Lauren Southern is a victim of her own beliefs

More than anything else, right-wing culture warriors live to trigger the libs. They compete to one-up each other in saying the cruelest, most outrageous ideas they can dream up, and glory in the outrage they provoke.

But what happens when you try to build a life for yourself on an ideology like that? How well does it serve them when they’re not engaging in internet slapfights?

To find out, let’s meet Lauren Southern.

From alt-right to tradwife

In the 2010s, Southern emerged on the political scene as an alt-right provocateur. She built her career on mocking feminism and multiculturalism, as well as beating the drum for religious war (“The Crusaders did absolutely nothing wrong”).

Southern was also a member of Defend Europe, a white supremacist gang which claimed that immigrants fleeing war and disaster were invaders coming to conquer the West. In 2017, she tried to blockade a medical ship that was rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. She talked about raising money to buy nets to snarl the motors of refugee vessels and made videos arguing for the “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

In 2019, Southern took the next logical step of her anti-feminist views. She announced that she’d gotten married and had a baby. She was embracing the “tradwife” lifestyle promoted by the religious right, which holds that only men should have jobs and women should be obedient, stay-at-home housewives.

After that, she disappeared from view.

“An ant-infested cabin without clean running water”

In 2023, Southern popped back up. She revealed that she had divorced her husband after just two years (warning: Daily Mail link). He had abandoned her and her son, without alimony or child support, and they were living in poverty in “an ant-infested cabin without clean running water” in a trailer park.

Her explanation was that her husband, a Catholic conservative, had a job with a security clearance that he lost because of his association with her:

‘The reality of losing his life’s work became too much for him… Going from living a James Bond lifestyle to being reduced to a boring middle manager with little to no upward mobility is crippling for ambitious men.’

Southern said her ex ‘took his resentment for this out’ on her, adding that he used a ‘variety of lesser reasons to propose divorce’ two years ago – including her ADHD.

Now we know that wasn’t the full story. In a new interview with Unherd, she says her husband was abusive. Her tradwife dream turned out to be a nightmare.

(Content note: The author of the Unherd interview espouses anti-trans and other right-wing views I don’t endorse. I’d have used an alternative source if I could, but there isn’t one. As always, examine sources carefully and exercise skepticism!)

Southern says:

There were warning signs from early on. “If I ever disagreed with him in any capacity he’d just disappear, for days at a time. I remember there were nights where he’d call me worthless and pathetic, then get in this car and leave.” But she didn’t see them, thanks to the simplified anti-feminist ideology she’d absorbed and promoted: “I had this delusional view of relationships: that only women could be the ones that make or break them, and men can do no wrong.” So she didn’t spot the red flags, even as they grew more extreme. “He’d lock me out of the house. I remember having to knock on the neighbour’s door on rainy nights, because he’d get upset and drive off without unlocking the house. It was very strange, to go from being this public figure on stage with people clapping, to the girl crying, knocking on someone’s door with no home to get into, being abandoned with a baby.”

Her husband forced her to do everything: all the household labor, all the child care. He even made her do his university homework for him. At the same time, he yelled at and insulted her for being lazy and worthless:

“I was told daily that I was worthless, pathetic. Deadweight. All you do is sit around and take care of the baby and do chores.” When Covid shut down all real-world public life, her situation became “hell on earth”. It was, she said, “the only time in my life where I idealised dying.”

… “He would just give me impossible tasks all day. Tasks that I simply could not finish. It felt like he would almost send me on errands with the intent of having me fail.”

According to the tradwife ideology she’d imbibed, women are always to blame for marital problems. If her husband was unhappy with her, it had to be her fault. The solution was to pray more, be more submissive, and try even harder to please him. But no matter what she tried, nothing worked. Eventually, when she went home to Canada for a funeral, he told her their marriage was over and abandoned her.

She further admits she’s not the only conservative woman in this predicament:

She tells me she knows many other women still suffering in unhappy “tradlife” marriages. One of her WhatsApp groups, she says, “is like the Underground Railroad for women in the conservative movement”. Some of these are prominent media figures: “There are a lot of influencers who are not in good relationships, who are still portraying happy marriage publicly, and bashing people for not being married while being in horrendous relationships.” She hopes that in speaking out she can reassure “all of these women who are thinking in their heads: I’m uniquely terrible, and I’m uniquely making a mistake” that no: something is more generally amiss.

Be careful what you wish for

Lauren Southern’s story is an ideal example of why you should be careful what you wish for. She wanted to be a tradwife: a traditional wife, in a traditional family, with traditional gender roles. Well, she got that – and everything that comes along with it.

After all, it’s extremely traditional for the man to be the tyrannical ruler of the household who forces his wife and children to obey, with violence if necessary. For most of history, beating a disobedient wife was a husband’s right. That’s still the case in many countries today, like Russia.

If you position yourself as an advocate of traditional values, this is what you’re signing up for. The past wasn’t peaceful or harmonious. It was defined by cruelty, brutality, and might-makes-right thinking. Anything less is sheer fantasy – the Disney-theme-park version of history.

By contrast, egalitarian marriage isn’t traditional. It’s modern, even (gasp!) feminist. The idea that it should be a crime for someone to coerce or abuse their spouse is very recent. In fact, it’s a radical notion that flies in the face of centuries of patriarchal tradition.

To be clear, I’m not gloating at Southern’s misfortune or saying she got what she deserved. I am saying that this is a warning for young people. Her story is an object lesson in why to reject conservative propaganda which promises life will be perfect if you stick to rigid gender roles.

