screenshots of her own tweets, and promotional posts for her home business Naptime, which offers tutorials on monetizing content. In one post, published on both her personal account and on Naptime, she chastises apprentice tradwives for blaming the ‘algo’ for their failure to engage. ‘The problem isn’t Instagram,’ she writes. ‘And the problem isn’t the algorithm. It’s you. Hi… You’re the problem, it’s you.’ ‘Will you adapt and take responsibility, or will you continue to complain and get no results?’ 

Emphasizing individual responsibility and self-sufficiency is on-brand for the tradwife; yet, in doing so solieolie denies responsibility for the product she is selling, which makes her advice irrefutable, and somehow true even if, as a consumer, you fail (‘Be authentic and unapologetic’ and ‘Tell more engaging personal stories’, but also, ‘Adapt your style to what people want to see and what will be promoted’). Because she has succeeded, and she’s called you out preemptively for your attitude if you don’t. Here we see the tradwife media system in its totality: solieolie has produced enough content on the benefits of not working to sell a product on producing content on the benefits of not working; she sells this product with no guarantee that it will work, which in turn works because she is proof that what it takes is the kind of individual responsibility she models; the product, rather than an admission of work for the non-working tradwife, is framed as an extension of her domestic service (Naptime’s slogan is: ‘Helping wives be helpmeets’).

Like most influencers, tradwives disguise the work of production of online content: they rarely highlight the staging and editing, planning and retakes, behind what they eventually opt to display. The visual repertoire is focused on the private family home and property, but with the glimpse into the intimate interior replicated across countless accounts, with one much like another, picking up trending themes, mimicking successful influencers, and stitching new content to high-value accounts. The scripts of influencer aesthetics are built around opportunities to sell: wake up with us; let’s make lunch for my children; my evening as a pastor’s wife, from appliances to cleaning products to skincare routine. People use these scripts long before they have any advertising content to place within them, practicing and exhibiting where a branded item might go (a Nespresso could be here; Glossier cosmetics there). 

And so, tradwives have not exited the workplace. They’ve turned their images into shareable personae and their homes into stages to the benefit of Meta, TikTok HQ, and their ad partners. The function of their housework is doubled: it is the work of caring for home, husband, and children; and it is also the work of cultural production – a performance of housework that is potentially lucrative, garnering a wage for housework performed on social media. (They say it is love, we say it is love staged for network effects). If they want to have impact, their content production will be as disciplined by the algorithms as anyone’s else. In fact, tradwife content succeeds because it is uniquely suited to social media’s digital platforms – a symmetry, an indistinguishability, between what tradwives perform and what the platforms need. 




Here is where real transformations in the social lurk. Online activity propels consumption of goods in a situation of economic decline and rising living costs. People are datafied users, compelled into online sociality by any number of things – boredom, lethargy, a will to escape, an absence of alternative options, and the ready presence of the digital devices to which they are already attached. Tradwife media inserts into this uneasy context its own sales pitch in the form of a desperate marriage campaign that pushes back against a spreading ‘heteropessimestic’ disaffection from coupledom and rejection of cisness and heteronormativity. That the traditional homemaker identity it proselytizes is meant to be embraced in the absence of the material foundations that were its original grounds is an idealism little different from ‘Make America Great Again.’ It is an image that ramifies because of the real unraveling of the normative domestic family that scholars such as M.E. O’Brien and Sophie Lewis have identified. In the figure of the tradwife, we covet and idealize forms of subordination and coercion that we might not otherwise, if they can relieve us from financial worry and the pressures of the double shift. In Zoe Hu’s words, regular people, ‘preoccupied with bills, healthcare premiums, and rising rents,’ will find the lifestyle recommended by tradwife media to be out of reach – and yet that is precisely the source of its affective appeal: that we could just love our housework, that the privatized familialism that is often all that is available to us could be turned into the ultimate sentimental solution to what ails us.

