Culture

What Is A Trad Larper And Why Are We Seeing More Of Them Now Than Ever?

By Andrea Mew
·  10 min read
shutterstock 1803702268 (1)

I get that postmodern society puts a bad taste in your mouth, but basing your entire identity on an aesthetic isn’t “trad,” it’s performance art.

Have you ever wondered where you fall on the trad to modern spectrum? Do you find yourself more percentage points closer to “traditional” compared to other women? Lately, I can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed with the number of ladies I see on social media romanticizing living on a homestead, being barefoot in the kitchen, and having six kids minimum. They’re drawn to a lifestyle they think is noble and beautiful, but where they go wrong is basing their identity on an aesthetic and ravenously donning a demeanor as a costume they fail to fit into. This is the trad larper.

The trad larper is a caricature of the trad wife, the model stay-at-home mother whose talents lie in child rearing and homemaking. Yes, stay-at-home mothers exist, but the trad larper is rarely married, likely does not have children, and probably has not stepped foot on a farm in her life. Her identity is so traditional that she spends her days on social media – so very trad!

very inspirational and convincing

I do sincerely commend these women for aspiring to live a more ancestral, traditional lifestyle. We can all honestly benefit from classical wisdom in our ever-progressive society. I’m also happy that you’re excited about your femininity, but let’s put our foot on the proverbial brakes for a moment and not lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot more to life than the identity we adopt online.

This Humblebrag Has a Hidden, Destructive Nature

An article out of Australia’s ABC last year conflated the trad wife identity with “right-wing extremism.” Trad subculture emerged as a backlash to feminism, according to Swinburn University associate professor Christine Agius in the ABC article. Oftentimes, when women congregate to share their rejection of third and fourth-wave feminism (or whatever wave we’ve hit by now), there is a visceral backlash from left-leaning voices that bemoan women embracing gender norms and a more traditional lifestyle. What happened to historical feminists who fought for a woman’s right to choose the life they wanted, whether that was girl-bossing in a cubicle or espousing a wholesome, domestic life?

There’s an honest purpose to gender norms, whether we like it or not. Society functions more smoothly when people are on board with unwritten, but well-understood social rules. Gender norms are also inherently tied to our biology. We can try to escape our biological differences by, say, going on hormonal birth control, but there are endless costs related to that. Think about it, there’s a good reason our ancestors lived the way that they did. That ancestral advice is meant to help us, not hinder us from our potential. So to me, it’s unfair to shout feminist talking points of supporting all women when you’re belittling women who choose to walk the more normative path.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can still find a lot of antagonistic personalities in the trad larping community. Kind of funny how they idolize domestic women, yet their demeanor isn’t one of a nurturing woman at all, isn’t it? Well, trad larpers veer into toxic territory by ranking one another (or themselves!) to gain identity points online. If your intention is to try to promote traditional values, then your plan is backfiring; all you’re accomplishing by creating an exclusive movement is encouraging other people to feel unworthy. Poke around on r/RedPillWomen for a moment, and you’ll see countless posts of women turning their virtue into a competition.

“Where do you ladies fall on the trad wife to modern wife spectrum?” posts one user. She self-identifies at 70% trad because of her religion, her homemaking, her young marriage, her chastity, and her husband’s role as a provider. But she docks herself 30% because of being in an interracial relationship, having a job, having been educated, liking luxury fashion, and not yet having children.

judge judy laptop

Other ladies dock themselves for being interfaith in their marriage, having had sex before marriage, being a high earner in a male dominated career, having stereotypical male hobbies, and even having male friends. To me, this reveals a level of insecurity in personal self-worth by needing to fill a certain percentage quota. Why do you need to call yourself by a particular label? Furthermore, why rely so hard on labels in the first place like progressive communities do, a behavior we know to be regressive and divisive?

Dreaming of a Caricature 

It’s abundantly clear that this is a LARP when the persona these ladies tout online feels more like performance art than them authentically sharing a slice of their life. It never seems to be about bringing attention to the multifaceted benefits of motherhood and marriage, rather, the content they post comes off as attention-seeking. Do they do it because they want to attract masculine men? Do they do it because they want to inspire other women to slow down their career progression? Do they know that homesteading isn’t actually that easy?

throw a tomato frustrated

A quiet, slow home in the countryside is understandably appealing, but life on a farm doesn’t actually look like hanging pretty linens on clotheslines while wearing peasant dresses. It’s pretty easy to create an idealized vision of you in a pleasant meadow, reading your favorite books while your husband is doing hard labor, when in actuality, you’re living in a metropolitan city or suburban housing tract daydreaming about Little House on the Prairie

The reality is that you probably had ancestors who worked hard farming and raising animals to slaughter that, I guarantee you, desperately hoped and prayed that their children or their children’s children wouldn’t have to. What’s more, modern farming doesn’t look anything like the romanticized rural lifestyle of yore. You’ll still deal with dirt and grime, odorous manure and plant rot, pesky weeds, endless tasks, invasive bugs and vermin, and a lot of death – both crops and animals.

