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Barbie, Housewives, and Magazines

Forget Me Not Housewife Magazine

“I think I’ll do it just one more time”, I texted her. My friend Florence and I had been diving quite deeply into the whole Trad Wife media hurricane that had swept through my life in recent years. I expanded further on where I felt things had gone: “I don’t want to do it, but I feel we need to wrap it up somehow”. “Yes, that’ll be a nice way to close this chapter”, Florence remarked, “in a pretty bow”...


Sophie Elmhirst, from The New Yorker magazine had emailed around October time, wanting to interview me for a piece she was working on about “hashtag Trad Wives”. I mean, where’s the story here, you ask, what journalist wasn’t wanting to write another hit-piece? I still receive at least two requests every day, wanting to go over the same old story. Asking the same old questions, and having the same old outcome every single time. I was done.

I’d been butting my head against this media brick wall coming on for nearly four years now, and had had enough - but something in Sophie’s email made me reply, which I don’t often do. It might have been to do with her emailing on more than one occasion (the first, I tend to ignore, but if someone is relentless then my people-pleasing/politeness tendencies tend to get the better of me), so I got in touch.

Sure, “The New Yorker” was probably partially the reason. It’s glossy and glamorous, and as I had been discussing with Florence, if I was going to do just one more interview before we set off for Australia, why not make it a good one, right?

I was honest with Sophie on the phone, half trying to put her off, half exhausted talking about the topic… I had become disillusioned with speaking to the press, and since stepping away from Instagram in particular I could see a clear distinction now about how the image of the “housewife” was becoming appropriated for individual gain on some people’s accounts, and not being honestly represented at all. It had a darker side I no longer wanted to be part of, and moving abroad might be my chance to leave it all behind. I felt pretty washed-up and hung out to dry. Was she still interested in talking to me?

This movement was over three years old now and was becoming a headstrong toddler that couldn’t be disciplined. I had enough on my plate as it was, so I ‘let go of the reins’. It was becoming a monster that I no longer wanted to associate with. I never felt like I had ownership over it all, but I definitely felt responsible during that time somehow. Like the protective big sister who would stand up to the bully, while her younger siblings stood behind. The one to take the verbal assaults, and play fisticuffs, regardless of who was at fault.

This honest conversation led Sophie to speak to her editor, and she came back saying this was exactly the angle they wanted to explore. And so, over two very long lunches in Cheltenham, she heard my story - thank you Sophie - these were like free therapy and a real treat, not least because I could escape packing for a while!

You can read The Rise and Fall of the Trad Wife here. (Please note that in certain countries, you may not be able to access the article on a mobile phone, but you should be able to read it on a desktop computer).

Trad Wife New Yorker Magazineoh the face on that "artwork"... cringe!

---This article is probably the best that has been written on the subject, and while I make it a rule not to obsess over the opinions of others, there are a few little things in the article lost to nuance, and comments left from their readers that I want to clear up.

  • The Barbie table was amazing, and many of you have sent me links to ones on eBay, but none listed are the same as the one I had. Mine was fully pink with a “skirted” table. It’s very sweet of you to try and look for me, but sadly the hunt continues.
  • I know I wouldn’t have “had it made” in the 1950s, just in the sense that no one would expect me to work outside the home and keep asking me about why I don’t! The racism and lack of women’s rights can definitely stay in the past… as can those aspic recipes!
  • Someone commented that the women I look up to are “working women”, like Queen Elizabeth, The Princess of Wales, and such like… this is not lost on me, but it is lost on you dear reader that they aren’t my mentors because of the job they do, but because of how they conduct themselves in the world. This is explained in Ladies Like Us, where I write about things other than housewifery.
  • My husband “declined” to be interviewed because he was simply too busy with work and moving us to the other side of the world!
  • Barbie was a working woman too, yes. She has had many careers, but my Barbie was a housewife.

Trisha_romanceThis is how my Barbie lived

  • I eventually watched, and loved the Barbie movie. I saw it on the plane to Australia, and absolutely adored America Ferrera’s monologue scene when she is levelling with Barbie (who is having an existential crisis). America said it for us all…

    “It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong. You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behaviour, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault. I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know”. America Ferrera in “Barbie”.

