Monday, October 17, 2016

"Locker Room Talk" - My thoughts about Trump and Rape Culture

In the wake of Donald Trump minimizing his confession of sexual assault saying it was "locker room talk" I had some immediate reactions and now ten days later some more reflection.

My immediate reactions:

  1. First the idea of having any sort of a sexual talk in a locker room is not something I ever experienced. 
  2. Second, I have known very few men that would ever consider talking in this way.   Among my friends and family I could not think of anyone that would talk like this.
  3. Third, how could anyone consider supporting a man that confesses to sexual assault and shows no remorse?  

Now ten days later I have had more time to think about this and some of my initial reaction was not accurate, the rape culture is much more prevalent and there is still a long way to go to change things.

I have thought back over the last 35 years and there are men I have known that objectify women in conversation' though I can not remember anyone ever boasting about sexual assault.   It has been more common that I think I would like to admit and I realize that in retrospect I have not taken active steps to stop it, just passive ones.   These conversations were just as likely to be among lefties as right wing people.

I personally do not find objectifying women's appearance in conversation interesting on any level.   The primary reason for this is respect.   I realized from early on this seems to place me on outside of the norm for men.   Men either really thought that looks were all that mattered or went along with it.   All these conversations did was to bore me, but I rarely have called the other men on them.   (I should add that find the same sort of conversations about men boring when drinking with friends at a gay bar but there it is put down to me not being interested because I am a breeder.)

I am thinking back, was I someone who just went along with the conversation?   Have I been complicit in the rape culture?

I think too often I did not do enough, at best what I did was to steer things towards conversations more interesting to me.   Did I have an impact?   I am not sure, but at university, when it was the most common time for me to be near these sort conversations, I was different enough from the norm that people I knew noticed.  I do think my lack of interest in the conversations dampened them when I was around.

As I have aged these "locker room" conversations have become much less common.   This comes from being older but more because of my own self selection.   I have quit hanging out with men that would have conversations like this.  There are a number of men in Victoria I have no intention of having conversations with again because of their attitude towards women. If they knew this is why we do not have conversations I suspect they would crap on me but I do think respect for other people matters.  

If the women you grow up around set your attitude towards women that would explain in part why I am the man I am today.   My mother, grandmother, sister, and aunts were all strong and smart women. I grew with a lot or respect for them and they clearly set much of my internal moral compass and part of that is women are not objects.   I think about my 20 closest male relatives past and present and I can only think of one that would take part in "locker room" talk and he is someone I do not speak with.  

Being not part of the problem is not enough, but what have I done to improve things?   I think the biggest contribution will be my four sons.   Two of them are adults now and it is very clear that they respect people for who they are.  I suspect my oldest would call others out for a "locker room" conversation and my second son might just beat them up.  Yes Ben has some anger issues to work out.

What can I do to improve things?  I need to call it out objectification of women.   It has to be something more than the passive way I have done it to date, something more than answering a sexualized comment with "how would I know if see is appealing if I do not know her?" which has been my stock answer for years when asked if I was attracted to some women.

The other thing I have been thinking about is Bill Clinton.  Trump is on a good day a disgusting human being so it is easy to believe and condemn him but Bill Clinton is a charming charismatic man that clearly was sexually assaulting women.   What he did 20 to 30 years ago is still not OK.   At a minimum he should be acknowledging what he did and apologize for it.    The current day strength of the rape culture comes through in how people dismiss his victims.   He could do a lot by coming forward admitting what he did and apologizing for it.   Trump and Bill Clinton should be held responsible for their acts and both should come forward and voluntarily admit everything.  

You can not just focus on Trump and ignore Bill Clinton if you want to see an end to inappropriate behaviour.   Bill Clinton is not running for office but he will be the first "Gentleman" if Hillary wins and as much as a dislike it, the spouse of the US president is a public figure.   Anyone that can defend Bill Clinton's actions needs to give their head shake because they are part of the problem.   Letting Bill Clinton off with out expecting an admission from him will not do anything to improve things.

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