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Matt Walsh misses the mark on gender ... again

Unsplash/Becca Tapert
Unsplash/Becca Tapert

In the 1987 cult classic "The Princess Bride," a beautiful young woman named Buttercup is forced into a non-consensual betrothal to a narcissistic buffoon of a prince named Humperdinck. Humperdinck is a big-game hunter obsessed with conquest. To him, Buttercup is just another trophy for the collection. He came, he saw, he wanted, he conquered.

In anticipation of the wedding, Buttercup moves into the palace. She’s given all the creature comforts a gal could want: extravagant clothes, the finest of foods, her own horse, but her life is not her own. She does not love Humperdinck. She’s trapped in a life of someone else’s choosing. Where others see a palace, she sees a cage.

So when Buttercup is kidnapped as part of a political strategy, it’s really kind of a crapshoot to determine which is worse: the danger of the unknown future with her captors, or the drudgery of returning to life at the palace. Prince Humperdinck sets out with a posse of his finest hunters to go and “rescue” the soon-to-be princess. But the question remains: Does returning a person to captivity really count as rescuing her?

In the last decade or so, the fate of womankind has been captured by an insidious cult known as the gender industry. Every hard-fought, sex-based protection women ever achieved is being systematically erased by this new men’s sexual rights movement that insists on flat-earth absurdities like the myth of being born in “the wrong body” and the existence of a “female penis” and then weaponizes these concepts by branding them “science” and codifying them into law in ways that wreak havoc on humanity. (I’ve written extensively about this before and don’t have time to dive down that particular rabbit hole at present, so suffice to say that it’s happening, it’s bad, and it’s especially harmful to women and girls.)

Enter conservative darling Matt Walsh onto the scene with his admittedly excellent documentary "What Is A Woman," which shines a critically important spotlight on the issue, and suddenly the Republican masses are emboldened to step up to the plate and engage in the previously forbidden discourse that kept them sidelined and out of the fray. Walsh’s contribution is necessary. It’s helpful. It’s changed the tide and sounded the necessary alarms. I’m glad it exists. I would not take that from him.

But as I said almost exactly a year ago, I have some serious concerns about the world Matt Walsh is inviting us back into. He’s right that transgender ideology is a problem, but he is completely blind to the reality that it’s a problem that exists, in part, because of the regressive sex-role stereotypes he himself prescribes as the solution.

Are men and women different? Absolutely. Our bodies are different. Testosterone produces different results than estrogen does most of the time. Men are physically stronger. Women possess the superpower of gestating human life. But these are differences that work themselves out naturally. They don’t need to be bottled into some sort of script that we then, in turn, require the rest of humankind to recite at their own expense.

One thing I am desperate for more conservatives to understand is how much and how often we fuel the gender cult by bullying people into compliance with rigid gender norms.

People and (especially) churches that try to force people into narrow definitions of superficial manliness etc. are a HUGE part of the problem. If you don’t let your sons play with kitchens or dolls because they’re “too girly,” you’re contributing to the mess. If you teach your daughters that godly women are largely silent, compliant women, again, this is part of the problem.

The extremes on the right say that only girls can like pink. The extremes on the left say that if you like pink, you must be a girl. The lies are connected. And Matt Walsh is actively, relentlessly peddling them. Take, for example, his Facebook post on Monday.

It’s hard to say if this analysis is worse for men or for women. In my opinion, it’s a hideous, ungodly and, quite frankly, almost blasphemous analysis of God’s design for both.

“Men shouldn’t cry.” “Emotions are for women.” “Men have a depth women can’t even begin to understand.”

Oof. Just stop.

Has Walsh ever even opened a Bible? Even once?

Remember King David? Like the most alpha guy of all time? The guy who killed a lion with his bare hands? Remember how he flooded his bed with tears? Or how about when Joseph was wailing so loudly from the other room that all the Egyptians could hear him? Remember the group cry sessions led by men of God repeatedly in the Old Testament? Remember when Jesus wept?

Be like Jesus, Matt.

I understand the call for men to be brave and strong and bold. (I encourage these same traits in my daughter; the world will absolutely require them.) But there’s more to manliness than being willing to storm the beaches at Normandy. In fact, during WW2, more than half a million service members suffered some sort of psychiatric collapse due to combat. And when they returned from war and bottled their emotions, their families suffered, as will all families raised under Walsh’s grotesquely immature prescriptions for masculinity.

Between 2015-2020, fully 122,178 American men died by suicide, compared to the 19,297 women who took their own lives. Is this what Walsh means when he insists that women are more emotional than men? While he might argue that these numbers are so high because men don’t know how to bottle their emotions, I think what’s actually true is that men don’t know how to process their emotions, and he is 100% contributing to that problem by endorsing the very disembodiment that fuels the gender industry in the first place.

Walsh doubled down later in the day and went on to post about how God sanctions gender roles and began waxing on about the golden days of yesteryear when womenfolk stayed in our lanes.

He neglected, of course, to offer any kind of guidance as to where he thinks the parameters of those gender roles ought to fall. He just insisted they were useful, hinting at the idea that society might benefit from a return to "Leave It to Beaver" gender roles and hierarchies. Again, this isn’t a particularly biblically literate position. There was no gender hierarchy in Eden. That’s original design. But to hear Walsh talk, you would have thought God created the Stepford wives, put a vacuum in their hands, and called it “good.”

Gender roles existed because they were necessary to sustain life back in the day before the Industrial Revolution. Work was distributed according to ability, and the bulk of it occurred inside the home. Then big factories hit the scene and removed the work (including all the women’s work) from the home and outsourced it, leaving women to sit around twiddling their thumbs where they once had meaningful pursuits to occupy their time. Dorothy Sayers wrote some brilliant analysis on this, and guys like Walsh could seriously benefit from reading it. He’s established that he can properly define a woman as an adult human female, but he could use some reminders as to what the “human” part of that definition actually entails.

I’m perpetually told that I’m supposed to be grateful that guys like Walsh are rescuing us from the gender cult. And in some significant ways, I am legitimately thankful for the work he’s done. But I’m not allowed to say that I resent being escorted back to the elaborate cage he wants to put me in, even if I’m absolutely certain that cage is hostile to human flourishing.

Let brave, bold, impassioned people of both sexes arise to do God’s work wherever He calls them to do it and without the confines of performative stereotypes that aren’t even biblical to begin with.

Kaeley Harms, co-founder of Hands Across the Aisle Women’s Coalition, is a Christian feminist who rarely fits into boxes. She is a truth teller, envelope pusher, Jesus follower, abuse survivor, writer, wife, mom, and lover of words aptly spoken.

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