Kick Rocks, Woman Shamers

Oh, good. This guy again. I think Matt Walsh imagines himself as some sort of caped, high-booted defender of women when he’s just another woman-shaming promoter of “traditional” feminine roles.

I recently wrote a response piece to a different Walsh blog post regarding parenting, and lest you assume I plan to make a habit of this, let me just say that I don’t really enjoy responding to him. I don’t find his blog well written or insightful, and were it not for well meaning people on my Facebook and Twitter feeds sharing his tripe, I would have probably dismissed him as a troll on first read. BUT, since he’s making the rounds and seems to have struck a chord with folks who might not have considered how damaging his rhetoric is, I thought it best to respond once more.

In his most recent blog post, Walsh outlines a couple of scenarios (probably made up) where kindly people approach him at coffee shops to disparage his wife’s choice to stay at home with their kids rather than having a full-time job outside of the home. Walsh then tells these people (both women) off; first passive aggressively in person (or so he represents) then more directly on his blog. A cursory look at Walsh’s blog reveals that this is his main trope — sneeringly correcting people for their wrong-headedness in person, then blasting them online later.

The first “presumptuous and subversively condescending” person to earn Walsh’s choler asks him if his wife is “back at work yet” after having birthed their kids. When Walsh tells the inquisitive friend/bystander (we’re not given context for the relationship between Walsh and the inquisitor) that his wife isn’t going back into the workforce, the questioner responds with, “Oh fun! That must be nice!” That’s it. That’s all she needed to say for Walsh to determine that this woman is “rude, pompous, and smug.” From that comment, he infers that she doesn’t value stay-at-home parenting, thinks stay-at-home parenting is easy, believes working outside the home is always better, is materialistic, and has fudged up priorities, along with a bounty of other judgments that in no way automatically derive from, “Oh fun! That must be nice!”

Walsh immediately schools the inquisitive woman by explaining to her that being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM, it’s just easier to type) is a lot of hard work, and that it’s rewarding and not always fun. Yeah, no shit. Nothing that woman said should lead anyone to believe that she doesn’t already know all of that. Lots of things are both hard and fun. Lots of things are both rewarding and nice. The woman who dared say, “Oh fun!” may have herself been a SAHM at one point and enjoyed it so doggone much that hearing about someone else doing it made her happy. Or maybe she’s never been a SAHM but thinks she’d like to try it. Maybe she knows she doesn’t want to try it but appreciates that others do. When I was a trial lawyer, people would often say, “That sounds so fun!” And I never once assumed they didn’t understand that it’s also very hard. In fact, I assumed they thought it’d be fun, in part, because it’s hard. That’s often the best kind of fun; engaging in challenges that you can take pride in. Every time someone said my work sounded fun, I took it as a compliment. And, by the way, being a trial attorney is fun. As well as hard and rewarding.

Walsh’s reaction to, “Oh fun! That must be nice!” is so out of step with reality, it’s hard to imagine what’s driving it (defensiveness, narrow-mindedness, sexism). But it feels like projection on top of projection of his own creepy views about the boxes people (women, mostly) fall into.

Which is kind of the biggest problem with him (and those who think like him). He starts his post with, “It’s happened twice in a week, and they were both women. Anyone ought to have more class than this, but women — especially women — should damn well know better.”

Especially women. Especially women, what? Women need to be especially classy? Especially sensitive? Especially good? Especially espousing someone else’s particular views about parenting? Walsh and other woman shamers perpetuate the notion that women need to first of all meet higher standards than men, and second, take it upon their male-ass selves to decide what those standards are.

To put it bluntly: Walsh specifically, and men in general, need to go ahead and not talk about what women especially need to do. They can shut their mouths about what women want, feel, and need as well. None of us, whether we agree with Walsh’s views or not, need him speaking for us. So he can just tuck his little nylon cape away. Go ahead and keep the boots out for inclement weather.

The second career woman to approach Walsh and lambast his wife for SAHMing is less innocuous than the first, but also less believable. After saying she’d be antsy staying at home with her kid she asks Walsh just what his wife does all day. To which he replies, “Oh, just absolutely everything. What do you do all day?” The career gal says, “…Me? Ha! I WORK!” And then she’s put in her place with, “My wife never stops working. Meanwhile, it’s the middle of the afternoon and we’re both at a coffee shop. I’m sure my wife would love to have time to sit down and drink a coffee. It’s nice to get a break, isn’t it?” I’ma let Liz Lemon take care of this one.

