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Lauren Southern: how my tradlife turned toxic The online ideology doesn't work in the real world

(Lauren Southern / Instagram)


May 6, 2024   13 mins

Does promoting marriage and motherhood inevitably make women easy targets for subordinate status, increased vulnerability, and a return to second-class status? One of the very first columns I wrote at UnHerd, back in 2019, described how, for me, becoming a mum meant giving up on a great deal of the liberal ideology I’d embraced when younger — because it was impossible to square with the embodied reality of caring for a baby. A relatively conventional home life turned out to be much more fulfilling than the radical one I’d adopted with my progressive politics.

My accounts of questioning this individualistic ideology, and embracing marriage and motherhood have resonated with social conservatives. Most of these, it goes without saying, feel (as I do) that family life and women’s distinctive sexed realities should be better understood and valued in the public conversation. Some, though, take more hardline positions: that women should never work, for example, that we should always be submissive – or even that women’s right to vote should be repealed.

But surely any stance which risks lending momentum to such extreme arguments cannot be in women’s interests? I explored this question recently with the Canadian Right-wing firebrand Lauren Southern, whose early video content regularly challenged liberal feminist orthodoxy, and promoted domesticity. Our stories are symmetrical in some respects: both of us embraced radical politics in our early twenties, me on the Left and Southern on the Right. Both of us embraced ideologies that felt inspiring in the free-floating world of the internet. And both of us, albeit in different ways, have course-corrected back toward reality in part via the fiercely practical experience of caring for a child.

Southern’s story might easily serve as a cautionary tale for how socially conservative talking-points can lead women into danger. For where I lost my twenties to commune life and niche sexualities, she left media at 22 to embrace a socially conservative template for women: the lifestyle often idealised by social media influencers as “tradwife”. Except it wasn’t all Fifties pinafores and cute cupcakes; it was a living hell. Nor, as she has learned, was she the only conservative woman in this position.

Comparing our experiences, though, two things emerge. Firstly, that this is not simply a matter of the Right being uniquely toxic for women — though, as Southern’s story reveals, there’s plenty of scope for toxicity. It’s rather that purist ideologies as such map at best uneasily onto the practical realities of life as a woman – and especially as a mother. And secondly, that the simplifying, polarising incentives baked into the contemporary internet are increasingly warping the ideologies of both Left and Right into such extreme forms, that any sincere effort to apply these in real life will almost inevitably be the stuff of nightmares.

Southern was perhaps the most telegenic figure in the brash, young, and very online “alt-Right” movement which emerged in the 2010s, quickly gaining international notoriety for her views on mass immigration, Islam, racially-motivated farm murders in South Africa, and the supposed harms of liberal feminism — content that saw her accused by the radical Left-wing Southern Poverty Law Centre of racist dog-whistling, and even hovering “at the precipice of outright white nationalism”. Southern herself has always denied this but that hasn’t stopped her critics on the Left accusing her of “far Right” agitation.

Then, abruptly, she disappeared in 2019, to embrace marriage and motherhood in her husband’s home country of Australia. She was, it seemed, all set to embrace the nurturing, feminine, domestic role promoted by Right-wing traditionalists, idealised by “tradwife” influencers, and criticised by progressives as “dangerous and stupid”. Four years later, though, Southern caused a new round of shockwaves — this time with a video recounting what happened next: the breakdown of her abusive marriage, her return to Canada as a single mother, and a stint living hand-to-mouth in a cabin in the woods.

Southern has attracted vitriolic criticism from the Right, for speaking openly about how “tradlife” went wrong for her. She, however, sees speaking out not as betrayal of her own “side”, but as continuous with her earlier willingness to challenge progressive consensus on topics such as immigration. “I’m not worried about saying the things I’m saying right now, that are getting me so attacked online. Because I’ve dealt with this, with South Africa. I’ve dealt with this with mass immigration, I’ve dealt with this with my critiques of feminism. And every single one turned out: oh, maybe she was onto something.”

For, she tells me, she’s not alone. She tells me she knows many other women still suffering in unhappy “tradlife” marriages. One of her WhatsApp groups, she says, “is like the Underground Railroad for women in the conservative movement”. Some of these are prominent media figures: “There are a lot of influencers who are not in good relationships, who are still portraying happy marriage publicly, and bashing people for not being married while being in horrendous relationships.” She hopes that in speaking out she can reassure “all of these women who are thinking in their heads: I’m uniquely terrible, and I’m uniquely making a mistake” that no: something is more generally amiss.

What, then, is amiss? In her view, it’s not that conservatism as such is fundamentally mistaken, or that complementary sex roles are unworkable. But the online “tradlife” ideology has distilled a version of these roles that’s both rigid and wildly over-simplified, and thus woefully ill-equipped for real life – in ways that pose significant risks for women in such marriages.

How, then, did Southern get from posting videos titled “Why I Am Not A Feminist” to defending women’s sex-specific interests within family life? This is, after all, not a million miles from what used to be called “feminism”. It’s a long and bitter story, in which Southern did her best to live a purist internet ideology to the letter – only to receive a grim object lesson in its shortcomings.

Born in 1995, Southern grew up in British Columbia in a middle-class, conservative, Christian home. Southern was, she recounts, part of the first generation to grow up predominantly online. She and her sister (now a DJ and Twitch streamer) spent their adolescence in the kind of internet hinterlands where wild ideas flourish, free of grounding in material reality or practical experience.

Here, once-complex theories are swiftly distilled to their bare essentials, for maximum viral reach. As Southern puts it: “Follow the listicle, and you’ll be fine.” By the time she met her husband, she’d been condensing conservative values into “listicle” form as a media influencer for some years – to the point where it seemed possible to realise this framework in real life, too. So, when marriage beckoned, at 22, she tells me wryly: “I thought I’d won the lottery”. They were married within four months: arguably the equivalent, for the Right, of my Left-wing embrace of communes, anti-capitalist demos and niche sexual subcultures. She was quickly pregnant.

There were warning signs from early on. “If I ever disagreed with him in any capacity he’d just disappear, for days at a time. I remember there were nights where he’d call me worthless and pathetic, then get in this car and leave.” But she didn’t see them, thanks to the simplified anti-feminist ideology she’d absorbed and promoted: “I had this delusional view of relationships: that only women could be the ones that make or break them, and men can do no wrong.” So she didn’t spot the red flags, even as they grew more extreme. “He’d lock me out of the house. I remember having to knock on the neighbour’s door on rainy nights, because he’d get upset and drive off without unlocking the house. It was very strange, to go from being this public figure on stage with people clapping, to the girl crying, knocking on someone’s door with no home to get into, being abandoned with a baby.”

But as she tells it, the nightmare began in earnest when he was offered a work opportunity in his home country of Australia, a few weeks after the birth of their baby. She did not want to leave her support networks behind. But he used the political and religious importance she placed on lifelong marriage as a lever to force her to agree: “Whenever I wouldn’t do something, he would say: I’m going to divorce you.” So, feeling she had no other option, she assented.

He also insisted she should publicly quit work. His work required a high level of government security clearance; she was a Right-wing provocateur who had faced deplatforming, state investigations, and was even banned from entering the UK. In their early, giddy romance this had felt manageable. But “when we moved back to Australia, he really wanted to get back into his old work”. And Southern was a “hardcore liability”, so the pressure was on: “It was like: Lauren, you gotta hire lawyers. You’ve got to disavow everything. You’ve got to never talk publicly again.”

So, in 2019, she announced that she was leaving media and activism altogether. As Southern tells it, she was trying sincerely to put into practice the ideology she’d promoted in her videos. “I believed I had a certain role in my relationship,” she told me. “And it was to be the more submissive one that supports my husband’s dreams.”

“I was told daily that I was worthless, pathetic. Deadweight.”

Then, thousands of miles from friends and family, she reports becoming “the closest thing to a modern day, Western slave”.  With no income of her own, she had to do everything: “The lawns, the house, the cooking, the baby care, his university homework. And I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any support. There was no help changing diapers, there was no help waking up in the night with the baby. I’d still have to get up, to make breakfast before work. I’d be shaking and nervous, for fear I’m gonna get yelled at.” Then he’d berate her for spending all her time on tasks other than earning money: “I was told daily that I was worthless, pathetic. Deadweight. All you do is sit around and take care of the baby and do chores.” When Covid shut down all real-world public life, her situation became “hell on earth”. It was, she said, “the only time in my life where I idealised dying.”

Instead, between the lockdown claustrophobia and her husband’s behaviour, she began to revise her initial willingness to leave public life. In part, she told me, she hoped it would win back his love. “He was so much kinder, sweeter and more pursuant of me when I was this ‘boss babe’ travelling the world working. It seemed like becoming a mother made him lose respect for me. It was shocking to me, again, because the traditional view preached the opposite — that men love you more when you stop working and become a wife and mother.” In her experience, though, this was “very much not the case”. So, a year after retiring to embrace traditionalist domestic life on the Right-wing model, she posted her comeback video, and began making sporadic media appearances.

