I don’t know who Matt Walsh is. I only know he has bad ideas. This “Hanging Out The Walsh” series will be an ongoing critique of his blog posts and podcast in an effort to highlight misinformation, blatant lies, and misapplication of religious ideas to the real world.
At random, I’m starting this series on a post titled “Dads, We Can’t Expect Our Sons to Become Real Men If We Don’t Teach Them How.” What strikes me first is the black-and-white view of gender roles Walsh imposes on his world. The theme of this post is that boys need to be taught to be “real men” (just as girls need to be taught to be “real women”) and that an inevitable break-down of society is occurring because men are (as a whole?) becoming more feminine. There are plenty of issues with this idea.
Who defines what a “real man” is?
Is Matt Walsh the authority on what makes a man a man? I hardly think so. He doesn’t (in this post, at least) detail what, exactly, he considers a man to be except to say that a man isn’t a woman. That’s not helpful. However, in drawing this simple distinction Walsh tips his hand and alludes to the idea that a man is strong, confident, only wears long pants, and has an booming voice. The opposite – feminine – would be a demure, meek, soft, gentle and emotional creature. Probably one who cries a lot.
“This is what a man is. This is what he does. This is how he carries himself. This is how he behaves. This is how he dresses. This is how he speaks.”
I’m sure Walsh is plenty manly, and with a worldview like his he’d have to be. The problem is, Walsh’s idea of manliness isn’t the standard by which any other man should be judged. I, for example, take pride in my ability to coordinate an outfit or decorate a room. I place more emphasis on being artistic and well-read than I do being able to rebuild a carburetor or play (or even enjoy watching) football. That being the case, I feel plenty manly and my girlfriend appreciates my sensitivity. Because we don’t all come out of the same mold, Walsh’s idea that anyone can define a “real man” is not only naive but also massively pretentious.
Why can only a father teach a son to be a man?
Walsh’s assertion that the rise of fatherless homes and mainstream feminine male role models is causing boys to misunderstand what it means to be a man isn’t based in any rational thought process. It’s just an assertion based on Walsh’s personal distaste for a more open, accepting, and honest society where people don’t feel the need to hide behind masks of machismo and instead just act like themselves.
Without any distractions or nefarious influences, perhaps boys would turn into well adjusted men and girls into well adjusted women purely by force of nature. But our environment does not allow for that anymore.
Walsh is projecting what may be fear of losing his privileged place as a manly man to a society that doesn’t place as much emphasis on the chest-thumping, sports-watching male of yesterday. He’s lamenting a society that tells his kids it’s OK to be a nerd or an actor or a poet, so long as you’re happy. That’s odd. Of all the things we could want for anyone – especially our own children – being happy seems like the most basic, agreeable thing there could be.
Therefore, one of our primary duties as fathers must be to show our sons what true masculinity looks and acts like.
So why can only a father teach his son to resist society’s pressure? And why would he need to? A mother, having experience with at least one man in her life, would seem to be very capable of guiding her son to be the kind of man who would make a good boyfriend, husband, and/or father. She would be able to teach him how to treat a woman properly from a woman’s perspective and teach him life skills that would make him a good companion and equal partner in a future relationship. The more I think about it, the more it seems that a woman is the expert on what a man should be. I think Walsh is just way off base here.
Why can’t a son just be himself?
If Walsh posits that a father’s job is to mold his son into a “real man” then he’s overlooking a key aspect of his son’s personal growth: the ability to be himself. Walsh decries society’s pressure on his son to be this-or-that, but completely fails to acknowledge the pressure he’s putting on his son to conform to what Walsh thinks he should be. This isn’t a loving relationship, it’s a rejection of the idea that his son has the right to develop his own personality. So what if Walsh’s son (god forbid) turns out to be gay? His worldview doesn’t allow for acceptance or, I guess, forgiveness. What Walsh is illustrating here is a binary outcome for his son where he either turns out to be a “real man” or he’s a failure.
Again, I don’t know Matt Walsh and I’m sure he loves his son. I’m not trying to predict anyone’s behavior or put words in anyone’s mouth but I have seen first-hand the authoritarian, Christian, manly father in action and I wouldn’t wish that relationship on any growing boy.
Do you even psychology, bro?
I find it disturbing that Walsh displays such ignorance yet boasts a substantial following. In describing the importance of teaching masculinity, he asserts:
We would not expect our boys to learn how to read or do arithmetic or play baseball without any form of instruction whatsoever. Why then do we expect them to learn how to be men entirely on their own, especially in a society dead set on interfering in the process?
Can you spot the stupid in this paragraph? I’ll give you a second.
OK, it’s that reading, arithmetic, and baseball are all foreign and advanced concepts. Nobody is born with the innate ability to read English (or Spanish, or Hungarian), do math, or play an esoteric game that originated in one culture (that just happens to be yours and doesn’t translate readily to others) without effort. You know what does happen naturally? Finding out who you are, discovering yourself, acting in accordance with your convictions, and finding what makes you happy – even if it happens to be the opposite of a Walsh-man. In short, this is an incredibly stupid statement and doesn’t deserve any more consideration than this.
You may as well have said, “We wouldn’t expect our dog to learn how to make us omelettes on Saturday mornings without a recipe, so why do we expect them to learn how to lick their butts on their own?”
Let the kid be himself, OK?
The entire post is a reaction piece to Cover Girl and Maybelline having featured make-up-wearing men in their issues and the outrage it sparked because *gasp*, “they’re not even girls!!” Walsh’s brain leaps to the conclusion that these men must not have had strong father figures in their lives and have been brainwashed or, at the very least, duped by society into believing that being a man isn’t important. I’d argue that it really isn’t all that important – at least, not as important as being yourself.
The result is a generation of children who do not understand or appreciate their own nature and wish only to be something other than what they are.
Bull, Matt. They’re being what they are and don’t need your condemnation. Your real issue is that they aren’t being what you think they should be, and that somehow threatens you. At some point you’re going to have to step outside your tiny little world and realize that you don’t get to impose your concept of masculinity on the rest of the world.
Maybe through this series of blog posts you’ll eventually see how other people think, though I doubt you’ll ever read these or consider them anything more than “Leftist, Liberal Propaganda.” I only hope your son relates better to the real world than you do.