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The tradwife reflects and mediates the family in crisis. This crisis is key to the political right, who idealize the traditional nuclear family and tie it inseparably to the health of the nation’s economic future. As influential conservatives like James Buchanan argued, in Cooper’s words, ‘Keynesian abundance of long-term unemployment insurance had loosened the discipline of waged work.’ Social benefits would ‘weaken the obligations of the husband and father as breadwinner’ and foster a ‘flight from the responsibilities of breadwinner masculinity.’ Tradwife media offers a response to this same fear. For the tradwife, the alternative to society is, in Hu’s words, ‘securitized intimacy’. Indeed, the tradwife is merely the latest expression of a long-running archetype of the conservative woman whose ferocious protection of her children symbolizes a political commitment to prisons, police, and the military. Twenty years ago, in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq, these women were called ‘security moms’. ‘Hell hath no fury like a momma protecting her babies’, as one self-described security mom put it.

Inderpal Grewal argued, back in 2006, that it was wrong to ask whether the security mom was real, that is, to ask whether there were enough actually existing women to constitute a phenomenon worthy of study or concern. Instead, she suggested, we might ask ourselves how and why ‘notions of governance emerge to seek security and attribute of motherhood’, how motherhood in turn produces a ‘gendered group called women in the United States’, and why ‘Islamic fanatics’ and ‘criminal aliens’ ‘become key figures for producing this mother in the early-twenty-first-century United States’. If the security mom of the war on terror mobilized against the external threats of terrorism and immigration, the tradwife of 2024 is positioned against internal threats: feminism, ‘gender ideology,’ wokeness, and the Democratic-led state itself. While the security mom emerged from the principle that the home naturally connects to the nation as a site of belonging and the cause for fortification, the tradwife approaches this relation from the opposite direction, seeing the home as the last refuge of a nation on the brink of self-annihilation. Hence the desire for some prior moment in which home and nation were mirrors.  




Tradwives support their men as providers and protectors; they position housework as difficult but natural expression of their gender, far more rewarding than work outside the home. Coding their content as #patriot, #tradition, #heritage, #biblicalwomanhood, #christianwife, they appeal to the time of more clearly gendered spheres separating productive waged work from the unwaged care work of family reproduction. The breadwinner-housewife household was a relatively unusual and historically short-lived family form, but one with massive popular cultural force. Its ascendance in the US postwar context coincided with US global political and cultural hegemony; it is powerfully associated with US political dominance and with the rising wealth and status of white American workers, whose models of domesticity and homeownership were increasingly exported overseas after WWII.

This domesticity and homeownership as registers of race and class distinction is reanimated by the tradwife, now in a newly retrenched, anxious, fraught form: the removed homestead, where a family can hide from the social perils of living in close proximity to suspect others. While, historically, white flight to suburbia ‘expressed a desire for sanctuary–from disease, from the working classes, from the racialised Other,’ as Helen Hester and Nick Srnicek write, for the tradwife, suburbia is not removed enough. One must instead go so far as to settle on undeveloped land and undertake the building of one’s ‘dream home’.

Constructing a house from the ground up befits the tradwife family’s industrious self-reliance, competency and distinction, while providing content for ‘sticky’ multipart video features. The question of where, exactly, the husband is in the homestead fantasy is unclear: his capacity to provide for the family (and manage the finances) is a narrative device that allows for tradwife media to remain vague on the details. Whether homesteads are the trophy of legacy wealth, the site of agricultural labor, or the home of a commuting, wage-earning husband is left unexplained. Here again we see the fragility of the fantasy reveal its incoherence: across tradwife media it is simultaneously the case that the husband is the moral center and financial security of the home and that the tradwife runs the household and should monetise her ability to do so. We might add here that it is no doubt easier to sell the idea of marriage without recourse to actual men.

The tradwife’s appeal, Niloufar Haidari writes, is in the promise of ‘spending your days luxuriously slow-cooking meals while never having to worry about paying the rent’. The alternative is the reality of ‘commuting to a hideously-lit office where you stare at a screen for nine hours a day, just to come back home and then have to begin your second shift of domestic labor’. But staying home is not really a matter of simply choosing what is more appealing to do with one’s day. It is not just a matter of personal preference, and nor is it – as it has at times actually been – a way of managing economic exigencies, of balancing wages against the cost of daycare. To be sure, the language of choice is often invoked by tradwives: ‘I support women making their own choices’. This rhetorical move effectively repurposes the most asinine interpretation of feminism in order to reject it; this is mirrored in the liberal feminist position that must, as Sophie Lewis points out, accept even antifeminism as feminist when branded as a choice. If being a tradwife is a choice, therefore, it is the heavily moralized one of ‘femininity over feminism,’ whose point is to naturalize gender as an expression of inner being: one chooses because one is morally good and a real woman not in denial of her own Godly design. A TikTok by herblessedhome features a woman in an apron baking bread at her kitchen counter. In the accompanying narration she reads aloud the words of Christian missionary Elisabeth Elliot, who describes feminism as a ‘travesty’ because it asks women to excel at men’s tasks, when instead ‘women ought to be judged by the criteria of femininity, for it is in their femininity that [women] participate in the human race’.




