In My Words: Woman is not synonymous with homemaker

In My Words: Woman is not synonymous with homemaker

Looks like Taylor released “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” just in time. Last weekend, Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs Kicker, delivered the commencement address at Benedictine College in Missouri. In the speech, he spoke directly to the women graduating and told them that they had been served “diabolical lies” and that the most important vocation they would hold in their lives is “as homemaker.” Holy effing Handmaid’s Tale… or a regression 70 years to 1950s gender roles.. I fear a bit of both. 

I hate to even give these thoughts a voice, but there’s a lot to unpack here. Some standout quotes (vomit) from the speech:

On IVF, surrogacy, and birth control
“Let's be honest, there is nothing good about playing God with having children, whether that be your ideal number or the perfect time to conceive. No matter how you spin it, there is nothing natural about Catholic birth control.” 

We’re getting conflicting ideas here, “women should be mothers, but only when it is the will of god, and using science to conceive is unnatural.” This illustrates the hypocrisy rooted in the speech, pointing to the idea that it is really about controlling women. 

It is important to note that birth control is the single most important factor in garnering women financial independence and a role in public life. The FDA just cleared an over-the-counter birth control pill, available to anyone in CVS, Walgreens, and other stores. Birth control offers a resource for women to choose when they want to be mothers, if ever. This is more important now than ever. 

On women in the workforce
“For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you… Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world… I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I'm on this stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation… homemaker.”

Butker’s speech was forcing gender roles down our throats, he also spewed hate towards the LGBTQ community and encouraged men to reaffirm their masculinity. What a slap in the face to the women in the audience who had just spent four years in classes, countless hours studying and pulling all-nighters, and tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education to pursue careers. And then to be told right before you graduate that it was all a lie and God's will is for you to stay in the home, please your husband, and raise children. 

His thoughts articulate an expectation that is, in fact, being pushed on women by our very own government through the form of abortion bans. To quote author Jessica Valenti, these abortion laws are really just rules. Rules made by men to keep us in line, keep us in the home. Sigh, I can’t believe we’re talking about this in 2024. 

Here I am standing on my soapbox, once again, preaching to the pro-life folks out there. If you are worried about life in America, consider championing causes that do not strip humans of their bodily autonomy. Encourage comprehensive sex-ed. Support (yes, this means paying higher taxes) social programs that help mothers in poverty and children in foster care. Rally for gun control. And, an intrinsic part of supporting American lives is keeping abortion legal. 

A study published in JAMA showed that rape led to 64,000 pregnancies in 14 states with abortion bans. Forcing someone to give birth to their attacker’s baby doesn’t seem very pro-life to me. Nor does forcing a middle schooler, still a child, to birth and mother her own child. 

At the same time, Alabama has declared frozen embryos as children. The result of this is fertility clinics shutting down in the state and IVF resources becoming scarce. So women who want to be mothers should not have the option to have children, but women who don’t want to be mothers should be forced to have children? Make it make sense. 

But it’s not really about life, it’s about control. The same people who wave their flags for forced birth cannot imagine a country without assault rifles in the hands of civilians. It is currently being decided when a medical emergency is a fair cause for abortion. The lives of the unborn are being placed on a pedestal higher than the lives of those who have been living and existing in the world for years. People who are depended upon. Did you know 6 in 10 people who get abortions are already mothers? 

Back to the speech at hand. Instead of misinterpreting a Taylor Swift lyric and referring to her as “my teammate’s girlfriend” (so much to unpack here too), Butker should have quoted the lyric, “I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.” This is because women’s lives completely change when they have children. 

According to census bureau data, women are more than four times as likely as men to miss work for childcare. NPR shared that women spend more than twice as much time on housework as their husbands. A Gallup poll revealed that women with a college degree are slightly less likely than women without one to be solely responsible for household chores and tasks. Ironic, considering that this homemaker speech was given at a college graduation. 

One woman took to Tik Tok with this message, “I need Harrison Butker to know that I love my husband and I love my kids, but my life ended when I had them.” 

As a response to Butker’s speech, theSkimm's co-founders, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, created their own address to the women of Benedictine College, and young women everywhere. They shared the sentiment that we deserve autonomy over our lives, “each of you has the potential to leave a legacy that transcends yourselves. The question that each of you have to answer is what you choose for that legacy to be. Note the word choose.” Choice, people.

They pointed to the deeply concerning narratives about women’s roles, and the idea that if you choose to be both a career-driven woman AND a mother, it is not all rainbows and butterflies. Women are paid 84 cents compared to their male peer’s dollar, less if they’re a woman of color. Maternal health is on the decline (note abortion bans, frozen embryos declared as human life, etc). Women are less likely to be believed by their doctors than men- medical misogyny runs rampant. Did you know medical textbooks do not accurately depict female anatomy? Additionally, the US is one of the only countries that does not offer some paid maternity leave. This makes it very hard for working women to have children and then continue to pursue a career.

While we have taken strides towards equality, the discourse following last weekend’s speech continues to make clear that the expectations placed on women are not expectations we want to bear the burden of. We get to choose our future vocation, whatever that may be. Harrison Butker, we’ll forget you but we’ll never forgive, the smallest man who ever lived.

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