Never mind the pop-antifeminist ideal of a breadwinning husband and homemaking wife that Southern had once promoted — the freedoms (won by early feminists) for women to work and have interests outside the home turned out to be a lifeline. Those already inclined to dislike Southern’s politics might feel a certain vindictive satisfaction at this collision of ideology with reality. But arguably, in having taken so long to see the potential downsides of her own antifeminism, Southern simply shared the same blind spots as much of the mainstream Left and Right.

It is surely true that conservative advocacy for complementary sex roles sometimes ignores questions about women’s physical vulnerability, and the scope this affords for domestic abuse. Conversely, today many self-identified liberal feminists have also forgotten that the earliest women’s movement was grounded in the sex-specific material vulnerabilities Southern experienced first-hand. The magazine pop-feminism that I internalised in Nineties Britain seemed less concerned with such gritty realities than more nebulous goods such as “empowerment”, representation, and smashing stereotypes. By the time Southern made her first viral video denouncing feminism, this was still more pronounced — and joined by the even more disembodied ideology of gender identity. When the physical vulnerability inherent in becoming a mother gets downplayed across the political spectrum, for different reasons, perhaps it’s no wonder Southern only gradually came to grasp the practical value of some first-wave feminist victories.

But even though she was no longer a “deadweight” financially, her job failed to appease her husband. “He kept demanding I contribute more financially, but then would chew me out whenever I would work.” It didn’t seem to matter what she did: “He would just give me impossible tasks all day. Tasks that I simply could not finish. It felt like he would almost send me on errands with the intent of having me fail.”

All of this was, Southern tells me, difficult to square with her religious beliefs. She would pray by his bed when he was angry with her, hoping that if she gave him grace one more time he’d realise the depth of her love and be kinder. And if this didn’t work, she was encouraged to persist by the way online life had conditioned these beliefs into “listicle” form. But as she discovered, distilling religious traditionalism into viral bullet points does not provide an adequate framework for navigating the complexities of a real-world marriage. She thought, she told me, that “as long as I put on the high heels and the lipstick when my husband comes home, as long as I cook the best meal, as long as I’m always submissive, and say yes, sir, whatever you want, things will go fantastic.” And if it’s not fantastic? The listicle version of traditionalism would just say she should make more effort.

It was, she says, “an embarrassing wake up call, finding myself consistently applying these rules and instructions I found on Twitter, and then never getting the results they were supposed to get, in the real realm of relationships”.

It seems to me, I tell her, that condensing millennia of religious belief and real-world domestic praxis into viral memes has produced a Right-wing gender ideology every bit as over-simplified, dematerialised, and radically disconnected from the complexities of life as the disembodied Left-wing version. In turn, both Southern and other women I spoke to within her wider “underground railroad” of ex-trad women think that, perhaps like its Left-wing analogue, the extremely online nature of this gender ideology attracts a higher than usual proportion of individuals with existing psychological issues.

Ellen (not her real name), 35, is another previously married erstwhile “trad” who is now in Southern’s network. She describes how the men who self-select into these communities are often “wayward, antisocial, disagreeable and very, very misogynistic”, frequently themselves from broken homes and with limited real-world social support. And when their relationships go wrong, as they often do, the very online “trad” gender ideology has no remedy. “If there’s a problem due to the fact that he’s crazy, violent, or hateful,” Ellen says, “that’s just how it’s supposed to be. So there’s nothing really done to fix it.”

Southern is careful to emphasise that she knows many traditionalists in happy, loving, complementary marriages. But, she says, it’s a fallen world, and her community includes many women whose husbands seem to have been drawn to listicle-style gender ideology precisely because of the power it offers over women. “Those guys want someone they feel they can definitely control, who’s never going to leave them, who they can do anything to.”

In the end, it wasn’t Southern who broke the spell, but her husband. Around the time her son was toddling, two family deaths prompted her to arrange a visit home to Canada. Her husband threatened to divorce her if she went, and Southern tells me she had to sign an affidavit promising to return. Finally he relented — only to text after she landed in Canada, declaring that because she’d chosen to travel, the marriage was over.

She moved in with her parents, then into the kind of affordable accommodation available to those on the breadline, in Canada’s brutally expensive housing market: a cheap cabin surrounded by woodland and trailers. Even then she still hoped her marriage could be saved: “I still wanted to make it work. I was texting my husband and calling him, begging to get back together. But he just said ‘No. I don’t even want shared custody.’” The cabin, she said, had an ant infestation; everyone used her washing machine because it was the only one. But, she says, it was unexpectedly healing, and filled with a genuine sense of community.

Still, it was a confusing time for her. “My brain was breaking between two worlds,” she says, “because I couldn’t let go of the ideology.” I was at a similar age when I fell away from the radical Left, and the sense of disorientation she describes is familiar. But where I was free to grapple in private with my cognitive dissonance, Southern had built an international profile promoting this worldview. “I had been banned from countries over this ideology,” she says. “I had destroyed my reputation internationally for this. How am I going let go of this?”

And yet, every manosphere talking point had turned out not to match her experience. It wasn’t true that only women mess up relationships. Being submissive didn’t fix everything. Yes, women mostly initiate divorce — but as she discovered, this can happen because a man wishes to avoid incurring child support liabilities. When she described her redpill-conditioned expectations of divorce to her lawyer, the woman laughed at how mistaken she was.

More than anything, though, what shattered the listicle mindset was simply realising how much nicer life could be, when you live the life that’s in front of you rather than trying to follow rigid precepts. Despite not being “the Right-wing ideal of aristocracy and everyone going to Mass”, she realised she was infinitely happier there in that woodland, among her working-class neighbours, than she ever had been in her marriage. “Every single thing I was experiencing in my real realm, not online realm, was the complete opposite of what I was being told.”

When she first announced her marriage, she says, she’d been lauded by friends and fans; then, when she announced the separation she was inundated with messages lamenting how her life was ruined. But in both cases the exact opposite was true: “Post-divorce, after becoming a single mother, my mental health started to improve. I started to repair all these really important friendships. And I’m living a much happier, much healthier life than I was before….Some of the most miserable people I’ve met – in fact, absolutely the most miserable people I’ve met – have been stuck in this weird, larpy trad dynamic.” The happiest people she knows, on the other hand, “are just living in reality”.

In Southern’s view, the increasingly visible gulf between Right-wing gender ideology and “living in reality” has an analogue in the memes and talking-points of the broader e-Right — a phenomenon that, once again, is mirrored on the other side of the aisle. Here, viral and overly simplistic ideas replicate with seemingly very little reference to reality, human nature, or the world as it actually is. For example, she describes the “Repeal the 19th” meme, which calls for ending women’s right to vote, as “the Right-wing version of Defund the Police”.

Southern thinks the internet’s baked-in incentives encourage this drift toward ever more caricatured viral politics. For example, she tells me that where earlier generations of “red-pill” content merely focused on exploiting women sexually, it “has become just teaching men to hate women” – simply because this is a simpler, cheaper, and more viral message and therefore easier to sell.

Someone less online than Southern might reply: yes, but surely the error was disappearing into online ideological rabbit holes in the first place, and confusing memes for life principles. This is true; but so much of social life now happens online, including for children, that Southern is far from the only individual to have reached adulthood with a set of templates for life gleaned more from memes than real-world adult guidance. Nor is this a problem for just one side of the political aisle.

Against an online world with entropic, culture-dissolving effects at this scale, then, what hope is there for any of us? A pessimist might say the future looks bleak for interpersonal relationships, indeed for our public life tout court. But I think Southern’s story offers cause for optimism. It suggests that maybe, just maybe, our current crop of internet-generated political derangements will turn out to be a temporary symptom, driven by generations who grew up without the internet and hence without much psychological defence against its many pathologies. By contrast, the first generation to grow up online is now approaching middle age. A great many besides Lauren Southern have road-tested ideologies they developed in virtual space and are finding them inadequate to the real world’s complexities.

I doubt online “gender” arguments will abate any time soon. The tussle between men and women is a culture war as old as humanity itself: men and women always need to find a way to live together, which means negotiating those ways our material interests and physical capacities align or exist in tension. With the wider world in flux, it’s hardly surprising to find ourselves here again; the challenge is finding solutions that are grounded in reality rather than abstract, purist ideologies.

But the internet’s first generation of natives may be the ones who bring us back down to earth. Even the erstwhile queen bee of the extremely online radical Right is now a convert to “living in reality”. So perhaps there’s hope that the rest of us — and our politics — will also find our way back there, in the end.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Jay
Jay
11 days ago

The argument that, ‘both right and left is toxic for women’, what exactly does that mean practically speaking?
So, the extreme right turns women in to subordinate housemaids who aren’t allowed to work. What exactly is the extreme left counterpart? Women having abortions every weekend? Having a man take paternity leave so women can also get back into the workforce? Sharing child rearing duties 50-50?

