For the past few days we’ve been hearing some pretty awful stuff being dismissed as “locker room talk.” You know the words I’m referring to, that which we cannot unhear now that we’ve heard it — Trump’s 2005 banter with Billy Bush about (I quote) “grabbing women by the pussy.”
Now, if anyone believes that sort of talk can be dismissed as harmless banter, we’re in trouble. I mean, it’s the epitome of rape culture when a man like Trump literally says he can do anything he wants to a woman because he’s famous.
If that’s the going level and content of conversation in lockers rooms across the country, we’re in big trouble. I’ve never been in a men’s locker room, but in the women’s locker rooms I frequent, we talk about stuff like the workout we just did or are about to do, our kids and families and aging parents, the Adele concert the night before, the changing weather, what we’re doing for the long weekend, how dark it is in the morning these days and when the clocks are going to change…you get the drift.
We’ve blogged a lot about the objectification of women in sport. And it’s not as if there have never been any incidents in which athletes have violated women. Brock Turner, the Stanford rapist who many think got off easy (he was just released after serving three months) because he was a young white athlete on the swim team; Mike Tyson, was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years of a six year sentence. And this summer a report came out indicating that half of male college athletes admit to a history of sexually coercive behaviour such as sexual assault and rape. In the same study, the proportion of non-athletes admitting to such conduct was much lower.
So maybe there’s a different kind of talk that goes on in men’s locker rooms. To my great relief, a slew of athletes who do regularly spend time in men’s locker room’s took issue with Trump’s dismissal of his words as innocent “locker room talk.” In this article on CNN.com, they reported that “professional athletes grew irate at the insinuation that similar lewd remarks were commonplace in men’s locker rooms.”
Anderson Cooper called it out as sexual assault during the debate. It needs to be called out for what it is. And Olympian Queen Harrison points out that the locker room talk claim doesn’t make it better. If anything, it normalizes sexual assault by characterizing these sorts of remarks as casual everyday conversation of the “boys will be boys” kind:
I would like to think that most men are better than that and that they are equally appalled at the suggestion that this is typical. Whether typical or not, it’s not harmless to talk about abusing fame and power to get a free pass to have your way with women. It condones sexual assault and heaven help us if this is the level of discourse in men’s locker rooms.