A key expression of this femininity is the ability to attract a ‘high value’ man who earns enough to support a wife and their children. Thin women in high heels and aprons, full makeup and long well cared for hair, advise women that this style of self-presentation is the key to securing her provider. In tradwife media this is also one of the signifiers of an unusually large family: plentiful children add to the image of the tradwife as someone who is sexually attractive to her husband, and her husband as someone with the capacity to earn. In these large families, from scratch takes on this additional valence as the tradwife’s contribution to household management: she is not profligate and wasteful; she endeavors to stretch available resources.

Large families also signal a refusal of birth control as an unnatural form of family management that is out of sync with traditional values. Hashtag groupings of #prolife #jesus #homeschool are not uncommon, as in the Instagram account lovemydozen. Labeled ‘Cherishing the Ministry of Motherhood,’ it features pictures of the family at an anti-abortion rally interspersed with image after image of mother and father with twelve children arranged in carefully color-coded clothing, their blissed-out smiles placed in a circle and photographed from above. A sign reads ‘no one should be killed because they are inconvenient’. Cooper has detailed the way anti-abortion arguments serve to moralize tax policy: playing on associations between public spending and liberalized attitudes toward race and sex, they link pro-choice advocacy to anti-family profligacy and overspending on the undeserving poor. The tradwife’s big family, presented as living off the land rather than handouts, delighting in their large numbers, appeals to longstanding associations linking pro-life policies to sound moral management of state spending, with pro-choice advocates positioned as amoral liberals who are profligate, promiscuous, and lack family values.

Some quantity of lebensraum makes the daily life of the large family much easier than it would be if they happen to be confined to a cramped city apartment. That a certain type of dwelling is required here is not a bug but a feature: ‘Housing has been used to perpetuate a particular configuration of values around hard work, busyness, individualism, self-reliance, and family structure,’ Hester and Srnicek argue; the homestead is the romanticized hideaway from a social world that has ceased to match the fantasied era of the hegemonic white American nuclear family. Devin Proctor positions the tradwife as an advocate for a radicalized form of white domesticity, and the tradwife media system as ‘fertile ground’ for white supremacy: some tradwives have far-right fans and connections to far-right politicians, and conservative men’s rights advocates have embraced the tradwife as an answer to the ‘loneliness epidemic,’ to disaffection from romance ostensibly plaguing young men today, and to the problem of how to attract women to far right politics. But even in the absence of explicit appeals to white nationalism the call to a revitalized tradition enacted on the homestead is indelibly coded as a form of protection from racialized social contagion. The homestead is the site of parental control over who interacts with their children – who touches what they wear, what they consume, how they are cared for. It is a cultural support for the anti-state state form that turns the family into an intensified risk management regime in the face of ostensible threats: threats to the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children, threats to the family’s future security, and threats to property and status.




On the homestead, homeschooling is a natural choice. In doing so, the home-schooling tradwife bolsters logic of the home in which a mother is solely responsible for children’s upbringing, while strengthening the securitized and privatized family as a form of insurance against risk. Schools, and in particular teachers, are framed as potential threats to traditional values and child safety. As Jules Gill-Peterson points out, children lack political agency and are understood for their relative plasticity as social and biological subjects – for this reason, they are held up as the victims as well as unwitting vectors of social transformation.