Chris J
Chris J
14 days ago

Why am I surprised that the comments pretty much blame Lauren Southern.
“Don’t marry an arsehole”. Women don’t have telepathy.
And “he must have been depressed.” Really!
It was classic coercive control. Be kind, loving etc, propose quickly because its hard to maintain a personality that you don’t have, swiftly pregnant to close the trap, then bully, demean etc., to destroy the persons confidence, sense of self and ability to make any decision that contradicts the demands of the abuser.
This women was lucky to get away. In this type of relationship trying to leave often leads to being murdered.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
17 days ago

It seems to me that husband and wife should be equal partners in a family meaning they listen to each other and try to figure out the difficulties they face as a team. There are different roles for mothers and fathers with regards children during pregnancy and, I reckon, early childhood but after that…
I saw old interview with Christopher Hitchens soon after he had become a father. He said that he didn’t want his wife to work; of course, she could if she wanted it but he didn’t want her to have to work.
It chimed very much with me because of women’s remarkable ability to give birth and all the things they go through, throughout their lives, to make this possible. As a father my duty is totally to support my wife to do the things she wants which in my case is easy because she’s so lovely.
Men and women must work together to help each become content. There is no one answer, for every couple it’s different and that’s where being equal partners matters.

J Dunne
J Dunne
16 days ago

This is the thing, philosophies and listicles are not the things that make a marriage work. What makes it work is the two people being compatible and loving each other.

My MRA leanings have never had any impact on my marriage, simply because I adore my wife and will always do what’s best for her.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
14 days ago

Thank you for this comment. It reminded me that there can be normal happy marriages of two people who respect and love each other and who are neither ‘trad’ or ‘progressive’ but who work within the bounds of their differences and complementarities.

Andrew R
Andrew R
17 days ago

The world is a cruel unforgiving place, we impose ideology on it to make it better while paradoxically making it worse.

Ideology comes from both the Left and the Right, what they have in common is the ability to attract the wrong people: the narcissist, the needy, the neurotic. Ideology corrupts itself and when it fails (and it will, reality always wins) simply keep on doubling down.

The arrival of the internet has only made matters more fraught with the immediacy of it, the feedback loop algorithms and the lack of nuance. No evidence is required only emotion and opinion.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
16 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Fantasy and naïveté are important properties to enable the development of the childhood brain. They are tempered by gradual pragmatism during the sometimes difficult maturation of the adolescent brain into a ‘common sense’ adult.
Cults and algorithmic echo-chambers (and religions?) suspend this process for nefarious purposes: our problem is that ‘childhood’ is being extended far into adulthood and solutions are obvious but formidable.

Leejon 0
Leejon 0
16 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

The wisest comment I have read so far.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
17 days ago

It’s really hard for me to draw any conclusion from that story other than “don’t marry an asshole”. And – incidentally – I’ve heard the same kind of story while knowing the participants where the politics were more or less flipped. Assholes will use whatever tools they can grab at hand to bully and manipulate their hapless partners. Often this is some variant of their victim’s operating ideology, whatever that may be.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
16 days ago

“Don’t marry an asshole” was my overriding conclusion, almost from the first line.

This is a case study where n=1.

As Mary points out, dysfunctional, broken men tend to espouse this philosophy because it produces women they can control, manipulate and use to make them feel better about themselves, which ultimately leads to them losing respect for the woman.

Perhaps a useful lesson from this story is that taking any philosophy to its extreme is unwise; and that both approaches described in this article may have bits worth considering.

But “don’t marry an asshole” remains the single most important rule!

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
16 days ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

broken men tend to espouse this philosophy

Doesn’t the article say that he asked her explicitly to stop the whole tradwife influencer thing, because he feared it would interfere with his security clearance? That sounds like the polar opposite of espousing a philosophy.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
16 days ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

No, it doesn’t say that at all.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
14 days ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

I believe he asked her to stop making a living and being public about being a tradwife, not actually stop being one, but then berates her when she has no income.

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
14 days ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

No, it wasn’t the tradwife schtick that threatened his security clearance. It was her association with the European young new right and figures such as Tommy Robinson. She wasn’t a stock tradwife influencer, she was a figure of the new right and produced several political documentaries that were top notch.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 days ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

Roddy, although we have no option but to assess our would be partners attributes it’s naive to say that we can immediately ascertain their character. On a basic level we know that people all the time have taken in by conmen. We have masses of evidence that people can be extremely charming when they are pursuing a relationship, and then change radically, over a period of time to become much more unpleasant and bullying, once they’ve accomplished their task.

William Shaw
William Shaw
16 days ago

I’m not sure Lauren Southern’s terrible experience teaches us anything about the trad lifestyle.
Apparently, she married a controlling monster. I’m sure there are other men just like him but I wouldn’t assume every man with traditional views would be similarly bad.
Southern’s beliefs obviously contributed to her awful plight but Harrington makes more of this than is reasonable.

Sam Barkes
Sam Barkes
16 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

In his defence we never heard his side of the story. The marriage crippled the guy’s career, -a source of most men’s self esteem and that along with Australian super lockdown sent him into a depression. It’s just a tragedy.

Claire D
Claire D
15 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I agree with you.
There’s another uncomfortabe truth not discussed in this tale: Love/Lust can blind men and women, particularly young ones.
One of the reasons so-called patriarchal societies were more or less universal until recently, was to ensure young fertile women could not be seduced by inappropriare men, just because their hormones cried “Yes! Yes! Yes!”.
An arranged marriage can of course turn out to be as bad as a lust blinded one, but overall, when arranged with the best interests of both parties in mind, the intention at least was good.
So perhaps, it could be said this young lady’s escapade was simply not traditional enough.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 days ago
Reply to  Claire D

A strange conclusion to draw from this article because we have no idea that lust was the main drivers of it. In traditional relationships it was most often NOT the case, and of course in most societies it still isn’t

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Women having absolutely no “political” power within a relationship leaves them open to abuse in some cases. This was the traditional norm – women had no property within marriage and they were essentially in fact the property themselves of their husbands. They could not be hil to be raped. Etc..

Nobody should want to return to this state of affairs in my opinion. I don’t think however anybody said that every man conservative views would behave in this way

Umm Spike
Umm Spike
16 days ago

I would argue that Harrington’s thesis is more that today’s extremist ideologies on both sides of the political spectrum make women more vulnerable to assholes. The internet era is handing them more tools.

El Uro
El Uro
16 days ago
Reply to  Umm Spike

Harrington’s main mistake is that she associates the “asshole” with ideology.
“Asshole” is orthogonal to ideology.
.
Sorry, Mary, you’re wrong!

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
16 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

‘“Asshole” is orthogonal to ideology.’
Does that mean the ideology goes in at right angles?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

No, she is right! Yes assholes can exist in any society or political disposition. However the point is that women have far fewer remedies in a traditional marriage – marriage laws before the 19th century explicitly gave women almost no rights.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
16 days ago

Mary seems preoccupied with the sexist idea that this only happens to women ?
Are there not plenty of male duffers with trad husband sub stacks !

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
16 days ago

There is no silver bullet, but you can increase your odds of better results.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
16 days ago

Good advice – and hold true for either sex.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
16 days ago

‘Don’t marry an arsehole’
Is that retrospective advice for Southern, or her ex-husband?
If there’s anything at all we know about lightweight opportunists like Southern, it’s that they are primarily driven by narcissism, solipsism and a rapacious need for attention. I grant her current self-flattering narrative of why her marriage failed about as much intellectual credibility and interest as I extend her historical views on Allah’s sexuality or the contemporary daily-refreshed gallery of look-at-me Influencer sexypix she’s curating once again on Insta. (Love the cutesy ‘Look I’m a responsible mummy narcissist now!’ blotting out of your brat’s face, Lauren!)
Why do even smart people like Harrington waste their space and our time on these transparent attention-grifters?

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
14 days ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

So, Jack, you’re either fond of talking about things and people you know nothing about or, if you do know anything about her, your interpretation shows you are the kind of demeaning arse women should steer clear of.

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
14 days ago

Why ‘either/or’, Liz? As well as being universally handsome, charismatic, hyper-intelligent and absolutely smashing between the sheets, we Australian men are excellent multi-taskers.
One can, presumably, form legitimate views of another from their public utterings and activities alone. On that basis, mine of her is that like so many similar ‘libertarian’ professional motormouths spat out by the post-Tea Party US and Canada, Lauren Southern is a lightweight faux-conservative imposter whose true ismic allegiance is to her own over-blown sense of intellectual importance.
Don’t be a useful idiot for tyre-kicking grifters on the basis of a few push-button anti-lefty cliches, Liz. Jordan Peterson she ain’t, if that’s the way your partisan bunting flutters. Nor even Tomi Lahren!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 days ago

I would say that if that was the only message you brought from this story that you must be almost willfully blind. In fact Mary Harrington did made the point that trying to adhere to simplistic left wing ideological views can leave to becoming in coercive and dysfunctional societal traps albeit different ones.

John Murray
John Murray
17 days ago

Surprisingly optimistic finish to this article, which was welcome since the contents were rather depressing.
I don’t think I ever watched any of Lauren Southern’s old content beyond a film she did where she showed herself getting herself registered as transgender, and then walking out of a pharmacy with her testosterone pills, virtually no questions asked. It was my first inkling that Canada seemed to have gone off the rails.
I’m glad she’s out of her horrendous-sounding marriage. Hopefully she can go back to making successful content and she and her kid will have a happier life.

David Morley
David Morley
16 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

She was fun and entertaining, with absolutely nothing about her of the potential victim. Looking back it was the heyday of non-stuffy-old-fart conservatism, even if it was a bit simplistic. Strong on effective critique- weak on alternative vision for the future. Better seen as gadflies than visionaries. Milo Y was of the same ilk.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Only one word …Naïveté … we all had it and most got over it

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
17 days ago

The main takeaway isn’t so much the individual circumstances that MH uses as the baseline for her essay, but the points she draws about the impact of the internet on the life experiences of first-generation Internet natives.

Not one of us can, or should, be moralising or offering trite advice. Save it. The lessons speak for themselves and these are being brought out by the most thoughtful females of their generation.

What seems obvious in retrospect is the way in which the internet stokes idealism – a lesson that’s far more valuable across many spheres, not just ‘romantic’ relationships.

How and when those lessons are learnt is vital to all our futures.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
17 days ago

Well written, compelling essay.

Bored Writer
Bored Writer
16 days ago

Who in their right mind enters into a legally certified lifetime relationship with a man or woman after four months? And then stays in it when he or she shows clear and early signs of being a manipulative lunatic? Throw as many “victim blaming” spears as you like, but this lady is not the fastest ant on the hill.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
16 days ago

*Marrying a cruel jackass after meeting and becoming pregnant by him in four months is not in anyone’s listicle of how to have a happy life.

Petra Bueskens
Petra Bueskens
7 days ago

Thanks for the interesting article Mary. I wrote an article about Lauren Southern many moons ago when she graced our Southern shores in 2018. Not yet a Tradwife, but enthusiastically extolling the virtues of conservative gender roles, I noted the parallels with The Handmaids Tale’s ‘Serena Joy’. To use one’s public platform to bash the very feminism that allowed one to have a platform (while negating the valence of said platform) is replete with absurdity, naïveté and hypocrisy. It’s a strategy that only works on the upward trajectory (and often only for elites).
I don’t think the Tradwife phenomenon is reducible to falling for (or creating) memes — aka ‘listicles’. Southern’s situation is the inevitable consequence of believing a lie that handing over power as a woman is, without qualification, a social or individual good. The feminists who fought for the Married Women’s Property Acts in the 19thC were liberal feminists for good reason: they were fighting for women’s *individual rights*. Precisely because of this fight, and those that followed (suffrage, access to paid work, alimony), Southern was able to leave (even if only to visit her family) and set up a new life as a single mother. She was not destitute and can now begin to forge a new life for herself. This is why we need feminism — or women’s rights fought for by feminists — and why those promulgating rejecting it in favour of dependence should be careful.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
17 days ago

Although I often find myself at odds with many of her ideas, I still seem to enjoy reading some of Mary’s writing. Based on this piece, I suspect her willingness to evolve and learn might be what draws me in, even when I don’t agree with her current position in that journey. 
Personally, I never had to directly experience either extreme – be it a commune life with niche sexualities or a strictly traditional marriage – to figure out they weren’t for me. But I understand that some need to live through these things to grasp that such extremes tend not to be sustainable in real life – and, of course, I’ve made my share of completely different missteps, as we all have. 
Even though I didn’t need to make these specific kinds of mistakes myself to see they’d be mistakes for me, I still find it interesting to read how other people figure things out. And since I doubt we will ever collectively stop making mistakes, I really appreciate those who are willing to admit theirs, so others might avoid making the same ones.

George K
George K
17 days ago

That “learn and evolve” is a bit condescending, isn’t it?

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
17 days ago
Reply to  George K

Not at all but maybe Mustard might have added “in public”

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
17 days ago
Reply to  George K

And so is ‘Personally, I never had to….’

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
16 days ago

But “…I still seem to enjoy reading some of Mary’s writing…’  takes it to the next level. That’s some world-class subtle disdaining going on there.
Mary’s no slouch either, though.

George K
George K
17 days ago

What makes ideologies different from traditions is being one-dimensional extract of a broad ecology of traditional values and institutes. So for instance in this case Lauren maybe wasn’t entirely wrong going tradwife but the trad-ecosystem was missing in this equation, so the vetting by elders, shared community, land connection, common religious practice seemed to be missing in this situation. It’s not like traditional communities are lacking assholes but he would’ve been disciplined into a tolerable level of assholeness. Sort of Italian mafia style but it could be liveable at least.

Frances An
Frances An
16 days ago
Reply to  George K

Good points, George. I agree. 🙂

Obadiah B Long
Obadiah B Long
15 days ago
Reply to  George K

Great observation. Feminism and progressivism as implemented in the USA, UK, and Australia altered our workforce dynamics, our communities, the economy, our education system, politics, and our expectations.
Whether for better or worse remains to be seen.
But if one decides now to swim against all that, it’s likely to be upstream against powerful currents.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
15 days ago
Reply to  George K

Yes – people forget how traditional communities self police. My favourite anecdote was from a researcher who studied psychopaths. He asked an elderly indigenous person from Canada’s far north how they dealt with these types of individuals. He said if they had someone who was bothering women, always in trouble with the elders, eventually someone would push him off an ice floe when no one else was looking.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
14 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

How many different kinds of “psychopath” qualify for pushing off an ice floe?

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

It seemed odd at the time that LS would embrace the trad wife thing. It just didn’t seem to fit her personality. And it was remarkable when she quit her online presence. She didn’t seem to be the kind of person who would buy into a silly fairy tale view of real life.

Obviously there is a whole question to be addressed around people having families which function while both women and men have fulfilling and interesting lives. But the answer isn’t turning the clock back to some imagined past of domestic paradise.

Really good to see her back online.

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

Poor Lauren, why on earth would an attractive, capable, entertaining likeable and, yes, independent woman marry such an obviously dysfunctional and ridiculous oaf? It’s hard to tell exactly what his problem was, but clearly he had one. She should have run a mile. She doesn’t strike me as the kind of woman who would struggle to find a good man.

Arthur King
Arthur King
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Some women dismiss the qualities that make a good husband in favor of what they think is strength. Or they find the aggression in the early relationship sexually exciting. These can dismiss regular men as boring.

Dr E C
Dr E C
16 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

And some women find men whose lack of strength they’ve successfully learned to mask as being sweet & charming, only to find that, once trapped in a relationship / marriage with a child, said man, who never secretly stopped resenting his own brokenness, doesn’t have to mask anymore. Ie some people change over the course of a relationship!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
16 days ago

One problem with trying to transplant traditional roles into today’s world is that it isn’t the same world as the one in which those roles existed. Pre-industrial era, the home and family was also the workplace and business, whether it was the family farm, shop, trade or so on. The family was the base unit and worked together in the trade or business. The suffragette movement was spurred by the Industrial Revolution, when suddenly men went away to factories and other industrial workplaces, and the family and home suddenly was able to be relegated to the private realm, which became the “women’s place” and out of sight. The suffragettes saw that men were not voting as members of a family now, so they realised they needed the vote as well to be represented. There have of course always been trades where men left, like sailors and soldiers, but this is different yet again.

Look at Shakespeare. Not a perfect example, but you can see the women in his plays work alongside their men, in different but still valued roles as members of the family.

Different worlds need different ways of doing things. The essential values can be the same or similar, but how they are expressed necessarily are different.

Daniel P
Daniel P
16 days ago

I think this is just a byproduct of a culture that can no longer handle complexity or nuance and that rewards extremes.

Life is messy. It always has been and it always will be.

Reality has a way of creeping in.

Point of Information
Point of Information
14 days ago

“the freedoms (won by early feminists) for women to work and have interests outside the home”

Apologies that I have posted this many times before on UnHerd, but women HAVE worked for most of history, whether as peasants or prostitites, miners (banned in the UK the same time as children), mill and factory workers, weavers, brewers (“of small ale”), washerwomen, dairy maids, domestic servants, cleaners, nurses, and in the middle classes as teachers, farmers and housekeepers.

As for outside interests, this is a fairly modern phenomenon for (non-rich) men too, outside religious obligations. Pre-modern wealthy/middle class women did attend theatres and concerts, learn music and art and were sometimes literate. From the early industrial revolution onward, ordinary women joined (women’s) political groups, choirs and enjoyed popular entertainments (the latter had been open for women to attend in the form of Mystery Plays since the middle ages, but light entertainment really took off after with towns and wages).

