Thanks to one of the presidential nominees, there’s been a lot of discussions lately about something called “Locker Room Talk” or “Boy Talk”. If you’re not sure what that means and haven’t been wrapped up in the news, it’s the presumption that in a locker room full of males it’s inevitable that they will apparently spend a majority of time freely speaking about degrading, groping, and sexually assaulting women for fun—because that’s what men do. It’s how men proclaim themselves more manly than the next guy based solely on sexual prowess and degradation of women, any women at all. This is part of the rape culture that we can’t seem to get ourselves out of as Americans…as humans.
I’d like to inform you that this behavior is, in fact, not how most men are. This bullshit of men hiding behind this locker room excuse, the premise of boys will be boys; that they are allowed to victim blame and shame because they couldn’t control themselves has got to stop. That is not how real men act, that is not what real men are, and that is not what we should expect from men…ever. Real men do not walk up and just start kissing, groping, fondling, or making aggressive sexual suggestions to women. However, there are enough men out there that haven’t gotten this memo to make it a legitimate and horrific part of American society. It’s now part of growing up as a woman (…or in some cases as a gay man…because…you know, they don’t have enough to deal with already…) and it’s disgusting.
While catching up on an episode of The Exorcist the other night, we watched a man on his way home from a baseball game verbally and physically attack a woman on the train. He wasn’t beating her up or trying to kill her, he was trying to fuck her. He grabbed her, wouldn’t let go of her, and did not back down any of the multiple times she made it very clear that she was not interested. He groped her, he attempted to kiss her several times, and at absolutely no point did she give him any type of permission to touch her, let alone feel her up.
While recovering from a cold this weekend I was catching up on old episodes of Bones. It was an episode about a female competitive eater and most of the show was standard tongue-in-cheek Bones style crime stuff. Then they showed a picture of the victim and in the pictures, she’s being hugged by one of her sponsors and it was clear that she was supposed to be uncomfortable and he was supposed to not be giving a fuck about that.
Yes, in both of these instances they are actors, they are telling a story, they are not real. The problem is these incidents aren’t a main part of the plot, but just setups, because these are things that really do happen every day. They aren’t far fetched, we don’t sit at our TV and talk about how awful it would be if that was how society really was because that IS how society really is. They write this stuff into TV shows and movies and books because we can relate to it, we do relate to it, for many of us, it’s a little too close to home. Hollywood is well aware of the issue, and instead of drawing it out into the light so it can be killed, they’re using it as common canon. The more we see it played out as a normal thing, the more likely it is to appear as “normal”, not something to question. Society is raising boys to grow into this…we’re allowing them to idolize idiot celebrities and people like Trump by allowing men in power to behave this way with no consequence. We’re raising women to believe that this is all normal and that men are just going to act this way and we should excuse it and move on with our lives like it never happened. This has got to stop.
The silver lining in all of this are the real men, the men who aren’t afraid of women’s rights and the men who stand with women. The real men are men like my grandfather who frequently reminded me in his own way that I could rule the world if I wanted to. He pushed me harder to learn more, and his phone calls asking me if I’d taken over the company yet still stick with me. My other grandfather followed my little league games as if I was going to be the next Babe Ruth. Neither of them put limitations on me as a girl because those limitations aren’t real, and mythical limitations were sure as hell not going to stop their granddaughter.
There are men, like my father, who spend years coaching t-ball, softball, football, soccer, hockey, whatever sport they could find to put my brother and me in, he coached nearly every team we played for. He also coached teams we didn’t play for, and teams we eventually coached right along side him; in all that time coaching there’s one lesson that held throughout every game, every practice, and every sport: respect. Respect for yourself, your team, your opponent…even the need to respect the field/facility, your equipment, and the locker room. Growing up with him, you kind of get used to it…years later, when he and I were coaching high school hockey together, I realized what kind of impact it made on the players. He had his players dress in shirts and ties for games and didn’t allow swearing in the locker room, it wasn’t because he was out to change the world, it was because he knew as a coach and as a parent, it was his job to set the example for these kids. Dad was not perfect, but he tried; he also wasn’t afraid to be the man who broke convention by bringing a lesbian coach in for a competitive kid’s hockey league in Florida. It didn’t matter to him that she was a lesbian or a woman…she knew the game and she could teach these kids something. I watched as my father brought his son, a proud gay man, on the ice as a referee and then onto the bench as a coach. I stood beside him on the bench as the only female coach in the high school league when a female player came out to play for the local high school hockey club, and he welcomed her while the parents questioned him. I watched from the stands as my father opened and changed the minds of parents, and showed the players what respect for people really was.
Real men are out there, and they are not groping women, they are not harassing women, they are not assaulting women. Real men are out there, and they are standing next to women, they are cheering for women with each step we take, they are fighting with us to make this country better.