A Dateable Debacle: Texas School Presentation Raises Serious Constitutional Questions

Many of them walked out of a required school assembly after Lookadoo, author of Dateable and The Dateable Rules: Guide to the Sexes, repeatedly made sexist comments during his presentation.

Students at Richardson High School near Dallas received an unexpected lesson on the Constitution yesterday, courtesy of Christian speaker Justin Lookadoo.

Many of them walked out of a required school assembly after Lookadoo, author of Dateable and The Dateable Rules: Guide to the Sexes, repeatedly made sexist comments during his presentation.

Girls, Lookadoo told students, were much nastier to each other than boys. “The reason it’s so hard for you to succeed these days is not because of guys,” he said. “You’re doing it to yourselves.”

As for boys, he declared, “Somewhere between the modern church and the feminist movement, guys turned into pansies.”

Lookadoo’s risibly stereotypical comments would be inappropriate for school settings even if they lacked a religious component. But although Lookadoo didn’t mention God by name in his presentation, a cursory glance at his website reveals that right-wing Christianity underpins every aspect of his “dateability” premise.

Behold the “Dateable Rules,” which condense Lookadoo’s arguments into a series of demands. “Accept your girly-ness,” the Rules order girls. “You are soft, you are gentle, you are a woman.”

And just how should girls demonstrate these feminine qualities? Never fear, Lookadoo’s here with the answer: stop talking.

“Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation,” he writes. In Lookadoo’s world, girls aren’t meant to be leaders. No, the Rules are clear: “A Dateable girl isn’t Miss Independent. She knows we are made for community. Needing each other is part of faith.”

Girls, Lookadoo says, should just let God run the world.

But it’s all right. Dateable guys only have your best interests at heart. After all, they’re just obeying God: “Chivalry is not dead with the Dateable guy. Even if society thinks this is old fashioned he knows that it is God-fashioned.”

The website encourages young people to print out the Rules and then write a prayer to God expressing their commitment to “dateability.” And just in case a teenager had the temerity to believe that he or she might be worthy of a relationship, Lookadoo provides handy quizzes intended to disabuse them of the notion.

I took the “R U Dateable” quiz for “girls.” The results were not promising. It seems that I am not dateable. I have surrendered my feminine mystery by revealing to the world that I have thoughts, and men, who are such delicate creatures, just aren’t interested in that.

But there’s hope! “Practice thinking about him and take your eyes off yourself so much,” the quiz suggests, and I may yet find myself a suitor. Presumably, I should also turn to God.

Sexism aside, Lookadoo also has disturbing ties to the “ex-gay” movement. In 2006, he appeared as the featured speaker at youth camps run by Ignite Student Outreach in partnership with the now-defunct Exodus International. Lookadoo led the camps alongside Exodus’ Alan Chambers and his deputy, Scott Davis.

It’s evident that Lookdoo is deeply embedded within the Religious Right and his views on gender, although archaic, are the norm for this fringe culture. The comments he delivered at Richardson High School cannot reasonably be divorced from that sectarian foundation.

In a description of his presentation, Lookadoo boasts that his work is covered by an array of federal programs, including Title I, Title IV, Abstinence Education and Pregnancy Prevention. Public money funded his presentation at Richardson High School. And that presentation isn’t an isolated incident. Lookadoo speaks at public schools across the country, all on the taxpayers’ dime.

The good news is that many of the young people at Richardson High were not fooled by this charlatan’s simplistic “Mad Men”-era spiel. Several fired up their cell phones and went straight to Twitter.

Sample tweets included: “Walking out, I refuse to listen to the enforcement of stereotypes and gender roles,” “At this rate, our speaker on Friday will be Ritchie Incognito” and “Being appalled by this ‘motivational speaker’ has legitimately exhausted me in my ventures of defending the rights of women.”

The administration of Richardson High School has, appropriately, apologized for Lookadoo’s presentation.

That’s a start. They also might want to consider the uproar a remedial lesson in the separation of church and state, a basic constitutional principle that their students seem to understand better than they do.