As for “she had to do everything: “The lawns, the house, the cooking, the baby care, his university homework”, with the exception of homework, and “lawns” plural, this is what all those women in history WITH JOBS had to do as well.

Southern clearly married an ar**hole (for his controlling and obnoxious behaviour) but the tasks in hand are in fact less onerous than those of an actual traditional wife, because – shock horror – working class wives traditionally worked.

I also notice that dispatching the rabbits and chickens for food when required, along with skinning or plucking them, doesn’t feature on this list, as it would have for many of her female ancestors. So far, so modern.

R Wright
R Wright
17 days ago

Stay away from despicable, abusive people. There is no need to overthink it or map it onto politics in this way. Normally Mary’s essays are concise and pithy but this one seems triumphalist in its tone, as if Southern’s ideological conversion is a ‘victory’ and not just the typical result of a toxic marriage.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
17 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

The point is that despite him obviously being an abusive w@nker, her ideological beliefs blinded her to the fact that she should have just left him, and that his actions weren’t simply a result of her not being a good enough wife. It’s only after she escaped that life and started mingling with others who had a variety of views and experiences that she realised her previous beliefs were simply too rigid to deal with the messiness of human nature

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Bang on comment. And widely applicable.

Ideology blinds you to the facts and to real lived experience (as opposed to ideologically framed “lived experience”). As such it doesn’t just lead individuals astray, it holds back society in getting to grips with real things that matter in a way that might really work.

Danny D
Danny D
16 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

> this one seems triumphalist in its tone

That’s not how I read it at all. It’s a very balanced article with a very reasonable conclusion.

Thomas Donald
Thomas Donald
17 days ago

Very grateful for Harrington’s brain and writings.

N Forster
N Forster
17 days ago

“They were married within four months… She was already pregnant.”
Marry in haste, repent at lesure.
Not traditional enough it might seem.

Helen Creighton
Helen Creighton
16 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Completely normal back in old days. Endless marriages only took place because the man knocked up the woman. It was often called a shotgun marriage. Traditional isn’t quite what you think it is. Listening to my now ling dead relatives born in the early 1900s, traditional working class marriages were often traditionally miserable, with plenty of traditional violence that nobody did anything about, plenty of abandonment, plenty of alcoholism (man down the pub all evening, coming back drunk to force sex and /or beatings on the wife depending on mood and whim)and plenty of not getting divorced even when he best the tar out of you and the kids and left you all penniless, because it was both very difficult to obtain and very, very socially stigmatised.

Su Mac
Su Mac
16 days ago

Yep, haha. Which variety of “traditional” do you think you are getting? Need to read more IMHO

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
16 days ago

We have the exact opposite situation today. The vast majority of married men are stuck in sexless relationships with an overweight grouch. Divorced men have suicide rates rivalling transsexuals. And single men wonder if their next Tinder match (assuming any woman at all swipes right) will accuse them of assault or misconduct.
Southern is young and attractive enough to have her pick of men. Like many young, attractive women, she found kindly, deferential, polite men unattractive, and preferred Bluto to Popeye.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
15 days ago

Take off the rose tinted spectacles .and drop the irony! I am sure your now ex wife was no overweight grouch. That maybe self reflection and not the way to attract another mate. The suicide rate of transsexuals is minimal therefore you need another comparator. Maybe you need to get some counselling to get over the poor mes and you will then be able to put relationships into perspective?

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
15 days ago

Not just in the early 1900s. Same in 70s, 80s and 90s. Get married, get pregnant, wife stays home, man tries to find work and fails, drinks all his benefits, goes home , kicks his wife about, goes to sleep. Repeat. Happened in schemes throughout the country qnd plays were wriiten about it. Happened in posher houses but nobody spoke about that!
There is nothing new under the sun. Men abuse women for not being whatever the flavour of the day is. Women take it unrtil the day they dont or the day they die.

N Forster
N Forster
14 days ago

I’m quite familiar with the past thanks.

R E P
R E P
17 days ago

She simply got a bad husband! Life is hard and there are no simple fixes. I recall she was banned from entering the UK for her opposition to open borders. So I am sure she’ll never be allowed back.

Sandy Henderson
Sandy Henderson
17 days ago

I am always a bit suspicious of attention-seeking people who frame their own past free choices within a narrative that, coincidentally, serves to garner them more attention. (But I guess that’s just because my own history of being human-trafficked into the tunnels of Gaza by predatory Youtubers and forced into gender reassignment makes me untrusting of those who shill their own lives for money on social media, as I say in my new video…).

Bored Writer
Bored Writer
16 days ago

Very good

AC Harper
AC Harper
17 days ago

It’s rather that purist ideologies as such map at best uneasily onto the practical realities of life as a woman…

The leftish feminist map is not the terrain. The rightish feminist map is not the terrain. The ‘tradwife’ map is not the terrain. Repeat for endless ‘-isms’ and ‘ -ologies’.
I suspect that many people later in life realise that ‘maps’ are simplifications and choose to navigate by surroundings instead.

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

Obviously the main blame in situations like Lauren’s goes to the man who so messed up their marriage.

But do women bear some of the responsibility by believing in fairy tales. Lauren’s was the fairy tale of submissive domesticity. Believing in it led her astray. But it’s not the only one. This stuff belongs in chick lit, in fantasy escapism. It’s no more real than the fantasy land of porn.

Real life is a mixed bag in which happiness comes and goes, and relationships have to be worked on, in which you really have to care for others, and not just for yourself. In which you get some of what you want, but not all of it, and you learn to understand that that’s good. Not perfect, but good. And you learn to accept that other people’s lives are like this too, in spite of the instagram veneer.

S A
S A
16 days ago

Traditionally you would marry if not the boy/girl next door at least one from your home town. Someone from the other side of the world you are infatuated with but have little knowledge of their real character outside your initial and immediate relationship seems a vey modern approach.

edmond van ammers
edmond van ammers
16 days ago

Love is blind, marriage is the spectacles.
This article says nothing about gender roles, only that she doesn’t know how to identify assholes until too late.

H H
H H
16 days ago

If the problem were simply that women do not know how to identify assholes one might be far more optimistic about a solution. If, on the other hand, women are able to identify assholes and a significant number of us are in fact attracted to them, which is far more likely to be the case, then we have a far more insoluble problem. Clearly being an asshole is adaptive. Otherwise there would be no more assholes. They would be extinct. The nice guys would have outbred them.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
16 days ago
Reply to  H H

Spot on … like it or not, evolutionary biology has all the answers.

David Morley
David Morley
16 days ago
Reply to  H H

I can understand women falling for the romantic bad boy figure. The movies are full of them. Live fast, die young. Brando/ James Dean types. They stand out positively in many regards in comparison to boring, workaday, do what my boss and wife tells me, anodyne men. It’s maybe not a good choice, they maybe aren’t very reliable, but it’s understandable.

But in reality this isn’t what you see very often. It’s women falling for completely useless, selfish jerks with nothing special about them at all. They have no aura, no charisma, they are just sub ordinary. Men do it too sometimes if the woman has the looks. But why oh why does anybody fall for people whose only distinguishing mark is a bunch of obvious red flags.

Leejon 0
Leejon 0
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Perhaps the ‘dying young’ is key, we all romanticise excitement, but comfort and contentment is what we really want in life, fast living can be very tiresome.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
16 days ago

purist ideologies map at best uneasily onto the practical realities of life

… something that university educated intellectuals have to learn the hard way but that everybody else instinctively understands.

William Shaw
William Shaw
16 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Probably the most insightful comment on this page.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
16 days ago

Is UnHerd a serious magazine or is this just a gossip column for bitchy comments about someone else’s failed marriage? Harrington scrapes a story out of this – billed as an ‘interview’ – by glossing over details and forcing Lauren’s life into the same kind of ‘listicle’ as she mocks Lauren for running through. I had understood that the Australian government put severe requirements on her in order to get a visa rather than that her husband just insisted she give up her work. By ‘trad wife’ this just seems to mean ‘getting married and having a baby’. She was just unlucky enough to marry an arsehole, and to be thousands of miles from home with no family or friends. Precisely the same thing happened to me. It’s known as ‘bad luck’. Precisely the same thing happened in that people told me, in hindsight, ‘that I should have known’. Is trying to stay in a marriage where you have a child simply being ‘blind to ideology’? Honestly I just paid £50 to join UnHerd and I wish I had not bothered. I’ll just read Hello Magazine in future, at least they are not bitchy to the people they write about.

Bored Writer
Bored Writer
16 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I’m not that interested but I wouldn’t equate the term “trad wife” as simply meaning “getting married and having a baby”. Hippies do that. And in what way was she “unlucky” in marrying an arsehole? I know quite a lot of airheads of both sexes (if one can say that nowadays) who have had a very considerable amount of “bad luck” in their personal lives. Is that the sort you mean?
Enjoy “Hello”.

nadnadnerb
nadnadnerb
16 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Thoughtful comment. Please stick around.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
16 days ago

Sounds like she chose a complete d**k to have a baby with.
I started my career when I was forty and never regretted being at home until my youngest was fourteen.
My husband was incredibly supportive and valued a safe base to come back too as much as the children when he had a hard day.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
14 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Exactly. This article gives the word ‘traditional’ a bad name. I define ‘traditional’ as marriage between a man and a woman, who get to know, love and respect each other before they marry (and keep the sex for afterwards); and where, with mutual agreement, they both have fairly defined roles: the man as breadwinner and the wife creating the home and being mainly a mother.

