Who is Estee Williams? Meet the Gen Z tradwife taking TikTok by storm

By Jack Ramage

Published Apr 2, 2024 at 09:40 AM

Reading time: 5 minutes


Estee Williams prepares for her husband’s return from work by delicately combing her hair, applying red lipstick, and donning a floral dress—all set against the gentle hum of jazz musician Bobby Darin playing in the background. This scene might be easily mistaken for a clip from a 1950s film. However, this is 2023, and the clip shared on TikTok has since amassed over 680,000 views and 38,000 likes.

Estee Williams is a tradwife, a member of a subculture dedicated to living the ‘simple life’. This lifestyle involves women abstaining from work, focusing on homemaking tasks such as cooking and cleaning, and seeking their husbands’ permission to leave the house. The description of the TikTok video encapsulates the ethos of this lifestyle: “Happy Friday, darlings! Remember to wake up energised to put in the effort to become the best version of yourself and to look the way you and your husband appreciate.”


Happy Friday Darlings! Remember to wake up energized to put in the effort to become the best version of yourself and to look the way you and your husband appreciate 🥰 #tradwife #traditionalwife #traditionalmarriage #housedress #vintagedress #dressforyourman #tradlife #tradwivesoftiktok #nuclearfamily #makethehomegreatagain #traditionalgenderroles #housewifestyle #traditionalvalues #dollyourselfup

♬ Dream Lover - Bobby Darin

But don’t be so quick to judge. Unlike other movements advocating for traditional views on gender roles, this anti-girl boss movement isn’t seen as particularly harmful to society. Yet, it certainly piques interest. So, let’s dive into the life of a tradwife and explore the nuances of this burgeoning internet subculture.

Who is Estee Williams?

Estee Williams, a 25-year-old tradwife influencer based in Virginia, shares her daily life managing household chores, cooking, and cleaning through social media. She practices not venturing outdoors without her husband’s consent and avoids being out alone after dark.

With over 119,000 followers on Instagram and 151,000 on TikTok, she stands out as a prominent figure in the tradwife movement. She epitomises a segment of Christian, conservative millennial and Gen Z women who prioritise homemaking over professional careers, driven not by practicality or financial considerations but by a philosophical conviction.


What it means to be a Tradwife. #fyp #tradwife #homemaking #housewife #traditional #tradwifecontroversy #womenschoice

♬ Music Instrument - Gerhard Siagian

What is a tradwife?

To grasp the allure of Estee Williams, one must delve into the origins of the tradwife movement. Tradwives, or ‘traditional wives’, surfaced as a subculture on the internet in the 2010s, advocating for traditional values, especially emphasising the roles of wives as mothers and homemakers.

Drawing from a diverse array of influences, tradwives often find inspiration in 1950s-era American culture, Christian values, conservative politics, choice feminism, and neopaganism. Notably, the subculture isn’t limited to white women but also includes Black women who champion traditional marital values.

While it’s easy to critique the tradwife subculture at first glance, particularly for seemingly endorsing toxic femininity and internalised sexism, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the subculture typically does not endorse extreme ideologies or far-right politics. So, what’s fueling the popularity of this subculture?

One theory suggests a nostalgia for the 1950s, an era often idealised yet inaccurately represented. Another theory posits that the tradwife movement is a reaction to the evolving fluidity in gender roles over the past decade.


For better, for worse. NOT divorce. #fyp #tradwife #traditionalwife #traditionalmarriage #tradwifemovement #housewife #homemaker #nuclearfamily #traditionalvalues #traditionalhousewife

♬ 1950s Woman - John Stevens Band

Tradwives and the manosphere

It’s interesting that this phenomenon of women gravitating towards more socially conservative roles in society—and subsequently gaining a huge following from broadcasting this lifestyle—comes about at a time when we’re also seeing a rise in manosphere internet stars. Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about Andrew Tate and the countless testosterone-fuelled spin-offs of his blatantly misogynistic and outright dangerous views.

Love him or loathe him, it’s clear that Tate’s hypermasculine deminer has struck a chord with certain factions of society—infamously claiming that (ick alert) “pure women submit to their man,” a sentiment that, according to a 2023 poll, finds agreement from one in four men.

Further research conducted in Australia suggests that the rise of these represents a backlash from boys and men who perceive a loss of gendered power in the post #MeToo era and have implications for girls and women in schools. It begs the question, could the rise of tradwives have links to this too?

