What’s happening in the Midwest, Tradwives, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

We'll get you caught up on the news you missed during the week.

Speed Read

  1. In a recent interview, former Sheriff of Milwaukee County David Clarke — who leads polling for Wisconsin’s GOP Senate primary — called murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi a terrorist.
  2. Fresh off his Chicago mayoral loss, “lifelong Democrat” Paul Vallas joinsthe conservative Illinois Policy Institute think tank.
  3. Indiana state Rep. Jim Lucas takes a plea deal after a drunk driving incident where he fled the scene.
  4. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announceda new program to house more LGBTQ teens, who make up 40% of the unhoused youth population.
  5. New SNAP requirements will reduce benefits for poor residents in Illinois.

The Lede

The right’s bizarre new culture trend: Tradwifes

“So last year when I first got my voice on TikTok, I made a video on what is a ’tradwife.’ And in that video, I said that it's not a movement,” Estee Williams monologues in a video uploaded to Instagram this past week.

“And now, I want to take that back. I can see clearly that this is much, much more like a movement than I thought it was,” she concludes.

Williams, dressed in anachronistic housewife garb, has become one of the key social media influencers in a new subculture taking shape on the right. The “movement” Williams is referring to is a contemporary trend amongst younger women who seek to organize their lives around the kind of traditionalist gender roles that are often associated with the bygone era of domineering male breadwinners and docile female homemakers.

“There is a shift happening, where people are becoming more resilient and rebelling against that chaos happening right now, Williams continued. “Women are proudly stating that they don't want a career, and they want to be a full-time wife and mother. And the truth is there is no higher calling than being a wife and a mother for a woman.”

Williams stressed that, of course, women should have careers if they wish, but “being a wife and a mother should be your top priority always.” She would go on to reiterate similar talking points in a recent appearance on  "The Michael Knowles Show."

The fascist undertones of the so-called tradwife movement are not subliminal: The idea is to reject modernity and its complex, rudderless ambiguities in favor of the fictitious domestic bliss that defined life in suburban mid-20th century America. In this world, there is not a proliferation of crises, the patriarchy endows clear, simple roles and the rat race dissipates. All you have to do is sign away your own agency.

As the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco once put it: “The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition … As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all.”

Of course, like so much internet content, the entire presentation masks the curated reality of such arrangements. Only the privileged few can truly isolate themselves and hide away in highly aestheticized ‘50s cosplay.

“Like a trapdoor, the idea swings open to reveal a baby-pink fantasy too fragile and nostalgic to be taken in the open air. Regular people preoccupied with bills, health care premiums and rising rents will find much of the tradlife lifestyle to be out of reach,” explains writer Zoe Hu.

“That paradox is what makes it such potent social media fare: Tradlife is, at bottom, perpetuated by ‘influencers’ who know how to make others feel desirous and frustrated in equal measure.”

That’s why this phenomenon is being adopted by the mainstream right: There needs to be an illusion that such alternatives are not only preferable but attainable. And as the complexities and histories of gender continue to come to challenge social orthodoxy, reversing that tide has become paramount for the most reactionary elements of the Republican monolith.

The little boxes on the hillside seem to be collapsing and the only way to obscure that fact is by manipulating an anxious middle class into returning to a highly curated, imagined past.

Person Of Interest: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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Jamie Larson