Danny D
Danny D
16 days ago

Thank you for the interesting article. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of the extremes. The internet (including traditional media fighting for clicks) and social media and the mass delusions they produce have just become such a destructive force for society.

Many people are worried that AI, bots and deepfakes will destroy social media. I, on the other hand, welcome exactly that. That the internet will get so flooded with trash and untruth, that people will stop taking it seriously and move back to talking to real people and interacting with their real world surroundings for their “content.”

> It suggests that maybe, just maybe, our current crop of internet-generated political derangements will turn out to be a temporary symptom, driven by generations who grew up without the internet and hence without much psychological defence against its many pathologies.

I’ve thought about that before, how millenials were the generation that lived through the transition from offline to online with naive enthusiasm. But looking at younger generations I feel like the opposite of what the author thinks is taking place. I pray I’ll be proven wrong.

Grumpy Hedgehog
Grumpy Hedgehog
16 days ago

I don’t always agree with Mary Harrington but this piece is exactly the kind of sensible and empathetic analysis that’s needed here. This isn’t really a story about ideology, it’s a story about naivety.
The near-deification of commentators and professional opinionists on an internet funded by ad views and clicks means that the juvenile views of young people – that once would have gone no further than a student debate hall or the local pub – are not only taken seriously, but prop up entire movements.
Young people also have no real community to bounce ideas off and smooth out the edges. Internet echo chambers masquerade as community, but are basically a hall of mirrors.
I really sympathise, because until a few years ago I was practically a blue-haired lefty stereotype myself. Now I’m almost completely the opposite. Nothing dramatic happened, I just grew up. I feel truly sorry for those who don’t get to do that in private.

Bored Writer
Bored Writer
16 days ago

I’ve been mugged by reality too.

Jane Hewland
Jane Hewland
16 days ago

It is time to stop thinking in terms of men vs women or any “ideologies” and start remembering the one guidance system that has been around for two thousand years. Is any of this nonsense in the Gospels? If it isn’t, then why make it your belief system? The difference is not between men and women but between virtuous and vicious individuals of either sex. In other words was someone already said “don’t marry an arsehole”

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
16 days ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

This. It should also be remembered that jerks come in all genders, colors, sexualities, and religious or political beliefs.
There are Muslim women that are abusive jerks. There are gay white guys, black nationalists, white Christian extremists, and transquestioning vegan street mimes of colour who are all equally capable of being abusive jerks to those they claim to love.
They are all, also, equally capable of being kind, loving, supportive, hard working, responsible, and virtuous.
I personally tend towards center-right libertarianism, perhaps as a consequence of spending some years on a degree in political science and economics.
At the same time, I have dear friends who are labor Democrats, or “trad” Christians, or straight up Marxists.
I think some of their ideas deeply flawed, some of their understandings of history simplistic or incorrect, and some of their ideas of how governments, policies, and real world actions occur are at best idealistic.
That says very little, though, about how they would be as a friend, or a spouse, or a colleague.
Perhaps Southern was lonely, or desiring a family as soon as possible, or was simply swept off her feet.
But the problem here, that MH glaringly overlooks, is that ideology has very little to do with how one conducts oneself as a husband, boyfriend, father, lover, or friend.

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
14 days ago
Reply to  Jane Hewland

Well said.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
16 days ago

This is really a fable based on an irony. Nothing more. One could draw many different conclusions: 22-year olds should not have the vote; marriage to the wrong person can be oppressive; don’t believe what you read on the internet; don’t move to a distant country with a baby but no family of friends; don’t marry someone unless you have the support of your family and friends, even if you really, really, fancy them; and lastly (but probably least usefully) if you are a social media influencer try not to believe the rubbish you write.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
16 days ago

Wow! What an incredible story. It made me think a lot about how we all pretend and lie, in order to try to promote an ideology. Any ideology.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
16 days ago

The mistaken premise of neoconservativism is to take the nuclear family as the autonomous social unit, rather than the individual as autonomous social unit. Neither is enough.

A self-correcting community spans generations and households, to draw on a larger pool resources. The other men in the church (or village) sit the guy down and explain life. Perhaps in his own terms, with gestures that make AN IMPRESSION on him. The women shelter the young mother.

And of course none of this can happen online.

Sergio Sanchez
Sergio Sanchez
16 days ago

I pretty much summarized this article by quoting a fellow Canadian:
“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perception and arbitrary values.

All meaning alters with acceleration, because all patterns of personal and political interdependence change with any acceleration of information.”

Marshall McLuhan
‘Understanding Media’
1964

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
16 days ago

To save the baby, you don’t need to drink the bathwater.

kate Dunlop
kate Dunlop
16 days ago

Well, what an insight into the ersatz world of “content creators,” and the dismal tribalism that it promotes to infest our culture. Poor Mary, poor Lauren- neither seem to have grasped that real life and “growing up on-line” are mutually exclusive.
“Crazy, violent, or hateful” people of either sex are best avoided and certainly not the best candidates for long-term relationships and bringing babies into the world. Such individuals can be found across the political spectrum and the most problematic issue of Mary’s analysis is the reluctance to acknowledge individual agency. Sadly, there will always be bullies and abusers – only real-world experience is likely to equip people with the skills to spot and avoid them.

Cheryl Zacharias
Cheryl Zacharias
16 days ago

Excellent article! Thank you, MH, for showing that it’s not what’s on the left or the right that is the problem, but the ideological crystallization/simplification that can happen anywhere. I found this so helpful and insightful as I try to make sense of my own journey as a woman.

Umm Spike
Umm Spike
16 days ago

More and more, I am finding that our modern world seems to have a lot of simple answers to complicated questions. Do X, Y, Z, and it will be alright- whether it’s do tradwife well or join a progressive commune. If we just get the formula right, we tell ourselves, all will be well.

The trouble is, our problems are not complicated. Instead, they are complex, which is a different animal. And since we have spent all of modernity playing a massive game of tearing down Chesterton’s fence, we’re constantly running into 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order consequences that we didn’t expect.

As I’m reading Bacon of late, I’m finding that this process more or less began at the incipience of modernity; the media era followed by the internet era of the last & current centuries have simply put it on steroids, so that we’re all trying to do life this way.

Simply put, it doesn’t work. Life is way more complex than that. Time to resurrect a few of Chesterton’s fences.

Tom Hedger
Tom Hedger
16 days ago
Reply to  Umm Spike

Interesting you should mention Chesterton’s fence. I was reading about the subject recently and remembered a particularly literal exmple of the problems that can be encountered by ignoring the principal.
When I was at school in the seventies a new block for the lower school was going to be built. Some lefty looney (there were plenty of them then as now) decided that the whole block should be open plan and marked into ‘study areas’ or some such thing. It was chaos. About 90, 11 and 12 year olds, theoritically devided into three classes, all trying to have lessons in an echoing semi communal block. The thing I remember happening most constantly was the teachers from another class coming and telling our class to be quiet just at the point where we were wishing we could work without all this infernal dinn coming from their area!
They tried to devide it up a bit with screens and the like but it didn’t work. I see from google earth that the block is still there. I bet it has been devided up or made into a gym or something.

Umm Spike
Umm Spike
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom Hedger

Another place where we mistook the complex for the merely complicated. It seems to me that that’s why all of our institutions appear to be crumbling all at once.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom Hedger

Utter nonsense.
At least try to make your dumb stories about “lefty looney’s” somewhat believable. Even the halfwits who post here know that you just made that up.

Tom Hedger
Tom Hedger
15 days ago

Whilst I certainly agree that a small proportion of the contributors here are halfwits, (you know, if the cap fits…) I didn’t make this up. This happened at the Cavendish School in Hemel Hempstead in about 1974. It concerned a new building called the ‘Enguiry’ block. I suggest you ask anyone who was a pupil there at about that time.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom Hedger

Ugh. I now will have to Google “Chesterton’s fence,” will which almost certainly lead me to an endless series of rabbit holes I’ll thoroughly enjoy, rather than doing dishes or catching up on laundry.

Tom Hedger
Tom Hedger
14 days ago

Yup, been there, dirty dishes still in the sink!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
16 days ago

Southern’s case has almost nothing to do with left/right, tradwife or progressivism, and everything to do with marrying a fundamentally bad guy. If there was a spotlight moment, it’s the part about getting married after just four months. That seldom works out.

J Hop
J Hop
15 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Yes, and pregnant as well. More like a warning against shotgun weddings. Also I see her traditional approach didn’t also encompass refraining from sex before marriage. It’s odd how she picks and chooses which conservative principles to live by and which ones to disregard.

