On Wednesday, I wrote about Christian motivational speaker, Justin Lookadoo, and the swift backlash he created at Richardson High School in Texas in response to the deeply offensive misogynistic "advice" he promotes.
Just to recap, Lookadoo goes from school to school, giving presentations on the proper way for young women and men to behave if they ever hope to land a date. Such gems of wisdom as "dateable girls know how to shut up" and “men of God are wild, not domesticated” can be found at his website R. U. Dateable and are incorporated into his lectures to auditoriums full of young people.
Well, last Wednesday, Lookadoo picked the wrong school to mess with. Richardson High School located in Richardson Texas is a magnet school offering educational focus in "fine arts, culinary arts, theatre, communications, robotics, law, health science and science, and award-winning mock trial and debate teams."
In the 2012 U.S. News & World Report rankings of the Best Schools in America, Richardson High School ranked number 711 out of 21,766 public high schools, putting it in the top 3.5% of all public high schools in the United States. RHS was also rated the 65th best in the state of Texas.Even before he spoke, there was push back, causing the school to first cancel and then reinstate his presentation. When he proceeded to get up in front of these young adults and spout his nonsense, the students of Richardson High took matters into their own hands and, using social media, expressed their outrage. Within hours, the hashtag #lookadouche had spread like wildfire, grabbing the attention of local news and garnering notice well beyond Texas.
Rather than die down, the uproar has gained fierce traction. Yesterday, the Huffington Post posted an article penned by Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, theology professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and an outraged mother. It is a must-read.
Another article written by one of the young women who attended Wednesday's lecture appeared at Texas Freedom Network's website yesterday. The article by Richardson High School student Taylor Allen is a blistering thing of beauty. I immediately wrote to Dan Quinn, editor of TFN seeking permission to post the letter at Daily Kos in full. His response was quick and enthusiastic. He contacted the young woman's mother and with in an hour she had written me personally granting both her and her daughter's permission to post her message in full under her name.
Take a marvel at this:
As a female student at Richardson High School, I was shocked and appalled by the misogynistic tirade I was subjected to at an assembly on the morning of November 13, 2013. Guest speaker, Justin Lookadoo, spoke to not one, but two packed auditoriums full of students, claiming the topic to be “Responsible Choices in Teen Dating.” He opened up with a “women can’t drive” joke, and while I expected to take a mature, serious turn from there, it did not. Girls were called “the most horrible, awful, and vindictive creatures this planet has ever seen,” and were pitted against one another, told that if they stood out and were themselves in any way, that other girls (and ONLY girls) were going to “stop at nothing to tear you down.” Girls weren’t the only ones who were targeted. Boys were told that “it’s not OK to be a nerd or someone who plays video games all the time. You guys are pathetic losers and silly dorks” and that feminism had made them “pansies.” How can a school as diverse as RHS pay such a bully to talk to their students and call it “motivation”?I give Taylor Allen a standing ovation for articulating so skillfully what needed to be said in response to such a virulent display of crass ignorance by Lookadoo. For those of you who tend to stereotype the people of Texas as backwards and hopeless right wing extremists, this should dispel that notion and then some.
There were plenty of warning signs that this gentleman was not an appropriate guest to invite to ANY high school, especially not Richardson, whose student body prides itself on its inclusiveness and diversity towards all students. His “R u dateable” quiz, and the rules attached to it, accessible from a simple Google search of his name, include such viciously gendered stereotypes as “God made men leaders,” “a dateable girl isn’t Miss Independent,” and the now-infamous “dateable girls know how to shut up.” His website also makes clear his opinions are rooted in his personal religious beliefs. While I fully appreciate and respect his ability and right to live by his own beliefs and wish for him to happily live by his own personal ideals of right and wrong, further digging reveals he does not seem to hold such a belief for myself, and other LGBT*Q people. He has been associated with the infamous “conversion therapy” group, Exodus International (as can be found here: http://www.exgaywatch.com/... ) which has been condemned by the American Psychological Association. Even Exodus’ own president has shut down the organization and apologized for the “pain and hurt” it has caused. Is somebody associated with such a harmful group welcome in RHS’s famously tolerant environment? Does RHS approve of this man calling young men who respect women the derogatory term for homosexuals, “pansy”?
Regardless, the warning signs of his character and his behavior at the assemblies were ignored and excused three times. First when he was invited to speak, secondly when the cancellation of his presentation was overruled by the school at the last minute, and thirdly when he was allowed to repeat his sexist manifesto to a second group of students, this time more so. The action taken was too little, too late. Apologies were made via impersonal robocall to parents, as well as a letter to parents from an unapologetic PTA President and our misinformed Principal who was out of town on a family emergency during the whole debacle. Specifically, he stated that “As agreed, [Mr. Lookadoo] did not discuss [religion or the 'Rules of Dating'] during either presentation,” while it has been confirmed to me by several firsthand accounts that in his second rant, he specifically discussed both topics. I, personally, have yet to hear anything in the vein of an apology, nor have my fellow students. My mother was not made to sit and listen to a misogynist tell her that she was a “horrible, awful, and vindictive creature,” I was. A full and proper apology would be very much appreciated by both myself and my fellow students.
I applaud RHS students’ creative, if a touch crude, response to his sexism. This can be used as a learning experience to show students that opinions differ and can often be harmful to certain groups, in this case, women. Those who discussed his rant on social media were demonstrating an admirable sense of individualism and commitment to their personal morality. The outcry in response to this man’s bigotry has made me even more proud to be an RHS student.
I sincerely hope that Richardson High School and its PTA will consider more carefully its selection of guests in the future and will thoroughly ensure that there are no massive red flags indicating that future speakers are a danger to the student body’s collective psyche. I also hope that a system will be put in place to intervene, should a speaker demonstrate his incapability do demonstrate compassion towards all students.
MoveOn has started a petition to call on public schools in the State of Texas to boycott Justin Lookadoo.
Controversial "motivational" speaker Justin Lookado markets assemblies to public schools that include offensive gender stereotypes (dateable girls "know when to shut up," and datable guys are "real men" who are "stronger and more dangerous" than girls) and are grounded in conservative religious dogma. As concerned parents and citizens, we call on public schools across Texas to "JUST SAY NO" to Lookadoo's programs.I urge you all to sign the petition here.
High school can be a socially difficult time for our young women and men going about getting their education. They do not need to be lectured to by some idiot spewing fundamentalist patriarchal nonsense. The students at Richardson High School took a stand and I stand with them.
Update: I just returned to my computer and found this important clarification from Taylor in my inbox:
Good afternoon, sir.Thank you, Taylor.
Firstly, I cannot thank you enough for the article you chose to write about my letter regarding the Lookadoo incident. I noticed that in the comment section that you were under the impression that the assembly was mandatory, or functionally so. It was originally going to be mandatory, but it was made optional after it was reinstated the morning beforehand. Students were allowed to either attend the assembly, or go to the Eagle's Nest (a small cafeteria) for an hour. Had the assembly been mandatory, I doubt my letter would have received the TFN or your attention, over the angry letters of the many brilliant and articulate feminists at my Richardson High School who chose not to attend.
Thank you, once again, for the very high praise. I did not expect this, and I cannot thank you enough for your kind words.
Taylor Brandyn Allen