There are fundamental misunderstandings in the United States about what constitutes counter culture, just as there are mind-melting misinterpretations of what constitutes working class politics.
Or maybe – just maybe – bad faith can explain it all.
Every once in a while as I peruse one of the fourteen microblogging sites I’ve joined since Elon Musk has co-opted Twitter to make new computer friends and work for the world’s most villainous people, I come across a post – sometimes by a woman, mostly by men – positing that the traditional family structure is an act of rebellion, that moms doing the dishes and cleaning up for baby is the ultimate in sticking it to The Man, that men dominating their wives and children and being giant pricks about housework is a thumb in the eye of The System.
I kinda sorta understand the impetus behind these social media posts: Advances in the rights and societal standing of both women and LGBTQ people has decimated what might be termed the “traditional nuclear family” of the postwar era (traditionalists seem not to recognize or care that the never-ending demands of capital have forced women into the workplace as it becomes nearly impossible for a family to survive on one income; for this reason, traditional family types should be Marxists in support of a strong social democracy, but don't tell them that). No longer does mom stay at home in a nice dress and high heels, face full of makeup, prancing around the house high off her ass on benzos. And no longer does dad serve as the sole provider for the family, earning his keep and coming home to his servile wife and the children for whom he does not give one single shit.
That’s all gone.
In its place is a nation of two-income households hanging on by their fingernails, praying to any god who will listen that an unexpected bill doesn’t enter their precarious lives like a brick through the kitchen window. The ever-so-brief postwar security of middle-class life in the US has been wiped out by the advance and destructive concentration of capital. The expansion of rights for marginalized groups has served capital well while breaking up the conservative dream of the 1950s household with all its lovely fascist trappings.
It’s no coincidence, after all, that “trad posting” originated in neo-nazi online circles and proliferated to the wider internet with careful meme creation meant to recruit alienated, depressed young men to the nazi cause. It's these same fascists who have tried (and succeeded, in many cases) to paint the Trumpist movement as a working class movement, which has all but put good-faith liberals in a coma over the past seven years. Combining traditionalist family propaganda with pro-worker messaging could be a winning formula for the American right if anyone were naive enough to buy it.
So now we have folks on the right logging on and sharing pictures of stories of dutiful wives and their domineering asshole husbands. The women cook and clean and change the shit-filled diapers and the men talk a big game about protecting their families with a stockpile of automatic weapons (we all know from whom they are protecting their families but we cannot say it). This kind of “trad” posting has been sold as an extension of the punk rock ethos that defined the late 1960s and early 70s, when young men dressed provocatively and made a bunch of noise with their instruments and asked in one voice, “Are you triggered mom and dad?”
So-called trad posting – flaunting regressive gender norms as an act of rebellion – in many ways follows the punk rock tradition of getting in people’s faces and asking if they’re triggered. These folks desperately want a reaction from those who might sneer at the inherent repression and violence of gender norms, people who learned about these norms in school and said no thanks, I’m good, let’s do the modernized thing.
I say all this as a straight white guy who lives in the suburbs with his wife and two kids – someone who grew up in the suburbs with a mom and a dad and a brother. I am, in many ways, as traditional as it gets (this is why many folks who follow me on Elon’s site think they can talk me into seeing the right-wing light). I don’t drink whiskey or eat steak after a long day in the content mines and I have changed a shitload of diapers and I do the dishes and vacuum and fold the godforsaken laundry and buy clothes and school supplies for the kids, but on the surface I live an unmistakably traditional lifestyle. And I have plenty of insight into the workings of these broken-brained “trad” folks trying to upset people on the internet by cosplaying Leave It To Beaver.
Posting about abiding by traditionalist norms, however awful and backward, is not in any way punk rock or counterculture. These folks are not fighting the System – whatever that means to them – but returning to it, promoting it, building it up in hopes that women will one day reclaim their rightful place in the home, where their tiny brains won’t be exposed to the rigors of the workplace. You are not working against the Man, but rather for him. The Man loves you, the trad poster, because the steady advance of rights for Americans who are not white men has – in some ways – removed power from the Man.
You are not raging against the machine; you are raging for it.
Maybe these trad posters know this and have dutifully stuck to operating in complete bad faith. As with any sort of bad faith, there’s no point in engaging these people because they aren’t saying what they mean to say. No progress can be made with someone using bad faith as a rhetorical weapon, or as a shield against good-faith operators asking honest questions and hoping to find common ground.
That’s why trad posters should be ignored. We shouldn’t even mock them, for you’re giving them what they want: Attention, along with confirmation that they are in fact raging against the machine of progress. They see the backlash to their posts as affirmation, not condemnation. Ah yes, they say so smugly, the communist, family-hating machine is hitting back because I posted about my wife scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees every morning. They're all so upset. They're coping and crying like whiney beta libs. I am a warrior against the status quo, a rebel with a cause: To re-establish the traditional family by rolling back the civil rights gains of the people I hate.
Don’t give them this satisfaction. No one is saying these traditionalists can’t embrace regressive family roles. They can do that silly cosplaying to their hearts’ content. They should be made to feel like the most lame-ass punk rockers of all time, because they are.
Follow Denny Carter on Elon's site, Threads, and Instagram at @CDCarter13.