It’s not as simple as saying Southern was just unlucky in her choice of husband. The tradwife ideology, because it teaches that men are entitled to absolute power, is inherently attractive to those with an unhealthy desire to dominate others. It’s very likely that a man who espouses these ideas is more likely to be abusive than the general population.

But, of course, there are abusive people on every part of the political spectrum. The other issue is: what do you do when you find yourself in that awful situation? What tools does your worldview give you to protect yourself?

Here, too, tradwife ideology leaves its true believers defenseless. It teaches women to blame themselves, to submit and obey, to make themselves small. Every abuser dreams of meeting someone who’s conditioned to be docile. It’s obvious what men get out of it, but there’s nothing that this worldview offers women other than misery.


  1. says

    I do not feel any pity for her, not even the tiniest smidgeon. She had access to all the information that would warn her about what is probably about to happen and she actively chose to deny it and denigrate and harm people who were telling her. She was (possibly still is, although I do hope the experience changed her for the better) an awful and abusive person, she just thought that the abuse could not happen to her personally. She was perfectly Ok with dishing abuse out or endorsing dishing it out to others. People like that will never change for the better unless and until reality literally smacks them in the face and hard.

    Thus I would in fact go as far as to say she got what she deserved and this is probably what needed to happen to her if she ever were to stop being an awful piece of shit. I hope she will now listen to what other women tell her and that she has learned some empathy for the unfortunate and downtrodden, although she might not.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Has Southern learned anything (ideological) from her ordeal?

    I do feel a lot of pity – towards her child.

    • says

      It doesn’t seem as if she has. She no longer believes in the tradwife stuff, obviously, but other than that, she’s still very right-wing. It’s the classic case of a conservative who only starts caring about a problem when it directly impacts them.

  3. Katydid says

    The “trad wife” baloney (under several different names) reared its head in the USA just after women were allowed to have credit cards in their own name and sign mortgages on their own without a male cosigner. It hit its peak in the late 1990s/early 2000s. I was dismayed to find young women in real life who’d smirk and say they were absolutely not feminists and that the very idea of feminism–that women should have the same opportunities as men and be paid equivalent to men for doing the same jobs–was ridiculous. Countless movies and books meant for a woman audience rhapsodized over how wonderful it was for women to turn away from active and aware lives, to retreat into domestic slavery that was always sugar-coated to seem appealing.

    The conservatives and religious right have worked very hard to strip women of any opportunities in life, leaving them as uneducated and powerless pawns in “traditional” marriages that are anything but traditional.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    I think some of the cause of anti-feminism might be due to the fact that we as a society gave a lot of lip service to women’s liberation but then we never followed through with the actual support that women and their families needed. A stay-at-home wife is only possible when when wages are supported by a strong network of unions and an actively pro-labor government. Little did we realize that there was a vast right-wing propaganda conspiracy to convince us that unions and socialist government policies were the cause of all the world’s problems rather than some of our best protections. So, like termites, two generations of the Koch family, Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch and many others got fat and bloated gnawing away at the foundations of our prosperity for decades. Meanwhile, we feminists cheered as masses of women entered the workforce, thinking that they were achieving self-actualization, while in reality they were mostly responding to the shrinking earning power of their husbands. Then, shallow thinkers like Southern come along and see how hollowed out the middle class has become and conclude that women getting jobs is the cause of the malaise when in reality it is a symptom.

  5. says

    …The reality of losing his life’s work became too much for him… Going from living a James Bond lifestyle to being reduced to a boring middle manager…

    OMG that’s an absolutely amazing amount of stupidity to pack into so few words. First, how many people with an (unspecified level of) “security clearance” have “James Bond lifestyles?” Did he actually expect a “James Bond lifestyle” just because he had a “security clearance?” And second, if this guy was “reduced to a boring middle manager,” that means he got DEMOTED from HIGHER management. Which would almost surely not have happened due to any cause but his own performance or lack thereof. And third, even a boring-ass middle manager can probably afford better housing than ‘“an ant-infested cabin without clean running water” in a trailer park.’ I live in the DC area, and I can get better lodgings than that with just a “public trust” clearance.

    This guy is an idiot, and he seems to be living in an idiotic fantasy world. James Bond is FICTIONAL, and very very few real spies live a “James Bond lifestyle.” Oh, and the intel business in general is VERY boring. If you have to base your “understanding” of spybiz on stupid fictional movies, AT LEAST try watching Jason Bourne.

    • says

      My understanding is that the ant-infested cabin is her current living situation.

      They had a better setup when she was living with her husband, but when he abandoned her and left her with a child and no job or savings, this is what she had to resort to.

  6. Katydid says

    @4, I hear you and I agree that there was no support put in place for families, and also that a single paycheck is almost never sufficient to raise a family.

    I also continue to assert that there was a huge backlash against women being able to support themselves, and an entire industry that grew up trying to keep women subservient. I’m talking about the Evangelical Christian movement that was everywhere in the 1990s and early 2000s, that grew a generation of girls into women with very-poor education who were brainwashed into thinking some man would take care of them. A prime example is the wife of Josh Duggar–who’s currently in prison for a long, long time for the horrific kiddie porn he went to great lengths to keep on his work computer. His wife is barely literate and has no way to support herself or their passel (6? 7?) young children. That kind of mindset and (mis-) education is to prevent women from leaving the cult, because if she does, she and her children will starve.

    A less-famous version of that is a former coworker of mine who married his sweetheart in college. They’re in their mid-40s, the kids are grown enough to be out of the house, and he got long Covid and can’t work.The wife has never held a job–not even fast food or babysitting as a teen. The family is floundering because she doesn’t believe a woman should work and has no skills in that area. But they were raised with the idea that God will provide so women must stay in the home.

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