Oct 092016 3 Responses

Locker Room Talk and Being a Man

You don’t talk to your best friend the way you talk to your grandma. That’s not debated. Much of what determines if a conversation is proper or improper is context. The presence or absence of children dictates how we talk about mature topics. How well we know or don’t know those in the room influences how much personal information we can reveal.

It’s true, there are times in which boys will be boys. When women and children are absent, their language might be more colorful and the topics might be less restrained. Boys will be boys.

But that doesn’t excuse assault. It doesn’t give a license for abuse. It isn’t a free pass for evil. (See: What a Drunk Girl Deserves)

Last week, ten-year-old comments from the Republican nominee for President were leaked to the media. In the audio, Donald Trump is bragging to a male reporter about forcing himself on women, grabbing them in private places without permission, and using them for his own pleasure. Some of the talk was locker room talk. Some of it with a verbal confession to crimes. There is difference.

While it’s expected that in a heated political debate, many will be quick to defend their candidate or attempt to deflect any negative news on their political opponent. What was troubling is how many men and women refused to criticize Trump and actually mocked anyone who had the audacity to say his actions were wrong.

“Boys will be boys,” they said.

“No they won’t,” we must shout back.

I’ve spent a lot of time in locker rooms. From high school and college, to present day where I have lunch most Fridays in the locker room of a country club. During that time I’ve heard a lot of talk which has made me blush. Much of it has been inappropriate and, on occasion, I either left the room or vocalized my disagreement. But in nearly three decades of being in a locker room, I’ve never heard a man brag about sexual assault.

And if I did, there would be clear actions to take:

  • Vocalizing the improper nature of the behavior
  • Checking on any possible victims
  • Contacting legal authorities
  • Publicizing relevant facts

Unfortunately, our society has a long history not only of being silent in such moments, but actually blaming the victim if anything is said. For decades, women have been punished for telling their stories. Even today, I wonder how the victims of Trump (and President Clinton) felt as they read the comments on social media defending his actions and questioning the character of others.

We must draw the line. (See: How Football Can Protect Women)

It’s time for a new societal norm. A norm where men protect women.

That’s our job. We were created to use our strength for the well-being of women. This doesn’t imply women are so weak that they need our protection. It clarifies that women are so valuable they deserve our protection. They are worthy of our sacrifice. Men were created to give of ourselves for their sake, but far too often we use them for ourselves. Designed to protect, we abuse. And we must stop.

In part, it starts with us calling evil, evil. When one of our own goes out of bounds, we must say they are out of bounds. We must hold them accountable for their actions.

We can’t downplay their failures, dismiss their indiscretions, or demean their victims. We must have the courage to speak and act for the well-being of women.

This doesn’t mean we assume every accusation is true without verifying the facts. It doesn’t mean we exile any man who has ever made a mistake. It doesn’t mean we become the thought police.

But it does mean we fight for women. It means we stand up for their dignity. It means we make it the norm that women are respected. It means we let our mothers, sisters, and daughters know we are on their side.

Realize if you do this, you will face opposition.

  • “You’re being judgmental.”
  • “You’re so self-righteous.”
  • “Who do you think you are?”

These are just some of the comments I received on social media for saying sexual assault is wrong. And it wasn’t just men saying it. But we must be willing to withstand a little kick-back in order to stand with women who have long been victimized by a society tilted in the favor of men.

Consider, we live in a society where:

  • OJ gets away with the murder of his ex-wife
  • Bill Cosby goes decades without experiencing negative consequences for rape.
  • Bill Clinton gets lauded after admitting sexual harassment and having multiple accusations of sexual abuse.

Our culture is set against women and it’s time for it to change. There’s a difference between boyish talk and the complete disregard for the dignity of women. We must stop confusing the two.

Boys can be boys, but we must also demand that they be men. Men protect women.

In the locker room, don’t be the thought police but do be willing to firmly make it clear that some things are out of bounds. Don’t celebrate disrespect. And call the police if actual abuse is admitted.

On the team, don’t celebrate guys who are bragging about sexual conquests or exaggerating their escapades. (See: There Is No Need to #FreeTheNipple)

With friends, model what appropriate talk sounds like. Surround yourself with men who honor the women in their lives.

With sons, teach them at an early age to honor their mother, protect their sister, and value every woman in their life.

Boys will be boys, but they don’t have to jerks and they surely shouldn’t be criminals. And when they are, they should be punished instead of being propelled into the White House.

3 Responses to Locker Room Talk and Being a Man
  1. christinelondon Reply

    Thank you. Well said and yes–it is far past time for change.

  2. […] We have to do better. (See: Locker Room Talk And Being a Man) […]... kevinathompson.com/sexual-harassment
  3. […] But it is to call attention to the presence of code language and how if we aren’t aware of it,... kevinathompson.com/you-know-what-youre-saying

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