By David Futrelle
Is the BBC broadcasting white nationalist propaganda?
That’s the question on a lot of people’s minds after the network ran a profile of a self-described “tradwife” by the name of Alena Kate Pettitt who believes in staying at home and “submitting” to her man like it’s 1959. When she’s not doing chores or cooking up a meal for her hubby she’s promoting a somewhat performative version of her lifestyle on her YouTube channel “The Darling Academy.”
It’s all meant to look and sound very wholesome and innocent; Pettitt presents the #tradlife as something that brings her and other women “a sense of belonging, and home, and quaintness.” as she tells the BBC.
But the “underground movement” of militant stay-at-home-wives and mothers she’s a part of turns out to be lousy with alt-Nazis and other white nationalists — as a number of critics were quick to point out on Twitter, among them historian Mike Stuchbery and social media researcher Becca Lewis.
Even a cursory investigation of the hashtags #tradwife and #tradlife — which Pettitt and others use to promote the movement on Twitter — reveals not only photos of delicious-looking (and sometimes not-so-delicious-looking) home-cooked meals and fresh-picked vegetables and fruits from the garden, but also a great deal of very explicit white nationalism. Here’s a small sampling:
In a recent tweet highlighted in the BBC report, Pettitt purports to be shocked — shocked! — to discover Nazis lurking about in a movement she says is all about a “wholesome, vintage dynamic” rather than racism.
But I don’t buy the innocent act; the hashtags #tradlife and #tradwife are positively crawling with Nazis and assorted other white nationalists; she can’t have possibly missed it. And even if at one point she was ignorant of all this, she can’t claim to be now. She could choose to promote the stay-at-home-wife lifestyle without the alt-right hashtags. But she hasn’t.
That’s her right, but she shouldn’t be surprised if people see her as a white nationalist, or at the very least an enabler of white nationalism. As they say, if there are three Nazis sitting at a table and you sit down with them, there are now four Nazis.
The real question is why the BBC has decided to sit down with these people. Sure, the report notes that the movement she’s a part of is steeped in hate, but they take her denial of racism at face value, and don’t bother to challenge any of her other assertions about the alleged superiority of her lifestyle.
The BBC profile presents her life as freeing and even sort of glamorous, in a homey, retro kind of way — and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s young, conventionally attractive, and articulate-sounding, with a smooth delivery that belies the nonsensical nature of much of what she’s actually saying. The BBC producers mostly just let her talk, ignoring any of the possible downsides of her life, ans not even bothering to bring up the rather basic fact that the majority of women, like the majority of men, “choose” to work largely because they have to.
The piece ends with her celebrating the “selflessness” of the #tradwife lifestyle — and putting down the “selfishness” of those women who she thinks don’t “invest” as much in their husbands and families because they work. The BBC offers no challenge to this wrongheaded comparison; they let this white-supremacist-enabler have the literal last word.
That’s really not good enough.
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