I don’t want my daughter to be the subject of “locker room talk.”
I’ve heard that term on the news way too much lately. What’s worse, I’ve heard it used as an excuse to talk about women in a demeaning, impersonal way. It’s just “locker room talk.”
But for those of us with daughters, it’s much more than that.
It’s looking at my little girl as an object to be won, a trophy to be paraded about, a conquest to conquer. And I can’t abide that. Because it makes me sick to think someone could look at her as a “thing” instead of a person. It makes me mad to think someone might see her as anything less than a fully-realized human being who deserves respect and love. It makes me livid that someone would talk behind her back in a way that they wouldn’t talk about her to her face. A person like that doesn’t deserve a treasure like my little girl. And any father would think the same thing.
But men don’t pick this up in a vacuum. This is behavior they are taught. And we can’t simply blame the media or magazines or other kids for teaching them how to behave like this. It comes from their parents. Kids watch their parents like hawks and adopt and channel their behavior. They are also influenced by the TV shows we let them watch, the movies we allow them to see, the books we buy them to read. All of this reinforces the behaviors they learn.
I’m lucky. I had a dad who would never use “locker room talk” to speak about my mom or any woman in a demeaning way. Even when my parents got into an argument, he never belittled her or called her names. He never raised a fist to her. He never treated her with disrespect. That doesn’t mean their marriage has been perfect, but his actions spoke volumes about how a man should treat a woman. And it was the little things that I picked up from my dad that made a difference, too. He never whistled at a woman who walked by, he never ogled the cashier at the supermarket, he never gave me the “wink, wink, nod, nod” when I talked about a girl. He never made a comment about “women drivers” or “women in the workplace” or anything that would group “women” as one unit of nameless, faceless beings.
And I have great hope that this kind of thinking isn’t as pervasive as some make it seem. Just like I was taught to honor and respect women, I’ve seen so many other parents who are doing their part to raise feminist boys — boys who would never make sexist comments, think a woman’s body is theirs for the taking, or believe women are less than. And these high school students from Gresham, Oregon, are a prime example.
A few days ago, this group of boys stood together in their locker room wearing “Wild Feminist” t-shirts and posted a photo on Facebook through their high school website with the caption, “Sexual assault is not locker room banter.”
Literally over 13k people have shared their post and among the 700+ comments listed so far, there was near universal love and approval from both men and women for their stance. (There was one guy who went off on a rant, but that was all I saw after the first 50-100 comments, which is shocking in and of itself.) It’s good to know that we are moving forward and not taking these “it’s just locker room talk” excuses lightly.
So to those of you who have sons, I want you to know that I’m counting on you — and so is every other parent of a little girl. I’m counting on you to remind your child that every woman is worthy of respect. I’m counting on you to teach your son that a woman is not a trophy to be won but a precious treasure to be thankful for. I’m counting on you to set an example by your talk and your actions to show your young man how to behave. Because I don’t want my daughter — or any of our daughters — to be treated with such disrespect. Ever.