“I don’t think they’re coming from exactly the same source, but they aren’t separate from one another,” Gabriela Serpa Royo, a senior behavioural analyst at Canvas8, tells SCREENSHOT. “One of them is obviously more sinister—you don’t see tradwives being as accusatory or calling for violence, racism, or homophobia.”

While it should be noted that, yes, in some instances you do see tradwives promote harmful views, Royo highlights that much media rhetoric focuses on the supposed “crisis of masculinity,” claiming that many reports “suggest that young men have no real role models to aspire to because they’ve been put into a corner—being told that being a man is a bad thing. The Andrew Tates of the world are rising in response to this, and I do think that’s where there’s a link [between hypermasculine influencers and the tradwives movement].”

Gen Z, gender roles and the perceived allure of the binary

It goes without saying that Gen Z is redefining the world we’re living in, from work to, of course, gender. Now more than ever, younger people are challenging traditional norms and embracing a more flexible understanding of gender—and there are numbers to back this up too. 62 per cent of Gen Z individuals endorse gender role flexibility, for instance, allowing boys to be emotional and girls to be strong, compared to 55 per cent among older generations.

Gen Z is often regarded as the first generation to widely embrace gender fluidity, or at least to exhibit the highest levels of acceptance. Let’s not forget the decades of activism by trans rights advocates that paved the way before us. However, despite this shift, other research has shown that our views regarding gender and the household have remained less rigid.

According to research commissioned by Newsweek, a significant proportion of young adults (one in five) believe that children are worse off with a stay-at-home father rather than a stay-at-home mother. “This is surprising—you’d expect Gen Z to be more open-minded towards gender roles in the household, but they’re not,” Royo adds. “The pendulum is swinging: perhaps young people feel overwhelmed by too much choice and diversity.”

The behavioural analyst compares the phenomenon to choice paralysis: the psychological theory that people struggle to make decisions when confronted with numerous options, causing overwhelm and indecision. “We’re in this moment of redefining; we haven’t yet landed on the new ‘rules’, and it’s debatable whether these rules should exist or not,” Royo continues. “Personally, I don’t think they should, but I do think that people want to know what reality is, they want a certain preset of rules.”

“Gen Z is grappling with the complexities of the world—caught between youthful exploration and the harsh realities of a society in crisis, from the climate emergency to the affordability crisis, including the struggle to afford a home. There’s a certain allure in looking back to a time when, even if not directly involved in homemaking, society ‘seemed’ to function more smoothly.”

It’s for this reason that Royo believes people are drawn to tradwife influencers who unapologetically broadcast these social binaries. “It goes beyond gender; I believe it’s about seeking mental reprieve in a binary construct. As binaries dissolve in various aspects of life, including gender, people tend to gravitate towards them as a form of stability.”

Is the tradwife subculture political?

While most tradwife influencers tend to avoid overtly political content, the shift they represent from 21st-century ideals of women’s independence and autonomy begs the question of political implications. Royo affirms that these influencers wield political influence, even if indirectly, noting that many who support the tradwife movement also align with conservative political figures.

“These influencers have so many followers that they are inherently political. A lot of Trump supporters do subscribe to the tradwife movement—all of these things are connected. Even if the tradwives themselves don’t intend to be political, as an influencer you’re elevated to larger-than-life status,” she explains, noting that Taylor Swift “isn’t necessarily the most political pop star, but she’s now been hyper-politicisedboth by MAGA supporters and the liberals of the world. It would be harder for these influencers to not be political.”

When asked whether the tradwife movement is counterproductive to women’s rights, however, the answer isn’t so clear-cut. “Tradwives are not inherently bad for society,” Royo adds. “It does cause friction in the context of women’s rights, but I wouldn’t call it counterproductive. If influencers can stay in their lane and say that they like doing these things because they like them, then that’s not a bad thing. It would be more counterproductive to women’s rights to say that women can’t be tradwives if they want to.”

Tradwives are just another against-the-grain internet subculture that has risen in an ever-increasingly complicated digital landscape. While it’s easy to judge this niche movement as a group of anti-girl bosses yearning for the less-progressive past; unpacking the nuances of tradwives shows that it’s much more than that.

And besides, women’s rights are about granting the freedom of choice to do whatever they want, without the judgment or interference of their male counterparts. Who am I, as a man, to question Estee Williams or any other tradwife’s chosen way of life? So, Estee, if you want to stay at home, dress up, and bake pies for your husband to come home after a gruelling 9 to 5, you do you.

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