A woman on TikTok encouraged women to marry their bosses and leave the workforce. Criticism poured in. (Photo: CSA-Printstock via Getty Images)
Last week, homemaker and YouTuber Aly Drummond went viral for proposing a career alternative that many viewers mistook for trolling: If you’re a woman, get yourself a husband, not a job.
It all started earlier this month, when Drummond’s friend posted a TikTok titled “How to marry a high value man and become a housewife.” In the clip, Drummond waves her wedding ring while her friend asks her what she does for a living.
“I love my husband,” Drummond says dryly, before explaining how she landed the “awesome job”: “I became a better human being, I became feminine and also — shocking — submissive.”
Being a housewife, Drummond told her friend and the over 1.7 million people who eventually watched the clip, is “an actual job.”
“You just can’t get it in the public or private sector,” she said. “You need a man to hire you for it, but that’s OK. Because if you think about it, you submit to your boss who makes you clean stupid shelves at your retail job, right? Wouldn’t it be better if you were cleaning your own shelves at home? And your boss wants to sleep with you, in a good way.”
As for tips on how to find an employer-husband, the Kansas housewife suggests women actually work for the “high value” men they want to pursue: “You want a lawyer, right? So then you should be a paralegal. Or if you want a dentist, then you should be a dental hygienist.”
Finally, Drummond, who also considers herself a content creator, took issue with women who criticize other women who marry their bosses: “Women will bully the woman who’s the secretary who married the doctor, but who has the last laugh?” she asked on camera. “Her in her McMansion with her husband and her baby.”
Unsurprisingly, the divisive video quickly made the rounds on other social media platforms. While some applauded Drummond for how “unapologetic” she was, others, especially those on Twitter, found the video to be uncomfortable and a little “cringe.”
“Being a stay-at-home mom who still has to cook, clean and perform domestic servitude will never be a come up for women,” one woman tweeted. “A man turning you into The Help is not an upgrade.”
Some even wondered if Drummond was trolling. But in an interview with HuffPost, she confirmed it was no troll at all.
“The message I try to get across to women is there’s a third economic option outside of serving in the military or receiving an education: You can marry an established man,” Drummond told us via email. “Once you are married, his wealth is your wealth, if he succeeds, you succeed.”
Drummond believes there are women who would genuinely enjoy homemaking as a profession, but haven’t considered it because “all they know how to do is ‘work.’” Before Drummond met her husband in the military (she’s also worked in retail), she says she was in this group.
“Eventually, I remember working at one of my retail jobs, cleaning shelves and thinking, ‘This is menial busywork, I could be doing this at home. My fiancé makes enough,’” she said. “And then that’s exactly what I did, because it makes me happy.”
“Making my husband breakfast is honestly more rewarding than any essay I’ve ever gotten an A on in undergraduate school,” she said.
As Drummond sees it, leaning into traditional gender roles could liberate employed women from the double (sometimes, triple) shift of unpaid work that awaits them at home every day.
“You’re likely to do chores anyway if your husband is a hard worker out-earning you with longer hours, so what are you putting your family on hold for? If it’s capitalist America, I can assure you, your boss would replace you tomorrow and your family would not,” said Drummond, who married her husband in February. “So choose wisely.”
That argument seems to have riled up Drummond’s critics the most: How, they ask, is it anti-capitalistic and liberating to have to choose between a boss or a husband for financial security?
“People thinking that being financially dependent on a man is anti-capitalist makes me scream,” one woman tweeted. “As if traditional gender roles of housewife & working husband haven’t gone hand in hand with capitalism for most of history.”
Aliya Hamid Rao, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics whose research focuses on work, gender and family, and author of the book “Crunch Time: How Married Couples Confront Unemployment,” agreed, but tried to offer a generous take on the video.
“The clip seems to recognize that women face enormous hurdles at work: lack of pay, lack of promotion, discrimination in getting hired even when objectively better than men,” she told HuffPost.
But for all that, she said, Drummond’s take is not anti-capitalistic: It simply shifts capitalist logic from paid work to unpaid work at home.
“I think to be anti-capitalist one would have to think a lot deeper about dismantling the current systems of how we organize literally everything in the U.S. and consider how we can have societies where people’s basic needs are met, where dignity is a starting point ― not something earned by being ‘deserving,’ whether that is through loving a husband or pleasing a boss,” she said.
