There's nothing wrong with telling a bunch of third, fourth, and fifth-graders that they can do anything they put their minds to. In fact, it's an encouraging message we hope they hear again and again throughout their lives.
But asking just one group of those kids to shout it from the rooftops — "I can do anything I put my mind to!" — while another group sits silently is a problem. And it's even more problematic when the group told to sit quietly is girls.
The school invited him to speak in hopes of inspiring the kids, but Winston ended up reinforcing sexist ideals of what boys and girls should and shouldn't do instead.
"We've been working so hard with our students giving them hopes and dreams and helping them raise their expectations,'' said Bonnie Volland, a speech language pathologist at the school, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Winston's speech certainly did that — for the boys. This is the message the girls heard:
"All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down," Winston said. "But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren't supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I'm saying? One day y'all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you'll have a very, very deep voice."
"But the ladies, they're supposed to be silent, polite, gentle," he said. "My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y'all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!"
The overwhelming message here is: Girls should be silent and weak and boys should be loud and strong. It's not exactly new, and probably not something most of these girls haven't heard before, but certainly doesn't need reinforcing — especially from someone kids supposedly look up to.
But many people are questioning why Winston was ever invited to speak at the school in the first place. In 2012 Winston was accused of rape while he was a student at Florida State University. The school settled with the woman who accused Winston and he was never formally charged, but the alleged assault is enough to make us (and a lot of other people) worry that he was ever considered a good role model for kids.