“This was locker room talk,” Trump said in Sunday night’s Presidential debate. “This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it . . .This was locker room talk. Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it, and I hate it, but it’s locker room talk.”
Out of the many outrageous things that the latest Presidential debates brought to the surface, was this phenomenon called ‘the locker room talk.’ This phenomenon, as understood from the connotations of Trump’s justification to his lewd statements, is a case of macho-masculinity; for in the locker room, when clad in towels and covered in post-games sweat, men can only unleash their most primitive caveman side and engage in hormones-dictated conversation. Thus according to Trump, men, in their most uncensored and natural habitat, would quite instinctively lose their disguise of political correctness and get down to engaging in objectifying and privately harassing women. He is implying that this is, in fact, how the most rich and powerful men talk when not burdened by the mask of social propriety. After all, Bill Clinton’s treatment of women was worse and as long as this rampantly sexist ‘locker room talk’ is not being acted upon, there is not even any inherent harm or danger.
Trump quite unconsciously brought forward what is potentially one of the biggest issues in the current scenario of gender politics- the classic ‘men will be men’ syndrome. His explanation to his lewd comments and rampant disrespect towards women and their bodies, is the inherent entitlement that operates within him- as if, being obsessed with sexual acts or disrespect towards women is the fundamental imperative of being male. As if, masculinity is defined best by such uncensored ‘locker room talk’ and that all men, by virtue of their masculinity, must objectify women as an act of leisure.
If this is not equally demeaning to both sexes, I don’t know what is.
It would be foolish to completely disregard the existence of men, who in fact, do subscribe to such a school of thought. These men lurk everywhere- in our homes, workplaces, public transport; ripping women of their bodily authority, ogling, if not groping, women, and dismissing women as just objects feeding the male sexual appetite. This is precisely the demographic that bolstered Trump’s campaign and took him this dangerously close to being the President of one of the most powerful nations in the globe.
Kissing or groping someone without consent is sexual assault. It’s popular for such men to brag about similar behaviours. Hiding such behaviour in the guise of jokes or meaningless banter is an attempt on the part of such men to make it acceptable. It is not. And the men who do not take pride in such rampant sexism, feel the pressure of reaffirming their masculinity while present in such male-exclusive spaces, and barely can muster the courage to call out on the sexism.
Trump’s generalization of sexism as a male imperative is wrong. It is a warped image of the entire male population; an image that hardly fits all those men who believe in progressive thought and look at women in equal social standing, worthy of equal opportunities. One of the many problems that Trump brought to surface in his debates is this toxic idea of masculinity, an idea to which many have already subscribed and many feel the pressure to succumb to. It is very important now, more than ever, to teach our boys that being male does not entail being inherently disrespectful towards women, does not give them an unquestioned access to women’s bodies.
It is also interesting to note how sportsmen from different arenas have come out, guns blazing, in protest of what Trump wrote off as ‘locker room talk’. American professional basketball player Kendall Marshall tweeted ‘PSA: sexual advances without consent is NOT locker room talk.’ while L.A. Galaxy player Robbie Rogers tweeted that he was offended by Trump’s remark. “Claiming Trump’s comments are “locker room banter” is to suggest they are somehow acceptable. They aren’t.”, said Cleveland forward Dahntay Jones.
Trump is the poster image of a brand of sexism aided hyper-masculinity that has pushed forward rape culture to what it is today. It is important for all of us now to unite and educate, and prevent any such innocent ‘locker room talk’ from giving rise to more such Trumps in future.