Housework is work, other viewers of the video argued ― hard work, at that ― but it’s ultimately unpaid labor for which you relinquish your financial independence to stay at home.
Others on social media brought up an age-old question about marriages built around traditional gender roles: What happens if the husband in this scenario finds a new paralegal or dental assistant to date and marry?
“The funniest part of the discourse around this is watching people ignore what happens to housewives once the kids are grown,” Mikki Kendall, the author of “Hood Feminism: Notes on White Feminism” wrote on Twitter. “Statistics say this movie ends in divorce with minimal alimony & nothing he owned prior to marriage being community property so she has to start over.”
“Like choose whatever you want, but understand that these standards are from a time when lifelong alimony was the norm & that’s gone,” Kendall added. “And I won’t get into the domestic violence stats in financially imbalanced relationships. Even without worst case scenarios, illness happens.”
But Drummond scoffs at critics who wonder what might happen if her husband leaves her.
“I’m also an educated and ambitious woman. If my husband left me tomorrow, I would figure it out,” she said. “I don’t live in that fear; other women are afraid enough for me.”
Others critics of the video took aim at the larger tradwife (traditional wife) movement, which encourages women to embrace domesticity and submissiveness and a more retrograde, Betty Draper-esque idea of womanhood and femininity.
The idea is to submit to, serve and spoil your husband “like it’s 1959,” as Alena Petitt, a well-known author and lifestyle blogger who’s become the British face of the tradwife movement, told the BBC.
Drummond distances herself from the movement. For starters, she said, she’s far too vocal to be a part of it: “I am not a tradwife, in fact, most tradwives take issue with some of my political stances and personal behaviors.”
In spite of coming across fairly hard-line about her views on social media, Drummond told HuffPost she knows that her way of life isn’t for everyone.
“If a woman is a better wife and mother when she works, I think she should work,” she said. “If a woman is a worse wife and mother when she works, I think she should consider giving up that job and seeing if homemaking will bring her more fulfillment.”
Are women leaving the workforce to become traditional stay-at-home moms?
Even though there does seem to be an uptick in mentions of tradwife-ism on TikTok and Twitter ― whether joking references or serious ones ― the number of women walking away from careers doesn’t suggest any major shift, said Arielle Kuperberg, an associate professor of sociology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
When asked if women are increasingly drawn to the tradwife lifestyle given the precarious economic situation in the U.S., Kuperberg said the numbers from the U.S. census’s current population survey actually suggest the opposite.
“In fact, in 2020 and 2021, the most recent year we have data available, stay-at-home mom rates were at an all-time low for women and have been fairly stable since the 1990s, with only a small uptick from 2020,” she said.
“In 2021, only 16.6% of mothers of children under 18 were home taking care of home/family, vs. 16.4% in 2020, 18% in 2015, 17.3% in 2010, 18.6% in 2005, 16.8% in 2000, 18.8% in 1995, 23.5% in 1990, 27.8% in 1985,” she added.
Among women without children, staying-home rates are much lower, she said.
“Only 3.7% of childless women were home to ‘take care of home and family’ in 2021, also a rock bottom number which shows no uptick from prior years,” Kuperberg said.
Ultimately, families should be able to choose arrangements that work for them, she said, whether that’s one spouse at home or both working.
Given our current system, in which child care costs are through the roof, it may make sense for some couples to have a partner working in a lower-paying field to stay home. But Drummond’s perspective is clearly a privileged one; it’s increasingly difficult for a family to get by on a single income. The minimum wage set by the federal government ($7.25 per hour) is well below a living wage and hasn’t been adjusted for 13 years. Meanwhile, the cost of homes are increasing at a rate that wages aren’t keeping up with.
Kuperberg’s biggest criticism for the TikTok video is just how gendered it is: Why do only women “get” to be stay-at-home spouses or parents? According to Kuperberg’s most recent research, stay-at-home dads are still far more rare than stay-at-home mothers.
“What about having families in which women have the career and men stay at home and take care of home and children?” she proposed. “Increasingly women have more education than men, so for some families it may make sense for men to stay home with children.”
Also on HuffPost
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.