Don't mess with Texas, because Texas is doing a fine job messing with itself without any help. Case in point: the embarrassingly Neanderthalish youth leadership development conference known as Texas Boys State.
Held last month, the event — which drew 920 high school aged boys who had been dubbed future leaders by their local American Legion chapters — was supposed to nurture an interest in government and civil service among high potential teenagers. Boys who attend are guided into forming mock political parties complete with platforms, campaigns, and elections. But according to people who were there, what is supposed to be a primer in American democracy quickly devolved into a celebration of proud chest thumping sexism and idiocy (which, to be fair, is kind of what American democracy is), complete with a campaign speech that consisted entirely of the words "Cold beer and titties" and mock campaign posters that featured, simply, the name of the party running for office scrawled over a disembodied boobs from a fashion magazine. One mock party's platform on abortion read thusly and, while it contained some grammatical errors that high schoolers preparing for a presentation should have caught beforehand, it reads remarkably like the sort of platform touted by the IRL dude-heavy political establishment:
1. Abortions are illegal in all cases except the ones where a woman becomes pregnant as the result of being raped and women who have medical issues that necessitate here [sic] to terminate the pregnancy.
2. A judge can be the only one that decides if someone actually became pregnant as the result of a rape. A doctor can be the only one that allows for a termination due to health issues.
3. In the case of teen pregnancies, three years of optional welfare can be provided as long as the person raises the child themselves and notifies their community that they are receiving welfare.
When asked why teen moms should have to go door to door telling their neighbors about their receipt of welfare like sex offenders, a spokesperson for the party behind the platform explained that it was so the neighbors could know they needed some help. And that teen fathers should have no responsibilities.
Future leaders, guys.
According to Burnt Orange Report, this isn't the first time Texas Boys State has become a celebration of pre-oafdom.
While Texas Boys State has earned its prestigious reputation, it faced criticism in 2005, when Texas Monthly reported that three statesmen withdrew from the program, due to their fellow students' homophobia and the "atmosphere of hatred and intolerance." The young men I spoke to who attended this year's conference said they overheard homophobic slurs, but were proud the group had overcome the bigotry of a few and worked together to approve civil unions. What troubled them was the degrading way a number of statesmen treated women.
Boys at the conference were reportedly unchecked by counselors and other adults who were supposed to serve as role models.
Meanwhile, at Texas Girls State, the attitude was decidedly less juvenile and more productive. Delegates reported feeling empowered and inspired to run for public office, after debating real issues like same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage, and the sexual assault crisis on college campuses. No battle cries of "cold beer and titties!" in earshot.
Despite the boys' rampant dipshittery, "over 30 state representatives, senators, and current and former statewide elected officials visited the boys," according to BOR.
Total number of statewide officials who visited Texas Girls State? Zero.