Values-based living doesn’t have to look stereotypically traditional. You don’t get docked brownie points if you buy your grass-fed butter instead of churning it yourself. You also don’t lose points for wearing jeans instead of a dress. In fact, most of the rural chicks I know often prefer pants when working outside. When you focus so hard on the imagery of trad life as an aesthetic or political statement, you’re really just diluting the actual meaning of honest, traditional living.

Escaping Modern Life Isn’t So Effortless or Straightforward

When I interviewed Jake Keiser, an author who genuinely went from Gucci to goats, she shared how difficult her radical shift in lifestyle was. After years of learning, she now feels fulfilled by the beauty of life on her farm, Daffodil Hill, but that didn’t come without its own share of struggles.

You may not like the exhausting expectations that girl-boss culture sets – trust me, I’m with you on that one – and you may truly want motherhood or homesteading to be your full-time job, but that’s not so easily attainable. In our ever-inflating economy, there’s no telling how many more hours you’ll need to work to make the same amount of money you used to make.

If you’re single – which many trad larpers appear to be – how will you afford living without a job? Are you still living at home with your family? There’s nothing wrong with multi-generational households, but even those who have these living situations often have to work to help pay rent or purchase their own belongings. If you married young, you still probably need two incomes (with some couples needing multiple sources of income to get by) unless your husband has a lucrative career, is significantly older, or you live in a very affordable area. Not everyone is so lucky. 

doing everything i can

Similarly, it seems like every trad larper’s imagination runs wild with the idea of popping out many, many children. Not all women are mothers for one reason or another. Not all women want to be mothers, despite how much you want them to be. Not all women can birth the number of children they want. And of course, not all women can be mothers! Particularly when a woman temporarily or permanently loses her ability to reproduce, she might feel less like a woman if society is telling her that the prerequisite to womanhood is having fully functional reproductive organs. Fertility ebbs and flows for a variety of women, so it’s unproductive and frankly rude to make women feel ashamed of themselves if they struggle with infertility. 

The LARP 

Constantly being bombarded by gloomy or disturbing headlines is understandably disheartening. You can only see so many drag queen storytimes, children being put through hormone replacement therapies, or lies about the obesity epidemic before you feel like you need a more wholesome escape. Given the growing hostility toward truth and common sense, I completely empathize with people who are yearning for a time when society wasn’t so hostile toward truth and common sense. When the pendulum starts to swing very far in one direction, impassioned responses from opposing viewpoints shouldn’t come as a surprise.

People can only take so much mindless self-indulgence before they’re bound to desire greener pastures, both literally and figuratively. Not only are Americans growing more secular, the observation of the Judeo-Christian values our nation was founded on are in a swift decline. At the same time, people who feel taken aback by society’s progressive trajectory are more likely to deepen their faith to cope with their feelings, and as a result, take more interest in values-based living.

But is it enough to just talk the talk and not walk the walk? This is similarly the case with people who adopt faith superficially because they like the aesthetics whether that’s Catholicism, Buddhism, or any other religion. The bizarre need to overperform isn’t about bringing attention to a need for faith or turning people on to the teachings of Jesus Christ or of Buddha; it’s about co-opting the beautiful aspects without putting in any of the hard work. Just because you admire an Italian fresco, it doesn’t mean you’re a Roman Catholic. Identity from idealized imagery dilutes the actual meaning of theology and ideology alike.

Closing Thoughts

The ultimate irony in the trad larp is how misleading it is to flaunt a supposed lifestyle on social media. If you truly are trad, say like a member of the Amish community, you’re not likely keyboard warrioring on chat boards or dancing in TikTok videos and Instagram Reels. That said, does it even matter how trad you are? Values-based lifestyles aren’t contingent on a particular aesthetic or where you place yourself on the political compass. 

What matters more than trying to fit a mold for fleeting affirmations from internet strangers is being your authentic self. Along the way, you might find yourself able to focus full-time on family, grow your dream garden, or raise farm animals, but if you wear your dream identity with smug superiority, you’re probably just creating infighting that distracts us all from being the good, productive people we should strive to be.

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