peter-heck-sexist-commencement-speaker

Remember Peter Heck, our social studies teacher buddy who just couldn’t help but tell young women graduating high school that the most important thing they can do in life is be a mother and wife? Well, he responded on his own website, completely bewildered that anybody would “misunderstand” his commencement speech. As such, he posted the relevant portions of his transcript and explained himself, assuming that this would clear some stuff up and that, no, he isn’t totally sexist! Except he is, because he is openly, hopelessly invested — and thereby encouraging in this speech — gender roles.

Ladies, I challenge you to a life of rebellion. To recognize that your body is a temple that is deserving of honor, not indiscretion. I challenge you to be women of virtue, finding beauty not in how many unprincipled men you can attract, but rather finding beauty in modesty and self-respect. I challenge you to devote yourself to family, to your children.

If you choose to have a career, God’s blessings upon you, but I challenge you to recognize what the world scoffs at…that your greatest role of your life will be that of wife and mother. That the greatest impact you will ever contribute to our world is a loving and devoted investment into the lives of your precious children. To solve the problems plaguing our society, we don’t need more women as CEOs, we need more women as invested mothers.

Yes, he does say “God’s blessings upon you” toward women pursuing careers, but he also follows that up with “but…” and goes onto explain that it is still more significant and important to be a parent and spouse.

It doesn’t help that he also believes in the idea of a “virtuous” woman who lives a life of “modesty and self-respect,” code words that generally can be interpreted as, “Don’t explore your sexuality openly, do not be a slut, cover up your body, have one partner for the rest of your life.” Young women shouldn’t be told what to do with their bodies or lives, except that they are capable of choosing for themselves; who is Heck to tell them how to live their lives?

Men, I challenge you to a life of rebellion. To recognize that manliness is not defined by who bench presses the most, or who scores with the most women. I challenge you to recognize that the measure of a man is found in his character – his honesty, how well he can control his urges, his temptations, his desires…setting them aside for the good of others. I challenge you to find a woman to love, to commit yourself to her and her alone for the rest of your life.

Good gracious, this “life of rebellion” trope is getting old, but that’s beside the point. First of all, he’s presuming that men are all about their fitness and sex history; it’s not a “challenge” for them to be honest and being a good person, though I’m pretty sure controlling non-harmful (emotional or physical) urges and avoiding all temptation isn’t actually a qualification for that. Also, not everybody finds one person to be with for the rest of their lives; it’s not

Oh, and do not go around telling me that because of his religion, he should be allowed to speak as though non-heterosexual people don’t exist. Eastern High School is a public school, meaning that his religion should not come into play, and if he is going to trumpet his beliefs on relationships, he should acknowledge all sexualities, or none at all.

I challenge you to be man enough that when a provocatively dressed woman comes on the television, turn the channel. Send the message to your wife that she alone captivates you and she is in competition with no one. You want to be a rebel – that’s a rebel. I challenge you to lead your homes in the pathway of righteousness. Provide moral clarity for your children and unyielding hard work for your wife.

As per usual, we hear the shaming of women who are “provocatively dressed” and the idea that men cannot even look at certain women without being provoked into some sort of sexual engagement. That’s insulting to both men and women.

So many times I’ve heard others compliment my wife for supporting my ministry, supporting what I do. They have it backwards. I work to support her ministry, what she does in raising our children. And it’s an honor to do so. To solve the problems plaguing our society, we don’t need more men as millionaire entrepreneurs, we need more men acting as fierce defenders of their wives and providers for their children.

Yes, he does say we don’t need more males being “millionaire entrepreneurs,” but he also implies that women cannot defend themselves without men and that the males should be the providers, rather than the females. Again, gender roles, and the implication that it is a male’s job to provide. It is a parent’s job to provide, whether that parent is male or female, and single mothers, single fathers and whomever else must do what they need to do — regardless of antiquated ideals.

He may claim that he believes women have a choice; he just believes that one is a better choice than the other. By imposing that belief on young high school students, male or female, he is perpetuating these ideals: women are generally meant for the home, they need to stay pious, men are easily tempted, everybody should get married and have babies. Oh, and heterosexuality is just about it when it comes to relationships.

The kicker? He believes that the “only” place that covered his speech correctly is the one that agreed with him completely, also using only a single portion of his speech. Now, is that a lesson teachers should be instructing students: everyone is wrong when they discuss you, unless they agree, in which case, they’re ethical and just?

Oh, and he finished it up with, “Those are comments, those are sentiments that I stand fully behind.  God help our culture if others do not.”

While I actually do believe that family is incredibly important — to me — I do not think the world will crumble if many people decide to not have kids, choose to sleep with lots of people and to become CEOs instead of (or in congruence with) becoming parents. All of those things will not destroy the world. In fact, what the world needs is more people who will choose not to have children they cannot be fully devoted to, who will not be pressured into having kids when they’re not ready or not financially able or not emotionally dedicated to handling offspring, or simply don’t want to.

Photo: Peter Heck