Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Open Letter to Matt Walsh, from a New Feminist – baby, bath water and such

Matt Walsh, whose blog I do enjoy reading, can be snarky, satirical and shake things up a little. I personally enjoy his style and probably agree with him more than I disagree. A few days ago he posted a follow-up post to a post he made about the ridiculous #BanBossy campaign. (Yes, I do agree it is ridiculous.) However, his follow up post (you can read that here) made some of my friends cheer and some scream in fury.
It was because of the screamers that I decided to respond. While I can mostly agree with Mr. Walsh, I do find that some of his statements and how they are worded could be taken the wrong way. So, to clear it up for my dear screamers, I chose to respond. (I actually think when I am done, we will see that Mr. Walsh and I – and my cheerer and screamer friends – have more in common than we realize. But how you say something is just as important as what you say. And in fact, I am probably writing this more to explain his post to my screamers than to Mr. Walsh himself, but regardless, here goes…)

Matt Walsh, image taken from his blog
Dear Matt,
May I call you Matt? I realize I am not exactly the intended recipient of your open letter, since you’ve written it to “liberal feminists”, and I am not a liberal feminist, but a new feminist, which is quite different. However, there are a few concerns that I think you are overlooking. I am also the mother of five sons (nope, not one girl!) and it does give me special perspective on the raising of boys in our society.

When I first heard about the #BanBossy campaign, I was appalled as well. When there are real threats that continue to undermine women’s dignity in our society, choosing to start a campaign against an obscurely chosen word (a word that, mind you, my boys call each other!) is just another facet of the smoke and mirrors. It is looking to distract from the reality that their liberal feminist ideas have actually led to more damage than gain for women. (All of which you did point out, though possibly in more provocative tones.)

I also think it is important for women (especially those like myself who are proponents of a New Feminism, the kind Pope John Paul II spoke of in Evangelium Vitae, 99) to look into your claim of where the women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns” comes from. We all want to be sure we have accurate facts and I found this site very helpful in explaining it. I was surprised that what you said about the salaries being gathered across all fields in all areas was more or less true. (Again, I do have to say it is hard to hear the truth when it is told in a mockingly and in your face way, but truth nonetheless I admit.) I would also like to note when discussing the lack of female executives with my father who is at such a level; it does seem to be that women who get to that point in their careers, more often than not, choose themselves to not want to spend hours on end working and prefer to have a family life instead. So, in some cases, it is not that women are not chosen for those positions per se, but they choose not to make such a hefty work over family life decision.

I even agree that our society is not overly conducive to boys. They are meant to be boys! Crazy, restless, a little wild even, and sitting 8 hours a day in a desk being told to hush and be more calm, is not encouraging their adventurous nature. What I found especially poignant was this bit “Boys — particularly boys in public school – are most assuredly NOT encouraged to be opinionated, assertive, loud, boisterous, or confident. Do you know what happens to boys like that? We punish them. We label them. We medicate them. Their opinions and their personalities aren’t just discouraged – they’re chemically obliterated.”

Again, being a mother of five sons, I am very aware of this! Not only this (and the shunning of natural male aggression), but the bombardment of an over-sexualized culture onto young men going through puberty and then we expect them to treat women in turn with respect? We are toying with their brains, hormones and psyche, and set nearly impossible goals for them.

You know what? I get that. There is a case to be made that life is challenging for boys in our society. But does that challenge for boys (and young men) erase the inherent discrimination towards women? I’m NOT talking about silly words, but a society that has been founded by men and a system created by men. It is hard for women to break into the “old boys club”. America, especially Corporate America, creates a need for aggression, one-mindedness and a society ruled by legalism. These are very manly traits, and yet women need to work in this society. You say “girls don’t have it any worse than boys” and that alone may be true, but knowing variation for individuals, on a whole, women trying to work in our society in many ways do have it worse than men.

Yet, this is where liberal feminism went wrong. Instead of insisting on elevating feminine traits and talents, they insisted that “women can be just like men!” As you point out, even if their intentions are to liberate women, they have added to the discrimination, saying she can’t fit in society unless her femininity has been stripped from her (through contraception, abortion, and imitating male models of domination). The thing is, sexism does still exist and has only gotten worse with the mirage that turning women into genderless, efficient members of society is creating gender equality. Our society is still a man’s world, but it is because of this senseless neutering of women (considering gender equality to equal gender sameness) that not only women but even men’s masculinity (and even boys’) are now at stake.

