When Locker Room Talk Creates Locker Room Culture

I’ve locker-roomtried to hold off for awhile now. But, after much thought, I can’t anymore. I have to add my voice, or at least a small story to the discussion that’s been taking over our nation.

I’m not going to say who should vote for who, who would be the best candidate, or what the solution is, because honestly, I have no idea. I just know that we can do better.

The time to do better was probably a long time ago. Now we are left with what we have. I get it. I’m just as displeased as the rest of the country. So, I’m not here to admonish anyone, or to place blame. As a country, we’ve become what we’ve become.

I’ve experienced my share of shock about the things that have been said; but, I’ve been most shocked by the way people I know, people I love, have reacted to some of those things. I’ve seen hate brewing between friends that otherwise respected each other. I’ve watched cracks in our society grow into full blown fault lines ripping at the seams.

But what has shocked me most, is the way good people have brushed Donald Trump’s “Locker Room” talk aside. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard it excused as “how men talk,” or “something that was so long ago…if you pulled up what I said that long ago you’d probably be shocked too.”

I won’t go too far into that last one, but I can promise you that the men I respect in my life have never talked about taking advantage or assaulting women in a way that’s “funny,” or “just talk.” It’s not what they do.

The worst part is that it’s “okay” because it’s “just talk.” Yes, it’s talk. Yes, it happens. But people, think about it…talk leads to action. Maybe that action isn’t from the person doing the talking, but when that person is an influencer, it leads to action by others, others that think it’s okay because someone that’s in a place of authority has said it is.

I’ve experienced it. It’s not a life altering story; it’s not something I share frequently, but it happened and it did affect me!

Little background: I started 9th grade a few weeks late, in a wheel chair (trampolines…avoid them at all cost!). But, it wasn’t the most exciting way to start high school! It made me stand out and feel uncomfortable! But, it was fine, I made friends and life went on.

Some of those friends rode the bus with me, many of them were a year older. But, we had fun and we got along fine. Often times, I felt the need to impress them since they were older, so it felt like I was walking a line.

One day, after school, I sat in the back where I always did. One of the sophomores – I’ll keep him nameless – hopped on the bus like he always did. Then, while laughing, and with other students on the bus right there as it happened, he held me down, reached under my shirt and felt around.

I was shocked and embarrassed and he could see that. He told me to lighten up, that it wasn’t a big deal and that he could do it when he felt like it because we were friends. He let me know that it would be a thing that was just “okay.” His friends – including some of the girls on our bus – laughed about it and told me to calm down.

So I did. But, it didn’t sit right.

After a few days, as harassment from his friends continued, I confided in my youth pastor’s wife (I remain thankful to her to this day, because the behavior would have continued if she did not encourage action!). She let me know it was NOT okay, that I was RIGHT to feel like the behavior was wrong and that I needed to make it stop.

I told my parents and a police officer from our church, who let us know the next steps. Before we knew it, I was in the principal’s office with my parents and a police officer. The sophomore fessed up, and he faced charges. We chose an option that let him go through a program that kept his record clean.

In the meantime, his friends became aggressive. They threatened me, they told me I needed to tell everyone that I was lying. I had to get off the bus at one of the first stops, at a friend’s house, because I was scared to ride with them. To this day, I still get uncomfortable when I am forced to interact with this individual, who works at a local place I frequent.

Life moved on, outside of our group, the story stayed fairly quiet. He was able to continue in his life, where I hope he learned a little bit from what happened.

I got to remain cautious. To second guess even well-meaning men. To find myself in situations where I even still excused certain behaviors because I didn’t want the fuss that happened the first time. It was small, many women have experienced SO much worse, but it changed a lot.

You see, he was young; his actions were the result of a culture that lets men know that certain things are “okay,” because they joke about them in locker rooms. My hesitancy to react to them was because of that same culture, that informs women that this behavior is excusable because that’s our place.

I’m far from a feminist. In fact, most would call me the complete opposite. I believe in the biblical norms that were established thousands of years ago and do believe that women have a place in our society.

However, I believe that place is one of respect (just as men receive!). I believe that we are to be valued and I believe that we are to be taught from a young age that we have WORTH.

That message should be supported by men, by their words, by their actions, especially when they are in a place of authority, not laughed about, not brushed aside, not excused. Not in this case, not ever. However, until society as a whole starts believing this, and holding men who talk and act this way accountable, the cycle will continue.

I’m  not going to tell you how to vote. I’m not going to declare what’s right, what’s wrong or anything else.

But, I am going to ask a serious question. In what world is that talk “okay?” In what world should it be brushed aside as “just talk?” Does it sit right with you to excuse it, regardless of when it happened? I know it doesn’t for me. I know it doesn’t for those I respect in my life.

I want a world where my daughter doesn’t have to fear the men that surround her. Until the talk changes, until good people stand up against it, that world won’t exist.

 

Advertisements