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How the Internet Responded to That Sexist Hurricane Harvey Tweet

August 30, 2017, 6:38 PM UTC

A photo of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey has launched a debate about gender roles on Twitter.

On Monday, Matt Walsh, a columnist for conservative, Glenn Beck-founded news platform TheBlaze tweeted a photo of a Houston Police SWAT officer carrying a mother and her child after rescuing them from their home: “Woman cradles and protects child. Man carries and protects both. This is how it ought to be, despite what your gender studies professor says.”

The tweet quickly went viral, with some on social media expressing frustration at Walsh using the photo to comment on gender dynamics.

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Others pointed out that the photograph simply showed a person his job—and a decent thing for another person.

One user pointed out that there are plenty of female first responders and emergency relief workers.

And, of course, no Twitter thread would be complete without a Star Wars reference.

Finally, an actual gender studies professor weighed in. Christina Wolbrecht, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Program of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame, responded to Walsh’s message in a series of 12 tweets.

Here’s her full response:

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 [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 “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.