In a viral TikTok, user Jennifer Mock (@jlmock4.0) performs as a 1950s woman meeting a 2022 woman.
“So I get to work outside the home?” the 1950s woman — Mock, donned in an apron — asks the modern woman.
“Totally, you can just sit in a cubicle all day while you stare at a computer screen chugging coffee,” says the modern woman, Mock in a purple wig. “So liberating.”
Mock goes on to bash other aspects of modern life, like the birth control pill and dating apps. The video part of a wider trend of TikTok tradfems and tradwives, groups of people who are against modern feminism and for a Christian, “traditional” view of womanhood. These people, many of them women online, denounce feminism in turn for the “more fulfilling” life of submitting to a man. It goes without saying that people longing for the 1950s are, by and large, white.
While, outwardly, these people are anti-feminists, it’s clear that tradfems and tradwives are actually raging against capitalism. They say that feminism is what ruined women’s lives, that the fact that we have to work to survive is somehow at the fault of women gaining rights.
Feminism isn’t the reason women work in cubicles then go home to do their “second shift” — all the invisible labor at home, like cleaning and making doctors’ appointments. Feminism isn’t the reason that women can’t afford to stay at home, why many people can’t even afford children to caretake for or homes to homemake in at all. That’s capitalism.
Feminism also isn’t the reason women are still disproportionately saddled with childcare duties, why they took on as much as three times additional childcare hours during the pandemic than men.
Feminism also isn’t the reason women are still disproportionately saddled with childcare duties, why they took on as much as three times additional childcare hours during the pandemic than men. That’s patriarchy, babes — not feminism.
This clip of Mock, who didn’t respond to Mashable’s request for comment, also went viral on Twitter when it was posted by media personality Brittany Martinez, who also goes by her maiden name Hugoboom depending on the social platform. It’s no surprise that Martinez posted this; she’s the editor-in-chief of Evie Magazine, a conservative women’s magazine.
Both Martinez and Evie as a whole claim that feminism is a “scam” made by “our overlords” in order to…tax women’s income. An article on Evie’s website says that feminism is a psyop in order for women to pay more taxes to the government — claims that are only sourced by other Evie articles. Nowhere does it mention decades-long wage stagnation and increasing income inequality. Martinez hasn’t responded to Mashable’s request for comment.
Disillusionment after girlboss-era feminism is understandable. “Hustling” to be the “SHE-E-O” won’t bring you fulfillment, as many of us learned in the past few years. But that’s not because girlboss feminism is feminism; it’s because it’s capitalist. We were so conditioned since birth to want a career, a “dream job,” that we believed that’s what we really wanted. Just like how women before us were conditioned to want to be a housewife; the reality, however, wasn’t like the picturesque, vintage ads you may see on TikTok.
Shattering the tradwife fantasy
Life for actual 1950s housewives was lonely and boring — if you were “lucky.” Others suffered abuse; domestic violence was considered a “private family matter” until the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Marital rape was only outlawed in all 50 states in 1993, and still today between 10 and 14 percent of women are raped by their husbands, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
When states adopted no-fault divorce, female suicide rate dropped a staggering 20 percent. Rates of domestic violence and spousal murder also dropped.
Women in the mid-century dealt with the “problem that has no name” — anxiety, depression, boredom, and sometimes psychosis associated with being a housewife — with sedatives. In 1960, five years after the tranquilizer Miltown was introduced to Americans, women were twice as likely as men to be prescribed “mother’s little helper.”
Not only did ads and media push this drug onto women in order to better care for their husbands — so did doctors. As Heather Radke wrote in Topic, “In a 1956 article in Cosmopolitan, one doctor reported that after taking the drug, ‘frigid women who abhorred marital relations reported they responded more readily to their husbands’ advances.'”
Those who weren’t advertised to take tranquilizers were advertised to drink. (Funny, that you don’t see those ads on tradwife fantasy TikTok.)
Women aren’t “natural” caretakers
One of the other arguments of the tradfem set is that women are “meant” to be homemakers and mothers. Take another Evie article that states that women are the “heart” of the household and men are the “head,” that women are “emotional” and can multitask, thus are better suited for housework.
The reality is, the maternal instinct is a myth. This centuries-old idea reemerged after World War II when the “nuclear family” was the ideal, but it’s inconsistent with neuroscience. There aren’t inherent differences in gender that make women better suited for this labor. Studies show that it’s the amount of time spent bonding and caretaking for a child, not the gender of the parent, that determines one’s closeness with them.
What there is, however, is societal expectations instilled since birth that women should want to be mothers and take care of the house. Indeed, some men perpetuate this myth and weaponize incompetence in order to get out of housework they absolutely can do.
When you peel back the layers of tradwife arguments, you see the cracks. Take Mock’s TikTok as an example: The 1950s wife wants to know if she has a butler or a robot who cleans for her. It’s not that she just wants to leave the house; she also wants help with the housework. What if her husband helped her? What if a husband and wife were a true team and divided labor equally? That’s…that’s feminism.
Capitalism in casual sex
Mock’s TikTok goes onto another topic that tradfems rail against: hookup culture. “You can have sex with whoever, whenever you want,” says the 2022 woman.
“That sounds kind of gross actually,” the 1950s woman replies.
“The answer to dissatisfying casual sex isn’t reverting back to the pre-pill 1950s.”
Casual sex can indeed be unsatisfying, but that’s not because of feminism. Hookup culture has been fueled by dating apps, and those are the result of our on-demand capitalist culture. Just like we have Seamless and Netflix, it makes sense that we’d want dates or sex in an instant like we want food or entertainment.
The answer to dissatisfying casual sex isn’t reverting back to the pre-pill 1950s; it’s comprehensive sex education. Among the slew of benefits, comp sex education delays sexual initiation (one’s “first time”), leads to fewer sexual partners, and fosters healthy relationships.
Arguments against the birth control pill, which enabled women to have sex without worrying about pregnancy, are another cornerstone of tradfeminism. The birth control pill is far from perfect, but it’s disingenuous to claim, as Evie Magazine does, that “the pill is destroying our bodies.” Some people on the pill do have side effects, but others have none at all.
Evie Magazine and its editor-in-chief Martinez have a stake in being anti-pill. Martinez just partnered with Peter Thiel to start 28, a “cycle-based wellness company.” The announcement for 28 says that those taking the pill and with irregular cycle can use 28 without explanation as to how, and without acknowledging how the birth control pill can benefit some people.
Martinez isn’t the face of the anti-feminism movement, but she’s emerging as a vocal proponent. Martinez prides herself as an entrepreneur, calling herself a “2x founder” on her social media. She is allowed to flourish as such, to work outside the home.
I wonder why.