Homeschooling discourse across tradwife media emphasizes risk mitigation over pedagogy, and positions the public school system as an institution broken beyond repair, as a site of indoctrination. Homeschooling is ‘about teaching God-given truth in a world promoting subjective morality’, writes one tradwife. For some, public schools produce workers who put the idea of pursuing careers at the cost of family life and its organization of gender and labor; for others, public school is a cover for governmental control and sexual perversion. Linking these positions is the assertion that the family home is the safest possible environment for a child and that the mother is a ready-made and naturally ordained teacher – this in turn reinforces the idea of children as the property of parents.

Kay Gabriel’s analysis of the anti-trans panic and its fixation on schools and teachers illuminates this tradwife politics. Here, the family unit is tasked with protecting children against radicalization into so-called gender ideologies that will exploit their innocence and leverage their vulnerability. ‘I homeschool my children,’ unapologetic.patriot.mama writes, ‘because I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it raising grooming my children’. ‘Your children are not the government’s,’ she adds.

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As Gabriel argues, the anti-trans panic, operating under the guise of ‘parental rights’, aims to destabilize the social infrastructures that would recognize, protect, affirm, and advocate for young trans lives to survive and flourish. ‘If the right is sadistically mobilizing the anti-trans panic to isolate, destabilize, and disorganize teachers,’ she writes, ‘then those of us opposed to their vision should look to teachers for precisely the reasons – ideological and material – they are seen as a threat. For one thing, teachers hold the unique ability to change the thinking of young people and their caregivers: trans-affirming teachers really can make it more possible for young people to be trans, and that is a positive outcome’. The targeting of teachers by organized anti-trans efforts betrays the same anxiety of the homeschooling tradwife who worries that her work reinstating the natural and normal operation of gender in her family unit will be undone by a system bent in the opposite direction. 

While most tradwife content is not outwardly anti-trans (hard-right anti-trans accounts often platform tradwife content, with which it shares hashtags and tropes, but are not always tradwife themselves), the tradwife toolkit of ‘ultra traditional gender roles’ cannot but be read as an implicit reaction against gender non-conforming people and the denaturalization of binary sex that has been the result of coalitional struggles for liberation from gendered and sexual exploitation. The tradwife asserts two things at once: that the sex/gender binary and its expressions in family life are intractable realities and fundamental truths; that sexual difference, gender roles, and the family unit are vulnerable, at risk, and under attack. This double assertion can be understood as a part of what Gabriel calls ‘a calculated political campaign, assembling a coalition of disparate forces with overlapping interests and plans … includ[ing] destabilizing bulwarks of working-class power, obliterating free and universal public education, privatizing critical elements of social life, reinforcing racial segregation, and pulverizing institutions that can and often do produce oppositional political consciousness’. Tradwives cannot be understood in the absence of this context – the aim of the movement is not to turn every follower into a homeschooling mother, but to transmit ideas about gender and anxieties about its corruption which can be readily taken into schools and onto school boards. 




The tradwife isn’t against labor under capitalism. She is against welfarism – and the social as such. The tradwife isn’t just for sexual difference and gender roles. She is for the sex/gender binary as an axis of domination, site of accumulation, and mechanism for the negation of queer and trans life. For tradwife media, the return of the housewife is part of a counterrevolution against the public provision of social goods. Homeschooling is a way of protecting kids from ‘grooming’ via ‘gender ideology’; home cooking is a way of ensuring one’s food hasn’t been touched by the hands of the non-propertied poor and isn’t contaminated by state-managed systems designed to control and weaken; the homestead is an even further white flight than the suburbs once were; and making money via social media is itself a way for the housewife to be safely in the home doing home-based ‘feminine’ tasks while contributing to her family’s financial security.

In this the tradwife, however novel she appears to be, is but the newest symptom of a centuries-long anxiety about how to ensure that the privatized family remains the loadbearing institution for the reproduction of capital. However briefly the algorithm will favor her content, her fantasies, desires, repressions, and admissions demand to be read in relation to this history’s current conjuncture, in which challenges to capital’s longevity and to the privatized family’s disciplines of gender and sexuality provoke the countering insistence that what is truly liberatory is recourse to naturalized gender roles in hardworking, fortified private households.


Sarah Brouillette is a Professor in the Department of English at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Astrid Lorange is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art & Design at the University of New South Wales. She is one half of the critical art collective Snack Syndicate and a co-editor of Rosa Press. 
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