Feminism has been one of the most destructive movements in human history. It has led to destroyed families, weakened societies, and massive gender confusion. While the mainstream media laments so-called “toxic masculinity,” the truth is that there’s nothing more toxic to a culture and a family’s well-being than feminism.
That being said, it doesn’t follow that every reaction to feminism is thereby healthy. Communist Russia opposed Nazi Germany, but that didn’t vindicate communism. In recent years there’s been an increased pushback to feminism, much of it good, but a lot of it is just as bad as the feminism it is rejecting.
The most obvious example is the rise of someone like Andrew Tate (if you don’t know who that is, count yourself lucky). In response to the errors and evils of feminism, many “bro culture” influencers like Tate are advocating a path that demeans women and treats them like objects for pleasure (essentially confirming the feminist stereotypes of men).
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But there’s another, more subtle, reaction to feminism that’s also toxic. It’s the “tradwife” phenomenon, which seeks to impose strict and exceptionless gender roles in marriage (note: this is not an exclusively Catholic movement and should not be confused with traditional Catholicism, although there is some overlap).
Before I continue I should note that my own marriage has followed more traditional roles pretty closely: my wife happily left her outside job when we had our first child, and she has stayed home throughout our marriage as the primary caregiver for our seven children (also homeschooling them along the way). I absolutely think there are certain gender roles in marriage, including the husband being the primary provider and the wife being the primary homemaker and child caregiver.
Yet the tradwife movement would seek to absolutize the particulars in how those general principles should be practiced. For example, consider this recent tweet:
In my own family my wife has likely changed 80%+ of all the dirty diapers of our seven children, but that’s a complete guess, because we never kept track of such things. Since my wife stayed at home with the children, it was natural that she changed most of the diapers. But never would it enter our minds to think that my changing them would somehow be a victory for feminism and a defeat for legitimate gender roles in marriage. If my wife was busy or tired or out shopping or otherwise unavailable and my kid had a dirty diaper, I’d just change it. And caring for my helpless child certainly didn’t feel like I was landing a blow against the patriarchy.
Women are made to care for young children; men are made to be providers. This is built into who we are as distinct images of God. But it should be obvious that marriages involve some fluidity in the particularization of those roles at times, and that fluidity doesn’t mean there are no specific gender roles. If you look throughout history you will see the general roles being followed closely in every culture, but how those roles are particularized can differ widely by culture. Yet some people today, in reaction to a feminism that would completely upend those legitimate roles, reject even an iota of fluidity in the particularization.
Why are these problematic anti-feminism movements gaining popularity? Because institutions that should be defending the proper roles for men and women—such as the Catholic Church—have been asleep at the wheel (or even working for the opposition). Thus, various influencers can step into the void with terrible advice that resonates because it opposes an evil, namely feminism. Why are these problematic anti-feminism movements gaining popularity? Because institutions that should be defending the proper roles for men and women—such as the Catholic Church—have been asleep at the wheel.Tweet This
If the Catholic Church had been resisting the siren song of feminism and defending the important principles of the role of men and women in the family, then feminism would not have run unchecked, and bad anti-feminist advice would never have been given fertile ground to spring up. Instead the Church has been silent to—and even supportive of—the anti-Catholic normalization of two-income, daycare-centered families, and so people are looking anywhere and everywhere for an alternative.
Yet the answer is not found in the anti-woman bro culture or the tradwife influencers. A healthy marriage is one that absolutizes principles but not particulars. So, for example, the principle that the wife should be the primary caregiver for the children is a principle built into our DNA. Likewise the principle that the husband is the primary provider. But does this mean that the wife must change every diaper, make every meal, and clean every dish? Of course not.
Insisting on such exception-less particulars is toxic because it absolutizes a particular that can have exceptions due to the immediate needs of the other spouse or the children. It’s not a healthy relationship if an exhausted mom who was up all night with a nursing baby and caring for other young children asks her husband to change a diaper and the husband responds, “Sorry, babe, not my job.”
In reality the wife will likely do those things most of the time by the very nature of caring for the children while the husband works, but a dad who refuses to change a diaper in some misguided belief that it’s not masculine puts a less important particular over the care of both his children and his wife.
There’s a common denominator between feminism and the tradwife movement: they both set men and women in opposition to each other. Feminism pits women against men in a power struggle. The tradwife phenomenon divides women and men very starkly with no possibility of overlap. Yet men and women were created to be united in one flesh, to exist for the other.
Feminism argues that a woman who does menial tasks like changing diapers is thereby demeaned. Anti-feminists often argue the same, but about men. A healthy marriage doesn’t see any task in the care of the family as demeaning. Husbands and wives work together for the common family good.
When it comes to the daily work that’s done in a family, there should be no keeping score. Each spouse should be looking for ways to help the other, including pitching in at times in areas that are primarily the other spouse’s domain. Otherwise, absolutizing particulars above the care of the family becomes as toxic as the feminism it is trying to combat.
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