‘Tradition, tradition’: Phoebe Maltz Bovy, in search of a Jewish tradwife

Abigail Roth (née Shapiro) a.k.a. Classically Abby.

In The Spectator, Kara Kennedy has a riveting interview up with 24-year-old “TikTok tradwife” Estee Williams. Williams is an influencer, which is to say, she posts videos of herself online.

What, then, is a “tradwife”? Is it a new euphemism for unemployed? (Williams does not work outside the home.) Is it about who does what in the bedroom? (Williams denies this.) A tradwife is a woman who, generally out of Christian piety (but more on that in a moment…), eschews the paid workforce, in order to serve her husband. Tradwives take on a 1950s housewife aesthetic, and engage in the not especially 1950s activity of posting videos about their lives to social media.

If you’re thinking that tradwives are women who imagine they invented the idea of being a stay-at-home mom, think again: they are not moms, or at least not necessarily. Williams and her husband do not have kids. Which leaves something of a mystery of how she fills her days. She makes her husband lunch, fine, but this is a man who “eats in his truck.” A man who “likes sandwiches” and “loves chips.”

Given that plenty of people manage to pack simple lunches for their children and also engage in other activities (such as work), it’s not immediately clear how Williams would spend the remaining 23 hours and 45 minutes. She says she “will sometimes take walks around the neighborhood.” This seems a curious way to use your early 20s, but is ultimately not that different from how I spent grad school, so who am I to judge.

If you stop for a moment, it becomes obvious that Williams does have a daytime activity: posting. She is an influencer. The reason she’s doing her housework in Marilyn Monroe drag is not just to honour her husband, who is evidently into that sort of thing. It’s for a wider audience. But Williams is adamant that the posting is not work. At least, she’s not being paid to do it. In that case, what’s the point?


Williams tells Kennedy, “The moment that I really started to have a relationship with God is when God was trying to tell me to leave the workforce and to live a more traditional life.”

As tempted as I am to make a crack about how God is trying to tell me to take a nap right now, I’m afraid I do actually find my work interesting. Specifically, in this case, sorting out the religious angle in all of this.

So I must ask: Are there any Jewish tradwives? I’m not asking whether there are any Jewish women who follow traditional lifestyles because I was not born yesterday and have in fact left the house. No, I’m asking specifically about whether there are Jewish lifestyle influencers who do 1950s housewife cosplay online in the name of a specifically Jewish form of traditionalism.

One and only one name jumped to mind when I thought about it: Abigail Shapiro, aka YouTube influencer “Classically Abby,” and sister of conservative U.S. pundit Ben Shapiro. And sure enough, when I Googled Jewish tradwife, the first and seemingly only example out there is a 2020 Hey Alma article by Hannah Fleischman, “The Toxic World of Classically Abby.”

Writes Fleischman, “While she explicitly distances herself from the label of ‘tradwife’ through her motto ‘Let’s Be Classic,’ Abby’s self-proclaimed opposition to modern feminism indisputably puts her alongside other tradwives.”

Indeed, Shapiro is something of a rule-proving exception for being Jewish in this sphere.

“Abby’s Jewish heritage and faith challenges the otherwise assumed Christian subtext of her genre. While both Christian bloggers and Classically Abby advocate for a return to tradition, the most glaring difference between these groups is that Abby ostensibly isn’t trying to convert anyone to Christianity—or Judaism for that matter.”

The proselytizing vibe without the proselytizing? Sounds familiar! But unlike Chabad, whose reach keeps expanding, the field of Jewish tradwifery seems limited in scope. If you do know of others, or are one yourself, by all means let me know.

The CJN’s senior editor Phoebe Maltz Bovy can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @bovymaltz