Well, it wouldn’t really be a full day if we didn’t have some athlete or another saying something awful. This time it’s Brewers pitcher and generally disagreeable person Matt Garza, chiming in with his Very Important Opinion about birth control:
— Matt garza (@Gdeuceswild) January 13, 2017
It’s a mind-numbingly naïve statement in its own right. Every study done during the last 25 years tells us that abstinence-only education doesn’t work, and leads to higher rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. There are a lot of things that Garza very clearly doesn’t understand when it comes to reproductive health: that millions of women take birth control for health reasons other than preventing pregnancy, that pregnancy is not the only possible unintended consequence of sex, and that maintaining a healthy sex life has numerous long term benefits for physical and mental health.
When one considers the source, the statement turns the corner from hilariously naïve to hypocritically malignant. Garza himself has six children with his wife, the first of whom was conceived while the couple were still in high school. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; what Garza and his wife do with their bodies is none of anyone else’s business, and even at 17 Garza likely knew where his career was headed and knew he’d be able to financially support a child (he was drafted as a college junior). But when one links his past with his statement about birth control, we see a person who has never had any intention of keeping anything in his pants telling those less fortunate than him (which is … basically everyone?) that having sex is the sole domain of those who are able to financially support a child.
At the risk of sounding like a millennial cliché, and in lieu of a better phrase, Garza needs to check his privilege as both a member of the upper-upper class and as a man. Garza, for whom money is no object, has no idea what life is like for those who cannot afford the time away from work that comes with bearing children. Paid maternity and paternity leave isn’t a reality for millions of Americans, and even those who do enjoy it rarely get more than a few weeks before they have to decide to go back to work – and pay through the nose to leave their child in someone else’s care – or abandon their jobs to become stay-at-home parents. None of these are concerns for Garza, of course: he makes enough money that his wife can take as much time as she needs away from work to raise their children, and can hire as much help as they need.
Most men have the luxury of not really needing to take time off work to care for a newborn infant if they can’t afford to or don’t want to. Beyond not needing to deal with the enormous physical toll pregnancy takes on the body from conception to well beyond delivery, men in our society are generally considered exempt from the responsibility of child rearing. Men who abandon their progeny are “deadbeat dads” which is like, you know, so not cool man; while women who do the same are swiftly thrown in prison for child neglect. Garza’s comments come from someone for whom the same rules do not apply.
And yet here again, hypocrisy rears its head. At the end of a disastrous 2015 campaign in which his 5.63 ERA would have been the worst in baseball by over half a run if he’d pitched enough to qualify, Garza threw a temper tantrum and quit on his team rather than accept a bullpen role. He later used the birth of his child as an excuse to sit the final month of the season out. Matt, I don’t understand! You weren’t able to go to work because your wife gave birth to a newborn? Maybe you should have tried abstinence, buddy.
For at least the next week, this is a free country, and while Garza’s uninformed, hypocritical comments are protected by the first amendment, my right to name them so are equally protected, at least until our president-elect criminalizes criticism next Friday. This is by no means the first time Garza’s opinions have run afoul of the majority of forward-thinking folks, and it likely won’t be the last – we’ve seen over and over and over again (it seems to be a pattern with mediocre white pitchers) over the past year or so that we’re all probably better off not knowing what our favorite baseball stars think. I’m not telling Garza that he can’t share his opinions with the world – I’m only telling him that I don’t think he should.