An Actual Gender Studies Professor Responded To A Blogger's Anti-Gender Studies Tweet

"The value of work — holding the baby or carrying the mother — should be recognized & rewarded, no matter who performs it."

Many have responded to Hurricane Harvey on social media, offering everything from kind words to donations to physical shelter. But one response that may have been better left unsaid came from blogger Matt Walsh. He tweeted a Associated Press photo of a rescue worker carrying a mother cradling her infant child through knee-deep water. 



The picture itself depicts a dedicated worker and a devoted mother doing their best in the worst of physical conditions. However, Walsh chose to use the otherwise heartwarming image to defend his antiquated position on gender roles. "Woman cradles and protects child. Man carries and protects both," he wrote. "This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says." 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, an actual gender studies professor took it upon herself to turn this controversial (and highly meme-able) tweet into a teachable moment — not for Walsh she later noted, but for everyone else who may still have archaic ideas about what constitutes "women's work." 

In the ensuing Twitter thread, Christina Wolbrecht, who specializes in gender and politics at the University of Notre Dame, went in on the overarching false narratives about gender roles that have existed since the beginning of modern society and continue to persist today. 

Making the most of each 140-character burst, she put forth both a concise and comprehensive argument for the personal, professional, and economic benefits of gender equality. Combined into a single quote, she stated: 

"Care work (for children, infirm, elderly) is necessary for human flourishing & has been traditionally performed by women for free, which contributes to women's lesser financial & politics power. As care work has moved into the market, it remains poorly paid & overwhelmingly female, which again makes women more vulnerable. We [heart emoji, designating 'love'] to laud a woman 'cradling her child' but don't provide paid maternity leave or support quality childcare & good pay/benefits for childcare workers (women, immigrants). But wait! There's more! 

As budgets for care work (mental health, health care) have been cut, a lot of that work has shifted to agencies like police & fire, who often lack training & capacity, and result in troubling outcomes. At same time, economists note that a central challenge to male workers is skills mismatch - men reluctant to take jobs in expanding care sector, partly bc jobs are "female", partly bc they are low paying, low prestige (bc their[sic] "women's jobs"). 

IN SUM your rigid and illogical sexual division of labor, & related hierarchy of value, hurts both women & men, the US economy, & the flourishing of society as a whole. The value of work - holding the baby or carrying the mother should be recognized & rewarded, no matter who performs it. Given how much care is needed, all hands on deck."

As an addendum to her thread, Wolbrecht also directed her thousands of readers to graphs further explaining the points outlined in her argument.  

 

Since Wolbrecht posted her Twitter thread on August 29, it has been liked and retweeted more than 56,000 and 26,000 times, respectively. The overwhelmingly positive response shows that many agree with her that the "sanctity" of traditional gender roles are becoming more and more irrelevant, especially in times of crisis. 

Those interested in helping the men and women working together in relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Harvey can contribute to various local and national organizations. 

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