If you haven’t heard of Matt Walsh, bless your heart and don’t bother to read the rest of this post. Who is Matt Walsh? He bills himself as a purveyor of “absolute truths” and the “traditional family.”
He enjoys writing headlines for his blog that are senselessly provocative, such as “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice” right after the beloved actor’s death, “Barack Obama doesn’t care about black people,” “Just pretend this dead lion is a human baby and you won’t be so upset,” and the article I’d like to focus a bit on today: “Why is everyone so mad at Ray Rice for punching his fiancee?”
When I read Walsh’s take on the Ray Rice situation, one paragraph in the middle really hit the nail on the head as to the question above: Why am I so tired of Matt Walsh? Read:
What if Rice and his fiancée switched sides in this? Unlikely, I realize, but follow the hypothetical. What if Janay spat on Rice and he smacked her in retaliation, and then, after some kind of altercation in the elevator, Janay leveled Rice and left him unconscious on the floor? Would we be equally as furious at the woman in that situation?
Not a chance. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.
So if men and women are equal and everything is exactly the same, why would the reaction to this scenario be dramatically different if we changed the sexes of those involved?
There’s no use pretending that our reaction wouldn’t be different. You won’t fool yourself, or me, or anyone. There is a double standard. A different standard. Why?
We might as well just confront this question. It’s a scary thing to do, I realize. We don’t want to look any closer at this because know that the answer will devastate nearly all of our egalitarian leftwing feminist principles.
Why? Well, finally, I’ll propose an answer to the riddle: when we heap extra scorn on the abusers of women, we acknowledge that men and women are separate, distinct, and unique creatures. And we know that to acknowledge our separateness and distinctiveness is to contemplate the possibility that men and women have different roles in society, different duties, different responsibilities, and different purposes.
There are stronger words I would like to use to describe Matt Walsh’s contribution to humanity, but I have settled on the following: he is a unrepentant purveyor of white heterosexual male privilege over and against the rights, hearts, minds, and souls of oppressed people everywhere. Matt Walsh knows nothing of what it is to be oppressed and has chosen to make it seemingly his life’s mission to deny that such systemic oppression has any effect on anyone else’s life. Matt Walsh wants you other white heterosexuals to know that you do not need to feel in any way complicit in oppression or injustice anywhere.
In the above quote, Walsh introduces a tired hypothetical scenario often used by those in a position or power and privilege to protect the status quo. He asks if we reversed the genders of the people in the situation if we would have been as outraged as we (we ostensibly meaning ‘liberals’ most of the time) have been. Walsh claims that “there’s no use pretending our reaction wouldn’t be different” because there’s a double standard at work, and that proves men and women are different. Fundamentally, even “egalitarian leftwing feminists” believe that men and women are different. “You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it,” he might say.
Let’s get one thing straight: Matt Walsh is using domestic abuse to justify the ideology that women are somehow different in their humanity from men. Matt Walsh is using domestic violence to justify a complementarian understanding of gender.
He is not doing that logically, no, he is not saying that if A and B then C, but he is taking advantage of a situation of domestic violence to promulgate, disseminate, and support his teaching on gender. I don’t think that’s right, but you know that’s what we do on the internet now to get page views.
Where Walsh’s argument falls apart for me is in this question he posed: “So if men and women are equal and everything is exactly the same, why would the reaction to this scenario be dramatically different if we changed the sexes of those involved?”
In posing the question this way, he is creating a logic that he believes those of us who consider ourselves egalitarian/progressive/liberal adhere to. He says that we believe that men and women are equal. He could not be further from the truth.
What Matt Walsh doesn’t understand from his position of privilege is that ideas like feminism surrounding issues of sex, gender, orientation, race, etc. exist because people are not equal. Feminism exists because men and women are not equal.
We do believe, yes, that on a level of being, that as human beings men and women (gay and straight, black and white, etc.) are equal as human beings. But, social structures, cultures, institutions, and systems do not recognize that reality.
You wouldn’t react the same way if factors such as gender, race, or sexuality were reversed because in those cases an oppressor is not oppressing the oppressed. The central issue at stake in situations characterized by the injustices of sexism, racism, or heterosexism is oppression. In the case of oppression, the roles cannot be reversed so easily — the oppressed cannot so easily become the oppressor — not in the situations about which Matt Walsh likes to so lovingly offer his unsolicited opinions.
But Matt Walsh isn’t conveniently avoiding what he knows to be true, Matt Walsh legitimately believes that this is an instance of inconsistency in “our egalitarian leftwing feminist principles.” He can say that because he refuses to acknowledge his privileged position. And I say refuses and not fails for a reason. Take a gander at another provocative Walshism: “I’ll check my white male privilege right after you check your arrogant liberal assumptions.”
In the post, Walsh outlines how he received an angry and profane email from someone who he assumes is a liberal college student. He includes the full text at the link. Kira tells him to check his privilege and Walsh lambastes the entire notion of privilege and says he does not have any privileges other than “living in a first world constitutional republic,” apparently because his list of privileges is “quickly dwindling.” (May I remind you that living in the so-called “first world” country does indeed carry with it a great deal of privileges that others do not enjoy.)
He remarks the following: “Can you name one particular right or immunity that I possess and you do not? What is one specific benefit that white males universally enjoy while all other people are deprived of it?” He tries to get himself out of the question by making whatever privilege he has applicable to every single white male, but that’s exactly the crux of his issue in understanding privilege: universality.
Matt Walsh assumes in no small way that his experience is universal. If he can do it, anyone can. If a white male can do it, anyone can.
Contrary to Walsh’s objections, there are a great many privileges enjoyed by white heterosexual males like he and I:
– We have the privilege of walking almost wherever we want unmolested by catcalls or sexual predators.
– We have the privilege of shopping in whatever store we like without being shadowed by the management who thinks we are there to shoplift.
– We have the privilege of police who are there to protect us, not kill us.
– We have the privilege of choosing whatever vocation we would like, not being challenged on the basis of gender.
– We have the privilege of, I don’t know, getting married?
– We have the immense privilege of the vast majority of political leaders in this country looking just like us and guarding our privileges.
Those are just to name a few. Walsh is right, there are white males who have been abused, live in poverty, or suffer in general. But don’t think for a second that their situations could not be a whole lot worse if they were a female, or worse: black. That’s what we mean by privilege, Matt.
What’s the point of all this? Why am I so tired of Matt Walsh? I’m tired of Matt Walsh because he’s just propping up people’s privilege and helping them avoid truly considering the plight of women, people of color, and other marginalized people. So, maybe just stop reading Matt Walsh. Maybe that’s the point. If you’re white, and especially if you’re a white male, stop reading his blog. If you want to keep reading his writing, at least read some minorities and women, too. Don’t let the stuff you read on the internet only reaffirm everything you already think. I don’t still read the Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and guys like Matt Walsh because I hate myself or I love to rage blog. I may disagree with them to varying degrees (I certainly don’t think Christianity Today is anywhere near as frequently horrendous as Matt Walsh), but I still want to hear what they have to say. I read them because I’m not going to ignore their voices and the effect those voices have on the people around me.
Anyway, I guess the real takeaway here is: check your privilege. If you don’t know how, ask someone who doesn’t have it.