Ian Folkins
Ian Folkins
16 days ago

One of the most important aspects of any marriage is how both parties are going to maintain frame, i.e. how aspects of their independent social life, work like, family life, and hobbies are going to persist after their marriage, because these are sources of happiness in people’s lives that can not be replaced by a single person. If someone tries to live in someone else’s frame, sooner or later, your ego will resurface and resentments will start bubbling to the surface. And a child, by itself, is not enough to provide a frame since is boring, alienating, and lonely for anyone to spend all day with a child that needs constant attention. This is not how women raised children in the past, when the home was also a place of production and meaningful work.

Arthur King
Arthur King
16 days ago

Without data on young women choosing traditional marriage this story is mere celebrity gossip and the validation of the writer’s opinion.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
16 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

I for one am unclear as to why young women would prefer carpeted cubicles, monotonous tasks, florescent lighting, and fatuous, pompous supervisors, to the simple and far superior joys of child rearing, in a home of one’s own.
But then again, I’ve spent decades in carpeted cubicles, windowless corner offices, and conference rooms that resemble nothing so much as fish tanks, glass walled and enlivened only by predation.
How much nicer to be home, instead! Seeing the smiling faces of children, the sunshine in the park, the warmth of the kitchen or the security of the nursery.
Who would ever want the former, other than to pay for the latter?

Francis Phillips
Francis Phillips
14 days ago

I think many (most?) young women today have bought into the propaganda that they need to be ‘liberated’ from the drudgery at home and enjoy an exciting life at ‘work’. Most work is pretty boring. Being at home can be boring too, but at least you have the inestimable advantage of being your own boss and watching (some of the time!) ‘the smiling faces of children.’ And knowing that they are happier at home with you than in a nursery or pre-school.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
16 days ago

Absorbing your beliefs from the internet is a recipe for hell on earth.

El Uro
El Uro
16 days ago

The tussle between men and women is a culture war as old as humanity itself
.
Thank you! You opened my eyes. I never knew that I have the tussle with my wife.
.
And in general, I don’t like this article. It clearly demonstrates the tendency of women to make panicky generalizations based on exceptional cases. This is similar to accusing men in decent countries of supporting “rape culture”. I have already commented on a similar passage here – the number of rapists in decent countries is vanishingly small, and their life in prisons is dangerous and often short. Men don’t like rapists. Only a woman’s imagination can create a “rape culture” on such shaky foundations.
An example closer to me is an argument that I once had with my wife. The dispute concerned the need for legal restrictions on the term of abortion. When I said that this was correct, my wife gave me an example of an extremely fat and stupid girl who found out that she was pregnant on the obstetric table. I did not find or look for counterarguments – peace in the family is more important than disputes about jurisprudence.
PS. Actually, my wife mostly shares my views, but if we argue about art, singers and politics, she is always right, following the famous thought of Mark Twain.

Victor James
Victor James
16 days ago

And the other side of this? The misery of 2 parents at work, struggling to get by. Even if parents don’t hate each other, kids will be ignored and palmed off because of ‘weeerk’.
I feel sorry for Southern. She married a psychopath. But she was right. The ideal is for at least one parent to be rich enough so the other doesn’t have to work. The ‘trad’ life is great, as long as you update it to the modern world. The man can van stay at home, if necessary.
Southern’s husband was obviously a beta. She should have married a chad. Haha

karen fraser
karen fraser
16 days ago

This article has over complicated a very simple situation. She married a truly revolting Man. The end.

Walker Wade
Walker Wade
16 days ago

Test

Alice Bragg
Alice Bragg
16 days ago

Brilliant article. Well done Mary Harrington for presenting this case so eloquently.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
16 days ago

I see how her trad wife experience was terribly toxic but wasn’t that mostly because her mate was a p***k? How does that extrapolate to a generality about anything except being careful not to get tangled in a relationship with an asshole? An untraditional relationship with an asshole would also be pretty negative. So what exactly can we conclude based on this one person’s testimonial? Or is it because she, as an “influencer” needs to be harkened to like a Kardashian no matter how wild the swings in her lifestyle?

The only other question I have is whether it is more difficult to succeed at the trad wife thing today because there no longer exists a trad culture to support it. I’m not advocating for or criticizing either approach, but it seems logical to me that, back in the 1950’s e.g., a woman staying home with kids, etc, at least had a host of other women to commiserate with but not so much today.

Frances An
Frances An
16 days ago

Harrington strikes again! If this was in-print, I’d probably highlight large chunks but the line that stood out to me was ‘purist ideologies… map at best uneasily onto the practical realities of life as a woman.’ Neither the promiscuity of the progressive extreme nor excessively idealistic notion of a conservative ‘tradwife’ are fit to serve the biological and psychological features attached to femininity. I really enjoyed this essay.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
16 days ago

Between these sorts of horror stories and every sitcom from the past three decades, there seems to be rather a lot of evidence suggesting that this marriage business is rather a losing proposition for one or both parties. We tend to blame the internet or cultural decay or the decline of religion but I have to wonder if we’re just kidding ourselves.

Perhaps it was always this way. Perhaps marriage was always misery for one reason or another. Traditionalists romanticize the past and try to recapture what’s been lost but they can never recreate the same conditions of technology and history that led to the organic development of that ideal past. Their recreations never match the idealized descriptions. Progressives try to fix everything but all the changes result in unintended consequences and new problems and we end up with a completely new dysfunctionality. Nobody can even decide if the new dysfunctional dynamic is better than the old one because we can’t even agree on how good or bad it was and why. Both progressives and traditionalists are most likely wrong. The past wasn’t the ideal traiditionalists imagine it was and there’s no set of ideas or social reform progressives can invent that can overcome the basic biological and genetic differences between men and women. Mary does have one thing quite right. The extremes at either end are probably the most dangerous.

I’m pretty sure nobody’s gonna solve this and relations between men and women will continue to be complicated and difficult. I am nigh certain that journalists will still be writing articles lamenting the state of marriage and male/female relations centuries hence. I often wonder if gays/lesbians don’t have an advantage. Someone should study whether gay relationships are healthier and more positive and whether abuse rates are lower. I’d wager they are to some extent.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
16 days ago

Very well said of course. Let’s hope Ms. Harrington is right that we may find more balance grounded in reality…

To the point about women initiating most divorces. While Ms. Harrington’s larger point is likely true… Divorces that do not result from abuse, addiction, financial recklessness etc. do seem to originate more with women. That is women are more willing to dissolve marriages that are just not quite up to standard then men are or so it seems (fortunately my wife is putting up with the likes of me, at least for now)…. I wonder how much this has to do with the abstract influence of our primal selves / mating instincts…

Chiara de Cabarrus
Chiara de Cabarrus
16 days ago

The follies of ideology versus the wisdom of folktales – a close reading of the legend of Bluebeard might have produced a necessary corrective to the overly simplistic online ‘tradwife’ notion’.

Saul D
Saul D
16 days ago

It reads a bit like learning the difference between theory and practice. When you don’t have much data, theory looks great. But we now have lots of data shared across the internet, and we’re learning lessons of what happens when we are too trusting of purely theoretical viewpoints.

El Uro
El Uro
15 days ago
Reply to  Saul D

Trusting data from the Internet is even stupider. Everyone in the neighborhood knows about a couple who create loud scandals every day, everyone concludes that family life is terrible, and she/he is a happy exception. None of them think about the fact that the scandalous couple is the only one in the entire block, the rest are “an exception”. Nobody writes on the Internet about boring, happy family life; descriptions of psychopaths provide clickbait
.
Women are primarily prone to this kind of thinking, which, strictly speaking, is my complaint about this stupid article

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
15 days ago
Reply to  Saul D

Aka “empiricism”, upon which the Enlightenment was based.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
15 days ago

This is the problem with all ideologies, they tend to overwhelm the individual personality, but only temporarily before the innate desires, like and dislikes of the person re-assert themselves. Trad-wife-life would work fine for some, not for others, but of course young people don’t know until they try.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
15 days ago

The article brings home the meaning of living online and the extent of the disconnection from real life, rooted in algorithms and money-for-clicks, inevitably forging rigid extremist ideas.

William Miller
William Miller
15 days ago

A lot of writing to say she made a rash choice and married a douche. I am sorry it happened to her, but the attempt to knock trad wives didn’t connect.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
14 days ago

I am of the generation that was brought up without the internet and social media .. and i have to say I regard it as the greatest opportunity to defeat the elites who have governed us this last 75 years.
I fully support feminism, women know what they want, like men, they choose different ways to lead their lives as our way of life evolves and changes.
Complicating it like Mary does here is of no benefit, most of us have very different lives/views in the last 3 quarters of our lives than the first quarter. We have grown up by then !

