Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

June 11, 2013

MORGAN MOHR: Eastern, Kokomo commencement speeches were worlds apart

— I have never personally met Mr. Peter Heck — whose inflammatory comments on the role of women were reported by the Huffington Post last week. When the Eastern High School teacher made waves by teaching the Bible as history, I even wrote a caustic response to Heck’s class that the newspapers refused to publish. It’s not surprising that I was denied a voice: Heck embodies much of the ultraconservative sentiment found in my county and state. Thankfully, as valedictorian of Kokomo High School’s Class of 2013, I was finally given a podium and license to speak. Unfortunately, it seems Mr. Heck didn’t hear what I had to say.

As commencement approached, I thought of the students who made jokes about women’s rights, and the religious leaders who told me I belonged in the kitchen. I wanted to force every person in the gymnasium to face the hard facts about gender inequality. I wanted to liberate the little girls in the gym, who tell me that they want to be princesses instead of the president of the United States. I wanted to encourage the tired mothers to see themselves as individuals, not just a means of producing individuals. I wanted to tell my fellow female graduates to be unafraid of ambition. This is part of the valedictorian address I delivered May 31:

We need female leaders. Out of all of the Fortune 500 CEOs, 21 are female; women hold only 16 percent of board seats. Women make up 18 percent of Congress, which ranks the United States 78th worldwide, behind countries like Ethiopia, Iraq and Tajikistan. By the way, we’re still earning 77 cents on a man’s dollar … Girls, we have 7 billion people on the planet, so consider doing something other than parenting. The patriarchy must be dismantled.

Two days after my graduation, Heck also gave a commencement address on the roles of women. The two graduation speeches from two schools in the same county in Indiana highlight both sides of the national discussion about women in the workplace. Heck found little redeeming value to powerful women when he spoke June 2:

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.

So which plaguing problems of our society is Heck speaking about? Stephanie Coontz in a New York Times Sunday Review cited a plethora of findings on the outcomes of mothers going to work, including a review of 70 studies that shows “no significant negative effects of maternal employment on the intellectual achievement of young children.”

While it seems Heck centers on the importance of child-rearing, at no point in his commencement address does he attempt to refute the vast amount of scientific data that demonstrates the positive effects of maternal employment. Instead, Heck seems concerned only with the emotional state of husbands. Heck tells girls “the greatest role of your life” will not only be that of mother, but wife. In a later part of the same speech, Heck says “we need more men acting as fierce defenders of their wives and providers for their children.” His desire for a deeply patriarchal gender divide was chronicled by the Huffington Post:

In a blog post from July 2012 in the wake of the Aurora shooting, Heck described the present day as “an age where we too often yield to the idiotic sniveling of modern feminism that suggests there is no place in our enlightened society for men to act as ‘protectors’ of women — indeed, they suggest that it is insulting and demeaning for [men] to do so.”

Heck is not warning young women of the negative effect their jobs will have on their children; his primary concern is for their husbands, who will lose their roles as “defenders,” “providers” and “protectors” if their female companions show any autonomy or financial freedom.

The Atlantic published an article in May that deciphers The Hamilton Project, a study that analyzes the unhappy marriages in which women earn more than men: “Evidence suggests that couples are less likely to get married if the woman’s income exceeds her partner’s. Once married, a wife earning more than her husband is more likely to be unhappy in the marriage, more likely to feel pressured to take fewer hours, and more likely to get divorced.” Wives who earned more also did more chores around the house. “Maybe the husband feels threatened, so she does more of the cooking, even though she earns more,” said economist Emir Kamenica.

Perhaps Peter Heck is not simply an ultraconservative rural voice, but an indication of the veiled, and even subconscious, distress of men who are encountering a growing number of financially independent women. When I had the floor, I attempted to introduce basic facts about gender inequality to the people in the gymnasium. If I ever do meet Heck, I hope that I can do the same.

Morgan Mohr of Kokomo will attend Indiana University Bloomington this fall as a Wells Scholar.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Road must be made safer Eight months ago, the Indiana Department of Transportation opened the new U.S. 31 bypass east of Kokomo. Joining Mayor Greg Goodnight was Gov. Mike Pence. Even the Kokomo High School marching band performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was the

    July 24, 2014

  • SEN. JIM BUCK: New laws offer help for kids Families with children who have special needs often face difficulties finding the best care or treatment for their specific circumstance. During the 2014 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed several initiatives to assist these fam

    July 24, 2014

  • LETTERS: Christians must stand with Israel 'As Christians we must stand with life' The present conflict in Israel is with Hamas, recognized even in Egypt as a terrorist organization. Recently Hamas formed a unity government with the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. They're now the government in

    July 24, 2014

  • BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Youth sports leagues are on troubling decline An important youth development activity is looking to end a recent losing streak. Participation in organized youth sports leagues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer declined by 4 percent between 2008-2012, according to a report in the Wall

    July 24, 2014

  • Keep eye out for kids

    With most local schools welcoming students in a couple of weeks — and Kokomo schools beginning class Aug. 5 (yes, a week from this coming Tuesday) — it’s important for motorists to think about safe driving as children travel to and from school.Law en

    July 23, 2014

  • MAUREEN HAYDEN: Expiring term heightens urgency of legislator's mission State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki had plans for her return to the General Assembly next January.The two-term Republican from Kosciusko County wanted to exert “full force” to roll back a law that prevents the children of undocumented immigrants from paying i

    July 23, 2014

  • LETTERS: Let's hope 7th Circuit sides with couples Let’s hope 7th Circuit sides with couplesIf you blinked over the past month, you probably missed some news about marriage equality in Indiana.First, a federal court ruled that the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples was unconstitutional, whi

    July 23, 2014

  • CECIL BOHANON: Spend down surplus? Been there, done that Back in 1998, the state of Indiana had more than $1.3 billion in surplus funds in its general account. This was about 57 days of state spending. The state had total surplus funds of more than $2 billion that was over 24 percent of its annual operatin

    July 23, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush? Clinton? Next, please

    Here comes a sentence I don’t usually find myself typing: I agree with Barbara Bush on something. Jan. 20, C-SPAN aired her installment in the series “First Ladies: Influence and Image,” which was filmed at Bush’s Houston home. “Do you think there is room for another Bush in The White House?” asked host Peter Slen. “This is a great American country, a great country, and if we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run,” said Bush. “I think Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes; there are just more families than that.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • State aims at outbreaks More than 200 Western School Corp. students were vaccinated for chickenpox after an outbreak in March 2012.The virus was confirmed to have infected five fifth-graders, the Howard County Health Department reported. It acted quickly to prevent the infe

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll