In an era marked by uncertainty, fantasies about the perceived stability and normalcy of the past have their appeal. This has materialized on Reddit, TikTok and other corners of the web, where certain young people have been leaning into the “traditions” of periods like the 1950s in an attempt to restore some sense of family values. Believing that neoliberalism, feminism and capitalism have left us morally bankrupt, they’ve become hooked on the idea of nuclear families in which the man is the head of the household and seduced by a lifestyle in which more conservative Christian values reign supreme. This, broadly, is known as “trad-ism.”
At the same time, Catholicism has increasingly become a sort of hip turn, combining these traditional values with a rich history and aesthetic. In some cases, this has even become a fashion trend, with crosses, communion dresses and clerical collars acting as subversive, philosophically ungrounded stylings of the past.
Within these circles, abortion is usually pretty clear-cut issue. If you’re Catholic or “trad,” you’re probably anti-abortion. But with the Supreme Court leak of the upcoming overturning of Roe v. Wade, many of these trendier alignments with traditional ideologies will soon be put to the test. Are these young people actually trad, or are they just participating in a fad?
So far, there’s been little consensus. On r/RedScarePod, a subreddit devoted to the political/cultural commentary podcast Red Scare, the vast majority of posts express support for keeping Roe v. Wade in place. This is strange, considering that earlier this month, Vanity Fair mentioned the podcast in reference to the shifting “new right” movement, positioning it as a figurehead of trad-ism’s trendiness. One of the hosts, Dasha Nekrasova, 31, is Catholic, though she hasn’t publicized her stance on abortion. “The Red Scare hosts are only the best-known representatives of a fashionable dissident-y subculture, centered in but not exclusive to downtown Manhattan,” wrote the article’s author James Pogue. “People are converting to Catholicism. ‘It’s a good thing I have a girlfriend,’ my friend texted. ‘Because casual sex is out.’”
Yet, when the news about Roe was shared last night on the subreddit, there was almost a rare sense of optimism toward the future of the Democratic Party in upcoming elections, as opposed to the usual cynicism toward it. “If this is true, it’s probably the only thing that will give the Democrats a chance of not getting their asses kicked in the next election,” one person wrote.
“Now we separate the real Catholics from the larpers,” said another. “Every e-bitch wanna be Catholic until it’s time to do Catholic shit.” In the replies, some argued that there are Catholics who are not anti-abortion, but others suggested that this was a prime example of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it, too — enjoying the aesthetics and contemporary edginess of being Catholic without adopting the dogma. By and large, a general disdain for this type of Catholic role-playing and a fundamental support for Roe v. Wade persisted.
Meanwhile, on r/CatholicMemes, devout Catholics are gleefully celebrating the news and mocking those who are upset and angered by it. Their memes often use the language of the Extremely Online Right, particularly with the inclusion of Wojak meme imagery (though, in fairness, these memes have been adopted beyond the Right, too). It’s unclear exactly where all of its members fall in terms of political persuasion and age, but nevertheless, many of the memes offer a clue that some of the young, online Catholics who intersect with the trad movement are pleased with the news.
Largely, though, the only consensus among trad wives is that there is no consensus — and more pro-choice sentiment than would be expected. Which can be read a couple of different ways: 1) It is indeed just a fad; or 2) even the people we’ve most associated with trad-ism don’t want to surrender all of their rights.