We need a society where both genders are elevated and given dignity and respect. This constant undermining of woman’s dignity by making her “just like a man” is eroding man’s dignity as well. We need a society that is built on the value of the greatness of the complimentarity of the sexes. I have friends who are “new feminists” who were screaming in fury at your last post, because of the complete dismissal of male domination in society as if it was a fairytale told by liberal feminists to get more control. Yet, it is a reality (that granted has been hijacked by liberal feminism and yes, used to give them more power) but is a reality nonetheless that did and does affect women.

So, before throwing out the baby with the bath water, why not just dump the dirt? Let us be aware of the reality of a world where women’s value is continually undermined, but instead of seeking a genderless society or a war of the sexes to solve it, let us find a solution rich in complimentarity and dignity for all.

Yours kindly,
Theresa

p.s. - you and your wife might really enjoy the movie "I Don't Know How She Does It" which is a fabulous depiction of feminine values attempting to play out in a man's world, and many gender equality(sameness) supporters hated the film. :)

9 comments:

  1. Right on Theresa! And Matt. I think we're mostly on the same page, or at least in the same book, so that's a start.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not sure what you are trying to say in your post. Do you think it's bad we live in a male dominated society? We live in a male dominated society because God designed men to dominate and to lead. Women are empowered when they are at home, raising children and being submissive to their husbands. "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Women are empowered when they are nurturing, taking care of others. A woman will be treated like a woman (with respect and the dignity that is due to her) when she acts like one. If women want to become CEOs then they had better act like a man and be domineering and bossy. A CEO is supposed to be the leader of the company. We shouldn't change a CEOs traits because a woman wants to be one. This is coming from a mom of five boys also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thank you for your comment because this is the issue exactly! Even Pope John Paul II in his document on the dignity and vocation of women affirms that the "domination of man" was a result of the Fall. It was not the original plan of humanity. Christ came as a man to serve humanity. Christ came to save us from the repercussions of sin. JP II discusses a society where male domination does not prevail, but instead a society whose leaders (both male and female) lead through their strengths. Male domination is apologized for by JPII in many instances. (Many of them documented in my book.)
      Some women do feel called to solely be a wife and mother and that is beautiful and profound! But saying that she must stay in that place or leave her femininity at the door seems a little harsh, don't you think?
      What about single women? What about women who are married but have problems of infertility and can never have children? What about women who enter active religious life? What about women who are doctors, nurses, lawyers, care-takers, hairstylists, photographers, teachers, saleswomen? You are saying that just because they choose to work (or have to work to provide for their family) they must leave their femininity at the door?
      If so, then this is where we disagree. The New Feminism Movement seeks a society that honors and respects male and female qualities. Pia de Solenni said beautifully, "whatever she does, she does as a woman, not as a genderless creature." Women are in society and ought to be in order for society to be balanced and a place that nurtures life and activity.
      There are some common misunderstandings about New Feminism. You might find this post very helpful: http://www.newfeminismrising.com/2013/04/lets-set-record-straight-myths-and.html
      Many blessings to you on the wonderful mission of mothering those boys! (I have often been told their is a special place in heaven for us! I hope that is true! ;-) )

      Delete
    2. Even if you are coming from a place of sola scriptura, you are a little misguided, anonymous. Women were not created to be dominated by men, but to be their equals. Assigning gender roles to things and positions is rather arbitrary, no? There are many successful CEOs and some of them are women because the wonderful thing about all of humanity is that we are unique beings with unique skills. My daughter and sons have many strengths that will make them all fantastic leaders, no matter what they choose to be. If our culture insists that both men and women must be in the workforce to raise a family, then that same culture must change to meet the needs of its workforce: men and women, parents and non-parents alike.

      Delete
  3. I personally didn't find the BanBossy campaign distressing OR maddening, because it is a needed sentiment (stop demonizing female assertiveness) in a ham-handed package.

    I do find Matt's rejection of the idea of male privilege to be myopic and (perhaps unwittingly) perpetuating the same anti-human forces that drive male privilege. Sexism and male privilege have BOTH effects:disrespect for women AND the long-term undermining of respect for men. Think about what it means when hyper-masculine categories of what men "should" be like are invoked: it leaves no room for the many varieties of strong, caretaking masculinity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be more clear, look at our pornified culture right now: masculinity may be undermined in many of the categories that we use to put men in....But women are disproportionately objectified in the images that we see. And, although men are more and more objectified both as helpless losers AND as as sex objects, the cult of "looking at" instead of "seeing" comes full circle: as men are encouraged to turn their fellow human beings into something to be consumed -- even in a static television ad -- their own masculinity is further degraded.

      Delete