I can’t roll my eyes enough at this insufferable ass. He sets up these vignettes and presents them as common occurrences when people don’t just walk around looking for opportunities to insult SAHMs. If anything, the main insult I see lobbed at SAHMs comes not in the form of overtly attacking their value, but in the form of empty pandering. Something people like Walsh do plenty of. Men with views like his will expound on how being a SAHM is the hardest job in the world and call for the deification of mothers, without once mentioning that the status quo of women in the home and men in the workforce was created for the benefit and convenience of men. They’ll put SAHMing on a pedestal while neglecting to address the problems that can arise from this setup of making their spouses financially dependent on them. They’ll pay lip service and do nothing to make it easier for women to make choices about how they want to parent, work, and live. These SAHM-loving men also rarely bring up the possibility that maybe men should stay home with the kids once in a while. Much of the praise I hear for SAHMing is empty and meaningless. It insults moms who stay home by assuming they’re easily quelled with flattery. It ignores what complex people all moms (all women) are by deducing SAHMs to one thing. The type of “support” I hear for SAHMing tells women who have children that being mothers is the whole of their identity. And whether a woman is a SAHM or not, that is never the case. A woman is always many, many things.

But these little vignettes allow for Walsh to set up his straw(wo)men so that he can shut down their fake arguments and, more importantly, so that he can shame people, in this case women, for being bad.

Or maybe that’s just how he sees the world. Maybe he doesn’t even realize that the tiny boxes he attempts to cram people into don’t fit.

Walsh assumes that because he sees things a particular way, the rest of us will be satisfied to be defined by those stark, sharp edges. For him, the ideal parenting set-up is for a man to work outside of the home and a woman to stay inside the home with the kids. We womenfolk can get on board with that, or betray our gender. False dichotomy.

If we aren’t on board with SAHMing as the ideal, rather than as one of a number of choices, we’re materialistic, shallow, confused, unable to “grasp the glory and seriousness of motherhood,” we need to “GET [OUR] FREAKING HEAD[S] ON STRAIGHT.” Because, once again, in this false, black and white world, there are two kinds of people: those who believe that the way Walsh’s family does things is the ideal way, and wrong-headed people.

And because this guy looooves false dichotomies so much, he presents another: as a woman, you can do meaningful work at home with your kids or you can toil away outside the home at a meaningless job. And Walsh describes all jobs (at least for women) as meaningless. Does he set up this same set of choices for men? No, of course not. Men can live rich, full lives in a number of ways. But for women there is a clear best way. And that best way doesn’t involving working outside of the home.

When it comes to work, Walsh seems to have a very limited understanding of what it is or can be. Where he came up with his bleak notions about careers, I have no idea, though any view other than his apparently came from The Communist Manifesto (yes, he actually drops a communist reference). I can only presume that he hasn’t had very fulfilling jobs himself, or never stops to think about how the world functions. In any case, Walsh believes that jobs cannot be liberating or empowering. They’re never important. In any job, whatever it is, you’re no more than a number.

Huh. Well, my lights came on this morning because some meaningless number at City Light, who we don’t need at all, did his or her job. I’ll keep that service coming by paying a bill issued and printed by a billing clerk, just another number, at the City Light offices. The toilet didn’t back up for the morning, ahem, business because the faceless numbers working in public utilities keep the water and sewer going. I ate breakfast this morning because of pointless, meaningless numbers masquerading as farmers, processors, grocers, grocery bag makers, parking lot planners and pavers, and the support staff making all of those jobs possible. My husband has a dentist appointment. Some number is going to clean his teeth, thankfully, since home dental hygienistry is generally not recommended. And finally, I’ll hopefully talk to my sister tonight, a mother and a teacher, a number, who is uniquely good at what she does. Someone who, through her work, her mere job, the thing that’s “something [she does] for part of the day and then stop[s] doing,” the thing for which she merely “get[s] a paycheck,” the thing that is “nothing spectacular or mystical,” very literally changes lives — lots of them.

To people who espouse such a bleak view about work for women, jobs are always meaningless and SAHMing is always sacred, even if it’s a bad fit for some women. Because women can never be more than a number in a job and can only be somebody to those in the sphere of influence at home. And if Walsh is to believed, taking pride or deriving satisfaction from anything other than SAHMing is an absurd delusion.

But he doesn’t stop there. Because why present only a few false dichotomies when you can present many? Up next: We can either define SAHMing as the ideal, or society can crumble. He points out that, “If your mother quit her role as mother, entire lives would be turned upside down; society would suffer greatly. The ripples of that tragedy would be felt for generations. If she quit her job as a computer analyst, she’d be replaced in four days and nobody would care.” But of course he fails to mention that by going to work at her job as a computer analyst, your mother doesn’t quit being your mother! She is your mother always. Yes, society would be fubar if everyone who has kids stopped parenting them, but no one’s advocating for that, obviously. Equating working outside of the home with not parenting is an accusation so vile I can’t even wrap my head around it.

There is also no mention of what would happen if every woman in the workforce quit her job. Because not only are women essential to the raising of kids, women are essential to the economy and the general functioning of society. Influencing the lives of the people in your immediate family is good, influencing the lives of people outside of your immediate family is also good. Each woman should have the opportunity to examine what she’s best suited to, how she’ll be fulfilled, what she has to offer, what she wants to offer. That’s how we achieve what’s best. And what’s best will look like many, many different things. What’s more, women won’t all be equally busy, why would we be expected to be? Women’s choices are as varied as we women are ourselves. If he’s going to continue writing about women (and I really wish he wouldn’t), Walsh needs to figure out that we aren’t some kind of interest group, a one size fits all oddity for him to fake champion. What works for one woman, does not work for the next. Like men, we’re not all the same (why do we still have to explain this?!). Whether a woman is busy (or wants to be), or is busy with things that matter (to her), isn’t determined by whether she stays at home with her kids or not, it’s based on how she chooses to fill her time. And she should have those choices.

Despite beginning his article by being annoyed with people who don’t understand how busy his wife is, Walsh goes on to lecture about how none of us is as busy as we think we are anyway (as if he could possibly know that about even the people he knows, much less the people he doesn’t know). And then he cautions us that we shouldn’t be busy anyway, because it’s bad for us. But what of those busy SAHMs! At times, even Walsh doesn’t seem to agree with Walsh.

Busy or not (and I don’t think being busy is going away any time soon), some jobs are so obviously necessary, like nurses, teachers, and domestic violence advocates (three professions often occupied by women, many of them mothers), that they don’t need much of a case made for their importance. But even the kind of jobs for which a person might be easily replaced, there is value. Taking pride in how you spend your time —  inside or outside of a job —  is important. And ultimately, whether people are liberated or empowered by their jobs is entirely up to them, and not up to the all-knowing Matt Walsh. Some women are liberated by their jobs because of the skills they get to use, the people they meet, and the challenges they address. Others may simply be liberated by financial self-sufficiency. The notion that women should only work if they have to is disgusting. It also ignores the idea that being the best parent you can be hinges largely on being your best self — for some women, that may involve SAHMing, for others it may require working outside of the home.

But some people just can’t seem to grasp that we’re all different. That one person’s preferences, or even one group’s, can’t be applied to all.

Despite his claims that he doesn’t cast aspersions on women who work outside of the home because he gets that many women are forced to work, or they choose to work because that’s what they want to do (hey, thanks for the bone), here’s what Walsh finishes with:

Of course not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.

And there you finally have it.

After attempting to parade around in women’s advocacy clothing, the sexist wolf boldly emerges. Anything less than staying home with your kids is worse for the kids, worse for their souls (geez, this guy loves hyperbole), worse for the community (which depends, of course, very heavily on some women choosing to be in the workforce), and worse for humanity. Unless you have no choice but to work, mothers, Walsh and those who are super jazzed about him think you have no business working. To that I say, KICK ROCKS.

And not only does his witless final rant outline that there’s only one right way for women to parent, it makes clear that women need to be ideal. Because, once again, there’s a standard for men, they get to be imperfect, but women are supposed to live up to expectations designed for the convenience of men, to not just be but be ideal. Shame on us for not fitting someone else’s standards of perfection and excellence.

The people I know who posted this Walsh article are nice, good people. Folks who I really doubt espouse his rigid views. I wonder if many of them didn’t read his whole post. I hope anyone who initially thought he was harmless will read all the way to the end of his shameful and divisive post and consider what it really says, and then choose not to spread his woman-shaming rubbish again.

7 thoughts on “Kick Rocks, Woman Shamers”

  1. Oh gosh, I read this when you (?) posted the link on Facebook, and I could NOT. It reeked of sexist, cissexist, paternalistic caterwauling trying to disguise itself as outrage on behalf of women everywhere. Not here for Matt Walsh’s fauxminist rants and especially rants where he speaks over his wife and other women to to tell us what, ideally we should value as women.

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