Despite What Matt Walsh Says…

Jean_Cousin_(I)_-_The_Rape_of_Europa_-_WGA05539

I don’t usually pay attention to Matt Walsh.

Today, though, he released a tweet that intrigued me.

Walsh shared a photo of an unnamed man, carrying a smaller woman, who was in turn carrying an infant, through  the flood waters in what I presumed was Houston. Quite a lovely image, from an artistic and a human interest standpoint, so of course Walsh had to ruin it with his caption: “Woman cradles and protects child. Man carries and protects both. This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says”

There was no period after “says;” the sentence just trailed off. And there was apparently a whole blog post on the topic, as well, but I just didn’t have the moral courage to read it.

What a fascinating statement. “This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says.” It’s one of those things that could be used as an idiom in any number of situations. Just slap it on the end of anything you emphatically profess to be true. It’s about as useful as “bless your heart.” You could caption any image in the world with “This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says” and not go amiss.

I was itching to try the phrase on some of my favorite paintings.

francisco_de_goya_saturno_devorando_a_su_hijo_1819-1823

The_Rape_of_Europa,_oil_painting_by_Pierre_Gobert

Paul_Cézanne_203

I’m no expert on gender studies, but Matt Walsh isn’t either so I’ll play along. I have never heard of a gender studies expert, however eccentric, who said that small people ought to carry big people.  Many of us dreaded nasty feminists say that stronger folks should help weak folks, and it shouldn’t matter if sometimes the stronger person is female. Personally, in times of flooding, I’m more concerned that human beings are rescued by whatever means is convenient, rather than making sure people protect one another in some kind of approved order, but that’s probably why Matt Walsh is a more successful blogger than I am.

I’m reminded of Sojourner Truth’s justly famous speech to the Akron Women’s Convention: “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” 

I wonder if Matt Walsh ploughs and plants and gathers into barns. My friend Rebecca from Suspended in her Jar is an accomplished farmer, locally famous for her hardneck garlic and hot peppers. I’ll bet she could plough circles around Walsh any day of the week. This isn’t how it ought to be, despite what my gender studies professor says; it’s just how it happens to be in this case. If both Matt and Rebecca were caught in a flood, and I was standing there to snap a photo, what might my photo reveal? I, on the other hand, am a weak and turgid woman with chronic fatigue syndrome. If Matt and I were in a flood, it might go the other way.  Or he might crack a fat feminist joke and leave me to drown, and the joke would be on him; I’m a pretty good swimmer, in spite of my size.

My point, insofar as I have one, is that people ought to help one another however they can without worrying about whether they’re living up to any culture’s gender roles. Those who can carry ought to carry. Those who need to ride ought to be gracious about riding. Mothers should attend to their children. Husbands should attend to their wives and vice versa. Him that has should attend to the one who has not. This is true whether the carrying is to be done in a literal or metaphorical sense. It’s true in the basic family unit, the extended family, the local community and the state. People need to carry each other. It’s what we’re supposed to do.

We shouldn’t make a fuss over such things, despite what your conservative blogger says.

(all images are photographs of works of art in the public domain, via Wikimedia commons, embellished with text by me.) 

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