Locker Rooms and Little White Lies

10-27-16b

Donald Trump’s sexism is a matter of public record. He has made disparaging, gendered, remarks toward any woman who disagrees with him, no matter how inconsequential the argument. His tirade about Rose O’Donnell is almost a modern myth at this point and his treatment of pageant contestants too creepy and disgusting to be real, and yet it is. So when his “grab them by the pussy” comment became public, followed by his “locker room” apology, I was not the least surprised. Was I nauseated? Yes, but not shocked.

Equally shocking was the odd dismissal across party lines over this. Oh, yes, Democrats or just plain liberals were offended. Most, however, were offended because of the vulgarity, not the suggestion that sexual assault was OK, even after Kelly Oxford’s #notokay got widespread media attention. The only big name, as far as I can see, that has actually said what Trump has done is criminal, is Van Jones, in his brilliant video about race and criminality. Otherwise it has been jokes about his likely absence from locker rooms, or the insistence that is not how men behave in locker rooms. That last bit got to me.

If you’ve been following me here a while you know I am trans. I don’t much like thinking about “the time before I was me” as I like to call it, especially when it comes to gender stuff. Some would say I had, some even say have (ha!) male privilege. I politely disagree, and will unpack that another day, but I will say that one thing I did have was male access. I had access to those locker rooms, and restrooms, and HS sports teams, and just conversation, and let me tell you cis ladies out there (as well as those of you trans men and other gender non conforming who have not had access to all that) men absolutely do talk like that in locker rooms.

Not all men, keep your jock straps from bunching up boys, but enough. I am not saying it is most, or even a large minority, but it is big enough to notice, and you know what group is a majority, nearly an entirety of men? It is the ones who stand silently while others do that. Some just nod and grin. Others may give an awkward high five. Still more may laugh, not bold enough to say it out loud, but perfectly okay with objectifying women as a group.  Even those who look away and shake their heads usually do not call their bros what they are: pigs.

So these guys walk away with your silent approval. They get that bro pass and brandish it with every interaction with a woman they have, except their moms of course. That first object in their life is off limits. Your permission, given tacitly, is why too many of these guys will sexually assault at least one woman in their life. It is at least one of the reasons women are raped, and it is why we all keep our hands on our cell phones when we know we are going to be around strange men.

Do us all a favor, including yourselves and even those guys: stop pretending it does not happen. At the very least let us have an honest conversation about it. If you have the nerve, even start calling it out when you hear it, rather than worry about losing your man card. Because membership in that club should not be worth the safety of half the population. Donald Trump’s despicable behavior disqualifies him as President, but he is not as uncommon as we want to believe. It is time we made him so.

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