Courtesy of Emily Mata / The Highlander

In a speech at Benedictine College, a private Catholic liberal arts college, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker made a host of offensive remarks about women, the LGBTQIA+ community, women’s fertility issues and the modernization of the Catholic Church. The speech drew ire online and in the media as the remarks were labeled offensive and outdated. After spending the last four years giving up sleep, time and peace of mind to earn my degrees, this speech was sickening. It truly served as a reminder of what we all have to put up with for the rest of our lives.

Butker specifically takes a shot at abortion, In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy early on in his speech. At a time when women’s healthcare has been stunted and access to IVF has been restricted, this was simply cruel. He also scolded priests for becoming too familiar with their congregation, saying, “This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time because, as my teammate’s girlfriend says, familiarity breeds contempt.” It takes a special kind of audacity to poorly interpret a quote by Taylor Swift, unmarried, childless and successful at that, by calling her your “teammate’s girlfriend” and telling women their place is in the home in under a half hour. 

The kicker also took a wholly unnecessary and theologically ridiculous shot at the LGBTQIA+ community: “Not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it, but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the Holy Ghost to glorify him.” I would be far more concerned about the degree of “the deadly sin sort of pride” that it takes to think you have any right to take cheap shots at a group of people who have been repeatedly marginalized and discriminated against by calling their only recent ability to freely and publicly be themselves while, at the same time, you take advantage of that right. However, I sincerely doubt Butker sees the irony of his unique opportunity to speak his mind while shaming others for living theirs. 

The remarks that garnered the most attention were directed towards female commencement class graduates. In saying that his wife’s life “truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and mother,” it was the assumption that her life was not whole or she was not whole before she adopted that identity that drew so much attention. I am a whole person, all on my own, and I don’t need to get married or pregnant to feel whole. Even growing up in the Catholic Church, I was not exposed to this degree of relegation.

As much as I disagree, I’m more confused as to why a celebration of scholastic achievement was when Butker decided to make these statements. To use that opportunity to inform those who have just spent upwards of $35,000 a year to earn a degree that it is pointless and they should essentially give up on any career goals they may have had made so little sense. I’m sure many of them are excited to be a wife or a mother or both, but to think that a commencement ceremony is the time to bypass truly acknowledging the hard work and sacrifices these students made is in such poor taste. Especially when most of them are not going to marry men who make four million dollars a year and will likely need more than one source of income to support the family that you just told them they need in order to truly start living. 

Oddly, I have to agree with Butker on one point: “This is an important reminder that being Catholic alone doesn’t cut it.” I certainly hope he realizes that his Catholicism alone is not reason enough to disperse hateful rhetoric. You do not get to call yourself Catholic and use it as a reason to shame other people. You do not get to call yourself Catholic and use it as a justification to relegate women to second-class citizenship. This man decided to use the microphone and platform he had been given to help feed the narrative that the religion of 1.375 billion people stands for narrow-mindedness and shame.

However, at a school like Benedictine, it is entirely expected that he expresses these views to that audience. In fact, it is not even a little bit surprising and frankly, no one should be shocked. It was jarring to hear a speech that was so blatantly controlling, but the applause that his speech was met with highlights that he is not alone in his views.

At the end of the day, this is a weird speech full of backward views that I don’t have to abide by. The real issue is how common this kind of thinking is and how institutional barriers back it up. For those of us who are graduating, we are going to deal with these attitudes in the workplace and in our daily lives. It may even make our success that much more difficult. In a very roundabout way, this speech was a good dose of preparation. Harrison Butker is not the real problem, but let this be a reminder to all college graduates: never stick with your first draft.