Your Gender Does Not Dictate Your Future

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker recently made a commencement speech that sparked a national debate about gender attitudes.

By Cara During, Chief Program Officer

Butker mentioned "dangerous gender ideologies" and "degenerate cultural values."

He urged men to "be unapologetic in your masculinity," which, while not inherently harmful, can be associated with negative traits. A wonderful resource for healthy masculinity is an organization called A Call to Men. It is an organization that promotes healthy masculinity by challenging harmful traits and uplifting positive aspects.

Butker went on to say, “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 am hopeful that these words will be seen as those from a man, not much older than you, who feels it is imperative that this class, this generation, and this time in our society must stop pretending that the things we see around us are normal.”

Rigid gender norms are socially constructed beliefs and attitudes about people’s roles in society based on gender and can lead to ridicule, discrimination, or violence for those who deviate from them. These expectations shape beliefs and actions, intersecting with sexuality and relationships. Harmful attitudes include beliefs concerning male dominance and female submission.

The Center for Disease Control identifies “Belief in strict gender roles (e.g., male dominance and aggression in relationships)”[1]:  “Traditional gender norms and gender inequality (e.g., the idea women should stay at home, not enter the workforce, and be submissive; men should support the family and make the decisions)”[2][3] and “hyper-masculinity”[4] as risk factors for sexual and intimate partner violence.

Gender is one aspect of identity, intersecting with race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability, socioeconomic status, and culture. These intersections impact lived experiences and access to resources for trauma or violence.

Butker’s speech, while rooted in his personal beliefs, highlights a broader societal issue. It underscores the need for ongoing dialogue and education about gender roles and expectations. Everyone should have the freedom to choose their path without being confined by outdated and harmful gender norms. The Center for Empowerment and Education (CEE) believes all people should pursue whatever path feels best for them, whether that includes parenting, careers, marriage, or none of these.

Dismantling harmful gender stereotypes is a crucial step toward preventing interpersonal violence and creating a society where everyone can thrive and succeed. Education is key to this transformation and CEE provides programs in schools that help to achieve that. If you are interested in scheduling one of our programs in your schools, youth agencies, or elsewhere, please check out our website at for more information.


  1. Stith, S. M., Smith, D. B., Penn, C. E., Ward, D. B., & Tritt, D. (2004). Intimate partner physical abuse perpetration and victimization risk factors: a meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10(1), 65-98.
  2. Matjasko, J. L., Niolon, P. H., & Valle, L. A. (2013). The role of economic factors and economic support in preventing and escaping from intimate partner violence. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(1), 122- 128.
  3. Heise LL, Kotsadam A. Cross-national and multilevel correlates of partner violence: an analysis of data from population-based surveys. The Lancet Global Health. 2015 Jun 1;3(6):e332-40.
  4. Tharp, A. T., DeGue, S., Valle, L. A., Brookmeyer, K. A., Massetti, G. M., & Matjasko, J. L. (2013). A systematic qualitative review of risk and protective factors for sexual violence perpetration. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 14(2), 133-167.



The Center for Empowerment & Education Chief Program Officer Cara During wrote this article.