By Going Full "Trad Wife," Republicans Are Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Sen. Katie Britt was picked to deliver the State of the Union rebuttal "as a housewife, not just a senator," one GOP lawmaker said.

By going full "trad wife" in their State of the Union response, Republicans are saying the quiet part out loud.
(Image credit: Fox Local)

Last Thursday, Republicans tasked Alabama Sen. Katie Britt with delivering the party's rebuttal to President Joe Biden's annual State of the Union address.

Britt was likely chosen not only to assure the nation that there is room in the Republican Party for women, but also as an antidote to the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. A tall order, given that Trump is a twice-impeachedfour-times indicted ex-president who has been found liable (twice) for defaming a woman he sexually assaulted.

Her remarks were met with widespread criticism—particularly regarding a story she told about a woman that Britt insinuated had been sex trafficked as a result of President Biden's immigration policies—but her rebuttal also contained a quieter, sinister message: If you want to be a woman of value in our version of America, be a trad wife.

Vice President Kamala Harris ceremonially swears in US Senator Katie Britt, Republican of Alabama, for the 118th Congress in the Old Senate Chamber at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2023.

Vice President Kamala Harris ceremonially swears in US Senator Katie Britt, Republican of Alabama, for the 118th Congress in the Old Senate Chamber at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2023. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A "trad wife" is a type of emerging social media influencer that performs a more "traditional" role of wife and mom. With their hair perfectly coiffed and their homes immaculately maintained, "trad wife" influencers espouse the joys of making organic baby food for their children and washing their husband's clothes with homemade detergent.

"Trad wives" are almost always white, cis, thin, able-bodied, and devout Evangelical Christians, who, with a full face of makeup and '50s housewife-inspired ensembles, maintain their homes, care for their children, and feed their husbands.

While the trend is still considered niche, Noam Shpancer, a professor of psychology at Otterbein University in Ohio, told in a 2023 interview that it likely gained popularity in part because it serves as a response to cultural and social progress. He claimed that "trad wives" and those who champion them are "seeking to return society to what some people see as a simpler time with fewer individual freedoms."

By all accounts, Britt is profoundly accomplished. At 40, she became the youngest Republican woman elected to the US Senate. During her rebuttal, she spoke passionately about her own "American dream" that took her from small-town rural Alabama to the Senate floor.

Yet, unlike her male counterparts, Britt did not leave her immaculate kitchen in order to speak to the nation. "This is where our family has tough conversations," Britt claimed. "It's where we hold each other's hands and pray for God's guidance."

As Scarlett Johannson said during her SNL spoof of Britt's speech: “Republicans want me to appeal to women voters, and women love kitchens.”

Britt appeared on camera perfectly poised and soft-spoken—and wearing a carefully placed cross necklace—to make an “appeal to the parents out there—and in particular, to my fellow moms." After introducing herself, she noted, "It's not the job that matters most ... I am a proud wife and mom of two school-aged kids."

The message: You can work outside the home—as more women do than ever before—and even become a member of the U.S. Senate, but that should not supersede your innate desire to be a wife and a mom.

Even the state of the kitchen itself—which seemed devoid of actual cooking equipment—spoke to the Republican version of femininity and motherhood that hides and denies the inherent demands of motherhood while refusing to offer any structural, sustainable support.

The GOP has a white-knuckled grasp on the fictional lifestyle espoused by "trad wives."

As Lyz Lenz writes in her book This American Ex-Wife, so-called "trad wives" are often able to create and share their content because they have help—a housekeeper, a nanny, a family member other than their husband—and rarely are audiences shown the difficult parts of motherhood in the United States. Like, say, the inequitable distribution of labor inside the home, the rising maternal mental health crisis and the forever-present fear of gun violence at schools.

"The videos she makes take time. Promotion takes effort," Lynz writes of "trad wife" influencer Brooke Raybould, who has 325,000 Instagram followers. "Her performance of home and family takes an investment. She's not just 'mama'; she's a business woman selling you an image, a lifestyle that doesn't exist."

The GOP has a white-knuckled grasp on that fictional lifestyle, Britt's rebuttal shows, and they're not going to let it go as the nation careens towards another presidential election.

Despite its apparent support for mothers, the party has historically called for repeated cuts to programs that have supported women and their families, including food stamps and affordable housing. Today's Republican party rallies against free lunch, workplace protections for minors, and universal child care.

Simultaneously, the party will clutch its proverbial pearls over declining birth rates and the so-called "destruction" of heterosexual marriage—not because both are threats to democracy (like, say, a candidate who promises to be a "dictator on day one" and release insurrectionists from prison) or because foregoing having children or getting a divorce is bad for the country (they're not) but because both run afoul to the type of woman the GOP wants us all to be.

That type of woman is happy to live in a country that has stripped her of the constitutional right to abortion care, threatens to deny her access to IVF or birth control, yet simultaneously refuses to offer her social programs or safety nets to help her care for her children.

She's a woman that dares to dream, yes, but not too much—who can even become the youngest GOP woman senator, but must always lead with "wife" and "mom."

But not all of us are or want to be that woman, and perhaps the near-universal backlash Britt has received is indicative of that. That criticism is not limited to the erroneous things she said, or even for the awkward and at times comical way she spoke: Britt received backlash because she symbolized the GOP's vision of life in America for women.

Yet, while the party's version of "ideal femininity" is not sustainable or even exists, a fear Britt shared in her rebuttal—that the "next generation will have fewer opportunities and freedoms than we did"—is very real.

In fact, for half of the population, it has already come true.

Danielle Campoamor
Weekend Editor

Danielle Campoamor is Marie Claire's weekend editor covering all things news, celebrity, politics, culture, live events, and more. In addition, she is an award-winning freelance writer and former NBC journalist with over a decade of digital media experience covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mortality, gun violence, climate change, politics, celebrity news, culture, online trends, wellness, gender-based violence and other feminist issues. You can find her work in The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, New York Magazine, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, TODAY, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Prism, Newsweek, Slate, HuffPost and more. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two feral sons. When she is not writing, editing or doom scrolling she enjoys reading, cooking, debating current events and politics, traveling to Seattle to see her dear friends and losing Pokémon battles against her ruthless offspring. You can find her on X, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and all the places.