    Iconic! The only thing I wasn’t sure of was how they downplayed and reduced Ken to aesthetics, making him egotistical and secondary to Barbie instead of promoting the “equality” that feminism seeks… I suppose it was perhaps meant as a subversive “statement”, but nothing is perfect. Just so you know, “my” Ken (actually a Prince Eric doll) was very loving and kind, thank you very much!
  • One person said I had created for myself a “job”. while talking about not having one. I’m exasperated that I’m even having to explain this but I have never been paid for an interview. I once got a cheque for £150 (that I wasn’t even expecting) for a television appearance. Over the four years, that equates to less than 10p per day. What a pay day! It’s perhaps a “job” on occasion, yes (usually an hour’s telephone call at most), but one for which I am hardly remunerated as those who have outside employment are. Think of it as VOLUNTEERING! I don’t hustle MLM’s, or sell courses. I know other’s do (and that’s their prerogative), but not me. (It’s not a problem that some housewives do earn an income anyway… we don’t judge how you support your family or spend the majority of your time).
  • I know I mentioned divorce, but that was to prove a point that I don’t have my head buried in the sand, and as a child of divorce myself I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t happen. Do I think we’ll divorce? No. It is a possibility? Yes, even for “trad wives”.
  • And the one that really riled me: “just wait til her husband dies or leaves her”. Like I haven’t heard that one before! Go back and read the last sentence, you missed something there.

My writing here is free to read, and while I have written books (8 and 5 years ago respectively), they are not paid employment, nor are people forced into purchasing them. It’s not a “job”, what I do here. My main employ is my home life, and this here on your screen is my passion.

Having now written all that, I do wonder just how many of the people leaving these types of snidey remarks actually bother to read down this far and fully understand the message, before wading in to the comments section. I really hope they don’t use this method of assimilating information to vote?!


Will the Trad Wife trend ever go away?

The short answer, I believe, is no. It has become such a point of controversy and contention. The modern day low-brow media loves click-bait and shock-factor so articles on the subject (honestly portrayed or not) will always sell. The way these news outlets earn money these days is from those little adverts in the sidebar, so every time you’re reading their trash-talk they’re earning money from what your eyeballs are seeing! It literally pays them to write stuff that will grab your attention - and our human nature loves gossip and drama!

People will cos-play to earn a quick buck. It’s too appealing a trend and topic! A perfect hate-follow for many, and there are so many parody accounts now. It’s tantamount to bullying.

There will be the brave ones who trudge on hoping to make a difference, and the baton will be passed on to another generation, but I do think the good intention and cause of many women in the “movement” will continue to be swallowed by what it fights so hard against.

There is a report function here on my website where I can see what people are searching for on this blog - and I’ll be honest, it’s not savoury.  I’ll spare you the grossest details, but despite my content that clearly expresses my values, they are still looking for things that they’d probably never admit-to in front of their mothers.

Sadly I think the movement has lost itself to greed, kink, and nothing that I want to align myself with.


Feeling LighterSome ladies are still doing their best to educate and inspire others on social media, and they have my full support. However I feel that, like most things, all that is good and honest in this world eventually falls prey to darkness (for a while at least). I hope for their sakes that they realise this isn’t a war we can win on platforms that exist only to addict and outrage its users. I also hope they aren’t exposing their hearts to some of the vitriol and disgusting things that used to litter my inbox!

I took this selfie to send to my husband just after I had finished meeting with Sophie for the last time. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was definitely ready for a new chapter! Same story - just time to move the plot along a bit.

It’s just sad to me that there is still no positive representation of housewives in the media. It’s all I wanted as a young girl, to have someone to look up to who embodied a happy homemaker.

In soap operas they are conveyed as depressed, the “Real Housewives” franchises follow mentally unstable house trophy wives, and where glossy “housekeeping” magazines once catered exclusively to homemakers, the content has shifted to talk about “working wardrobes” and are full of career advice… Do we no longer exist just as we are? Are we invisible to the world, reduced to a sensationalised hashtag?


However, I do know this, whether it’s talked about in the press or not, there is an army of women who are finding their calling at home and are feeling confident enough to follow that dream, and that is just wonderful. In a world where we can be anything, “housewife” is a valid option too.

I have decided that I can no longer give my energy to those that are determined to misunderstand me (meaning “us”, darling), but I can show up and talk about all the subjects we love. Sadly it’s not a glossy magazine on the newsstands, or maybe on the TV where you hope to see yourself represented - but just like Barbie, it can still exist in a world of our creation. At home.

Forget me not,

Alena x

If this article has blessed you, and you like our values here, please would you consider supporting the blog by purchasing a one-off cup of tea? Donations given by Patrons of The Darling Academy go towards the running of the website, and buying the very tea which fuels my writing.

The British never seem to do anything until they’ve had a cup of tea, by which time it’s too late. Lauren Bacall


All content and images in this article are copyright of The Darling Academy and are not to be shared or reproduced without our express permission. Artist illustration of mother and child by Trisha Romance. Affiliate links have been used in this post.

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