The unstoppable rise of Tradwives

Tradwives are some of social media’s biggest influencers, but are they promoting female submission?

Tradwives and stay-at-home-girlfriends
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s “super early” in the morning, and 22-year-old model and mother of three Nara Smith is making bagels and cream cheese—from scratch—to celebrate her fourth wedding anniversary to model Lucky Blue Smith. Naturally, she’s wearing a silky black slip and matching robe trimmed with marabou feathers. Oh, and she’s heavily pregnant.

The scene—which sees Smith kneading bread while a slow jazz rendition of “As Time Goes By” plays in the background—might sound like a clip from Leave It to Beaver or the sixties-era Apple TV+ show Palm Royale, but it was posted on TikTok to Smith’s 4.9 million followers.


♬ Jazz masterpiece "As time goes by" covered by a Jazz violinist by profession(962408) - ricca

Smith is far from the only TikTok tradwife; the platform has 71.8M views for #tradwife and 34.6 million for #sahg (stay-at-home-girlfriend). Conservative influencers like Smith, Jasmine Dinis, and Ekaterina Andersen have amassed millions of followers. Hearty home-cooked meals, cherubic children, and florals as far as the eye can see are familiar tropes in these sanitised displays of performative domesticity.

Juliet McDaniel, the author of Mr. and Mrs. American Pie, which inspired Palm Royale, describes the viral clip of Smith as “over-the-top entertaining almost to the point of being camp.” She recalls her grandmother, a housewife pageant queen, joking about how silly it was in 1957 to put on a pretty dress and heels to clean a toilet for judges before adding, “that whole notion of “look amazing while doing something mundane” is what today’s social media is based around.”

In a weird, but not exactly surprising twist, one of the most famous tradwives, Hannah Neelman, AKA Ballerina Farm—who has 8.9 million Instagram followers—is an actual pageant winner - Mrs American, no less. When researching her book, McDaniel looked into decades of housewife pageants where “women were pitted against each other to see who could bake the loveliest cake or who could iron the most men’s dress shirts in five minutes.” It’s not hard to imagine this type of content racking up likes on social media today.


♬ After the Afterparty (feat. Lil Yachty) - Charli XCX

Smith’s fans—of which there are many—have argued that in its purest form, feminism is about having a choice, so if Smith and others choose to engage in traditional gender roles, that’s their prerogative. This is called “choice feminism,” which essentially means that if a woman is the one making the decision, that in itself is a feminist act.

However, McDaniel says that while the tradwife lifestyle might be fine for that individual woman, the ultimate goal is to eliminate choice for all women. This, too, is up for debate; some of the most prominent tradwives, like Estee Williams, have been vehement in saying that the tradwife life is not a movement and isn’t trying to enact social change (though she “promotes other wives to doll themselves up before their husband comes home”.)

Others argue that just because a woman is making the decision, that doesn’t make the decision a feminist one. One thing that is indesputable is that tradwives and sahgs don’t live in a vacuum, and what they choose to promote has ramifications for other women, especially when you consider the staggering social reach of these accounts.


♬ Music Instrument - Gerhard Siagian

Retro ideologies are on the rise alongside retro aesthetics. The 1950s housewife schedule has 32 million views on TikTok, while influencer Alena Kate Pettitt’s The Darling Academy sells Homemaker’s Manuals patterned in cherry-red checks in keeping with Pettitt’s vintage English aesthetic.

Williams is a self-described ‘traditional wife’ with a Betty Draper blow-dry and an assortment of floral tea dresses, which she says boost her mood on rainy days. When you consider the regression of reproductive rights, the gender pay gap, and sexual violence epidemic, cosplaying as a fifties housewife seems almost like a coping mechanism. It feels eerily “keep calm and carry on”, a motto you can imagine Pettitt sewing onto one of her knitted tea cosies.

Tradwife is more than just a trend of topic of conversation, it’s inescapably political.

Mischa Anouk Smith

Tradwife is more than just a trend or topic of conversation, it’s inescapably political. The fetishing of postwar domesticity seen in accounts like Williams’ and Mrs Aria Lewis, a homemaker who espouses biblical submission, cannot be seen in isolation. Globally, women’s rights are being rolled back and conservatism is growing among young men.

In the UK, studies show Gen Z boys and men think of feminism more negatively than any other generation. New research from Starling Bank reveals that seven in ten Gen Z men believe “the man should be the breadwinner” in a relationship, and nearly six in ten 18-24-year-olds say they could feel emasculated if their female partner earns more than them. The same study reveals that young women are actually spending more.

Gen Z men hold more traditional views about money than the generations that came before them, says Starling, but young women were more likely to pay more towards costs related to pets, nursery fees, car payments, petrol, and presents. Men aren’t just having their cake and eating it, too; they’re having it freshly baked and served to them.

Men aren’t just having their cake and eating it, too; they’re having it freshly baked and served to them.

Mischa Anouk Smith

Tradwifery is being pitched to us as the best way to win under a patriarchal system. “Most of the women my age are terrified of having children because they don’t want to deal with the immense financial burden,” explains TikTok creator @caroclaireburkeee. She thinks that the rise in tradwifery—and our collective fascination with it—is because “even the most progressive of us are so afraid of what’s happening right now that we are subconsciously desperate to see a sign that it’s possible to live in this world and still find joy.”

The rising cost of childcare is forcing women in their droves out of the workforce and into the home (which is, of course, a workplace in itself). The tradwife life makes having to stay at home not only acceptable but aspirational. “Working mums don’t have an easy go of it,” says McDaniel, who thinks that tradwife content offers an idealised alternative to workplace inequality. There’s an uneasy allure that’s hard to ignore when you consider women’s long history of being overlooked, underpaid and undervalued. Women are exhausted, and tradwife and #sahg videos are marketed as an easy escape. “It’s also easier than fighting for the things working mums need, like reasonable childcare, healthcare, and equal pay,” adds McDaniel.


the darn pizza bubbles ruined my mozzarella flowers 🥹 but it was tasty anyways!!! I’m sending out this easy sourdough pizza crust recipe to my e-mail subscribers tomorrow. Click the link in my bio so you don’t miss it! 💌 And my dress is from Neuflora, link in bio 🤍

♬ original sound - Gwen The Milkmaid 🌸

There is a soothing (or lobotomising) quality to these bucolic ideas of family life. Neelman is perhaps the best example of this. Capitalising on the cottagecore trend, Neelman’s videos cycle through similar tropes—baking bread, arranging flowers, collecting eggs—all with her eight kids in tow on their rambling Utah ranch.

However, social media sleuths were quick to point out that her husband is the multi-millionaire heir to JetBlue (and a few other airlines). Not to get all contextual studies about this, but what we’re seeing here is conspicuous leisure (shoutout to the Thorstein Veblen girls). The most prominent tradwives and girlfriends are performing labour rather than actually engaging in it. You won’t see them deep-cleaning the bathroom or running a vac around. Professor Neil explains that tradwives are displaying symbolic labour rather than actual productive labour.


♬ original sound - Professor Neil

Tradwives are often visibly very wealthy, but what’s less visible (if not entirely hidden) is that they are getting a lot of help. In many ways, food—the ultimate tradwife pastime— has become a safe way to display overt signs of wealth.

Like most tradwives, Gwen The Milkmaid has pegged her identity around elaborate home-cooked meals, posting videos with captions like “When your husband asks for a yoghurt parfait and you happily do as he says.”

The quote, “If you give a man the power to feed you, you give him the power to starve you,” has been cycling around social media; it’s worth remembering that as we watch more young women get lured into a life of female submisison.

Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.