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
14 days ago

I am an older woman who has followed both Lauren Southern and Mary Harrington from their first appearances on the scene with admiration and lots of motherly feelings towards both. I was absolutely crushed by what happened to Lauren and am appalled at how she is being treated in these comments.

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
14 days ago

It all seems like ‘a fine mess’: people with no experience, or idea of how to get along with others complaining because they can’t form working relationships. Unfortunately, there is no training for this, and legalistic expectations are of no help either. The whole idea of ‘trad’ wives, and ‘trad’ husbands is just a fantasy. Making a married relationship work wasn’t easy in the past, either. People tended to put up with things, or work around them. The modern expectation that male-female relations can be categorised and then work out will never come true. Learning and persistence are the only possibilites for success, and there will always be failure, even with good intentions. I’m sorry if this sounds pessimistic, but I can see no other alternatives.

Peter Stephenson
Peter Stephenson
14 days ago

I am mystified by the supposed existence of a problem about which generalisations might be profitable when that problem arises only because a young person adopts a gadget-word identity – tradwife – as if it were an inflexible set menu of practices and beliefs. Surely, both feminism and traditional options for a woman both have social expressions which will be of value as a person exercises her independence. This problem being discussed here makes it seem as if you buy into a package deal – tradwife, or whatever is the liberal, post modern left wing version – as if you had no freedom or personal creativity. I don’t understand. These demarcations of social roles are important to mark and critique, but to speak as if they are adopted as set menus seems to refuse to acknowledge each person’s startling individuality and an innermost identity which transcends sex for all that sex might govern much of one’s outer life. Have these young people traded the possibility of having a unique culture within a great cultural tradition for having a gadget-word identity which will be recognised by a horde of followers who are just hungry to have a slot to slot themselves into. Life minus the interweb thingy is a little bit possible maybe. Use it as a tool, not as a horizon setter.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago

It is not possible to draw any conclusion from one individual.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
11 days ago

She made a bad choice in a husband. A much better man would have made the marriage happy and fruitful. She had probably a million men to choose from, given her fame. She obviously put sexual attraction ahead of everything else to the extent she ignored the red flags.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
11 days ago

I feel for poor Lauren who was an admirable icon of the new conservative feminism almost a decade ago now. Her sad domestic case illustrates the harshness of the Australian regime whose authoritarianism was amply demonstrated during the pandemic and afterwards.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
9 days ago

Having grown up (mostly in the 1990’s) in a home where my mother was intent on forcing a charicature of 1950 America happen, reading about Lauren’s experience is not surprising to me.

There are some great things that can come out of extremely-disciplined, somewhat regressive environments, but it can easily tend toward extreme control, repression, and self-destructiveness. At least Lauren seems to be working things out.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
8 days ago

Seems to be the problem was not so much the “tradlife” but she clearly married a narcissistic psychopath. A key red flag was him moving her from away from her support network. This is not a left/right issue but the age old problem of a non narcissist coming under the control of an abuser. I’m glad she escaped but it doesn’t mean tradlife can’t work for some people if there is mutual respect. Having different roles does not confer superiority to one party over the other.

Petra Bueskens
Petra Bueskens
7 days ago

Thanks for the interesting article Mary. I wrote an article about Lauren Southern many moons ago when she graced our Southern shores in 2018. Not yet a Tradwife, but enthusiastically extolling the virtues of conservative gender roles, I noted the parallels with The Handmaid’s Tale’s eeriest protagonist, ‘Serena Joy’. To use one’s public platform to bash the very feminism that allowed one to have a platform (while negating the valence of said platform) is replete with absurdity, naïveté and hypocrisy. It’s sad.
I don’t think this is reducible to falling for (or creating) memes — aka ‘listicles’. Southern’s situation is the inevitable consequence of believing a lie that handing over power as a woman is, without qualification, a social or individual good. The feminists who fought for the Married Women’s Property Acts in the 19thC were liberal feminists for good reason: they were fighting for women’s *individual rights*. Precisely because of this fight, and the one’s that followed (suffrage, access to paid work, alimony), Southern was able to leave (even if only to visit her family) and set up a new life as a single mother. She was not destitute and can now begin to forge a new life for herself. This is why we need feminism, and why those promulgating conservativism should be careful about advocating new forms of (invented) tradition completely devoid of context. Me thinks.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
7 days ago

Excellent article. Surely it ought to be beyond obvious that any social grouping in which some people have little or no power or ability to speak out is open to abuse of power. We can see this at the political level, the family level – domestic abuse etc – in the mafia, even schools. These are not always easy to fix but it’s pretty clear that one thing that would be a disaster for women’s rights to flourish in society would be to take away from them the vote.

Some people on the Right seem to want to sabotage their own political project by promoting extreme positions which are completely unpopular including among MAGA and Brexit voters etc!

Rob N
Rob N
16 days ago

Interesting but clearly the, reported, behaviour of her husband was appalling. If LS had spent more time getting to know him, getting pregnant after marriage etc she might have made a better choice.
However we need to remember we have not heard his side of the story.
I don’t see that this impacts the wisdom of the basic trad life philosophy rather just paying more attention to reality.

Incidentally I am not against women having the vote but having seen the number who are clearly mad supporting Hamas, trans activism, Marxism etc I am beginning to wonder.

El Uro
El Uro
16 days ago
Reply to  Rob N

From a certain level, education for women is detrimental

David Lewis
David Lewis
15 days ago

I am amused how decades of feminist ideology has, at last, bumped up against reality. Men and women are not the same!

As a consequence of this there has recently been an outpouring of words on how difficult it is to be a woman. “We have periods, which are awful; we get endometriosis, which is agonising; we have to have the babies, which then requires a year off work; and then we have a menopause, with which no man could possibly cope.”

And so, the pendulum has swung back! A lot has certainly been written about the awfulness of menopause, the most common symptom of which is, apparently, ‘brain fog’. ‘Brain fog’ sounds really terrible comprising an inability to think straight, make decisions and various other cognitive difficulties. Women seek and expect sympathy for this. However, next time I am boarding a long-haul flight and the aircraft captain is a woman in her early fifties, should I say something? What if the copilot is also a woman in her early fifties? Truth is, I wouldn’t dare in the modern day. But, gurls, you can’t have it both ways

David Morley
David Morley
17 days ago

The trad wife thing, along with Andrew Tait and the rest is a backlash against the dominance of feminism in mainstream politics and culture. It’s understandable why people are attracted to it, feminism has become toxic, destructive and excessively powerful, but you can’t build your life, or a society, on backlash ideas. They are far too extreme in the opposite direction.

Hopefully Lauren’s is a cautionary tale leading us forward, not grist to the feminist mill setting us on a backward path.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

If feminists are so powerful, why are women losing their rights as the world kneels down at the alter of trans women? Note that men can call themselves women, but I’m just “a body with a vagina.”

T Bone
T Bone
16 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Any social solidarity alliance that uses group identity as a basis to accumulate collective power (identity politics) sows the seed of its own destruction.

Feminism can be understood two ways. The Exoteric view held by normal people (which I think you’re referring to) has humble origins of eliminating genuine barriers so women can pursue different life paths. IE Equality. The Esoteric view held by radical Marxists seeks to accumulate power and do things like use the State to “level out disparities.”  IE Equity.  Since few people discern between these two schools of thought, you have two sets of people using the same term called Feminism to promote radically different things.  Since there was no discernment, the Feminists from the school of radical Marxism eventually came to be seen as part of the Status Quo and were discarded by the solidarity alliance.  

This happens to every radical group that agitates for group self-interest under the banner of collective solidarity.  As soon as the solidarity alliance gets the power they desired, they move on to support another group to promote the “current thing.” Every group and issue is dispensable after the Alliance leaders (Vanguard) get what they want.

Dr E C
Dr E C
16 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Because most so-called ‘feminists’ in the professional class _are_ trans advocates. That’s why I had to leave my former feminist circles: they have nothing to do with making women’s lives better these days. They’re misandrist, destructive & full of abusive men. It’s these ‘feminists’ in academe – writing books & teaching the next generation – in politics, the media, the justice system et al that holds the real power, not the grassroots genuine feminists trying to keep women’s shelters single sex spaces.

Cassander Antipatru
Cassander Antipatru
15 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Because the trans phenomenon is just the next stage of feminism. Feminists have spent the last sixty-odd years pushing the idea that gender is a social construct; the idea that fulfilling the social role of a woman makes you a woman regardless of your genitalia is a logical extrapolation.

Ali W
Ali W
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

“but you can’t build your life, or a society, on backlash ideas”

This is basically American civil discourse.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
16 days ago

Right wingers are awful people. She might as well have married one of your sex criminal heroes like Trump or Tate.
But since Lauren Southern is a hideous racist she deserved everything she got.

El Uro
El Uro
16 days ago

Asshole

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
15 days ago
Reply to  El Uro

Thanks for proving my point!

El Uro
El Uro
15 days ago

Only asshole like you can say “she deserved everything she got” because of woman’ political views.
You are not a man, buddy, you are a crap