Are you familiar with the name Matt Walsh? If your answer to that question is ‘nope, never heard of him’, then we can only apologise for popping the blissful bubble in which you’ve lived thus far. Walsh is a US conservative Christian blogger and columnist for right-wing site The Blaze, where he writes articles with titles like “Kids are only ‘transgender’ because the adults in their lives make them that way” and “If you want to fight Nazism in America, fight the abortion industry”.
At times, Walsh’s online presence descends into pure parody. This is a man whose official author bio describes him as a “political incendiary” and “an extremist – if truth is extreme” (ha ha, gotcha, liberals!). Unfortunately, he is very, very real, and he appears to dedicate his life to seizing on things online and trying to use them as evidence for his homophobic, misogynistic, anti-choice, transphobic beliefs.
Walsh recently tweeted a photo taken in Texas, which is currently suffering catastrophic flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey. In it, Houston police officer Daryl Hudeck is seen carrying Catherine Pham and her tiny one-year-old son Aiden to safety. The work of Associated Press photographer David J Phillip, it’s an undeniably striking image – in part because Aiden is fast asleep on Catherine’s chest.
But Walsh, of course, didn’t like the picture because it was a beautiful snapshot of people helping others in a time of need. He liked it because it is apparently a perfect illustration of How The World Should Be.
“Woman cradles and protects child,” Walsh wrote, alongside the photo. “Man carries and protects both. This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says.”
Golly, but it takes a special kind of guy to look at a photo taken during a devastating natural disaster and think, ‘Yep, looks ideal to me’. Walsh’s tweet quickly went viral, racking up over 27,000 likes, 10,300 retweets, and lots of anger.
“Let’s say a man is hurt, should I not protect him and carry him to safety because that’s not how it ‘ought’ to be?” fired back Swedish journalist Hanna Friden.
“Nope,” replied another Twitter user sarcastically. “Leave him drowning or bleeding or go find a baby to rescue. Jeez, don’t you know anything?”
Others mocked Walsh with “this is how it ought to be” tweets of their own:
There was one Twitter user, however, who wasn’t prepared to dismiss Walsh’s tweet with sarcasm: an actual gender studies professor.
Christina Wolbrecht is a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, specialising in gender and politics. After seeing Walsh’s tweet, she felt compelled to post a thread dismantling his thinking – and it’s incredible.
“Care work (for children, infirm, elderly) is necessary for human flourishing and has been traditionally performed by women for free, which contributes to women’s lesser financial and politics power,” wrote Wolbrecht.
“As care work has moved into the market, it remains poorly paid and overwhelmingly female, which again makes women more vulnerable.”
Wolbrecht added that while US society loves to “laud a woman ‘cradling her child’, it doesn’t “provide paid maternity leave or support quality childcare and good pay/benefits for childcare workers”, who are overwhelmingly women and immigrants. (Walsh, you will be entirely unsurprised to learn, has written in the past about how he is opposed to paid maternity leave. Cool.)
She went on to explain how government cuts to the care work sector – as well as patriarchal thinking that assumes women should always be responsible for childcare – harm everyone.
“As budgets for care work (mental health, health care) have been cut, a lot of that work has shifted to agencies like police and fire, who often lack training and capacity, and result in troubling outcomes,” she wrote.
Economists, said Wolbrecht, have observed that a “central challenge to male workers is skills mismatch” – that is, men being reluctant to take jobs in the expanding care sector because those jobs are “female”, “low-paying” and “low prestige (because they’re ‘women’s jobs’).”
Taking a parting shot at Walsh, Wolbrecht concluded: “In sum, your rigid and illogical sexual division of labour, and related hierarchy of value, hurts both women and men, the US economy, and the flourishing of society as a whole.
“The value of work – holding the baby or carrying the mother – should be recognised and rewarded, no matter who performs it. Given how much care is needed, all hands on deck.”
At the time of writing, Wolbrecht’s thread had been liked more than 240,000 times – almost ten times the approval rating garnered by Walsh’s original tweet. Now that’s what we call a mic drop.
Images: Rex Features