Is Locker Room Talk The Silver Lining of Trump’s Campaign?
10.10.16
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“No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was said. This was locker room talk.” This is what Donald Trump told moderator Anderson Cooper last night during the second presidential debate after Cooper asked if he realized he was bragging about sexually harassing women in the lewd recording released last Friday. “I am not proud of it. I apologized to my family, I apologized to the American people. Certainly, I am not proud of it. But this is locker room talk.”  

He then pivoted to ISIS in a sloppy attempt to deflect the question before finishing up with this: “Yes, I am very embarrassed by it and I hate it, but it’s locker room talk and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We are going to defeat ISIS.”

Setting aside the fact that he sounds insane, let’s talk about, well, locker room talk. Trump used those three words three separate times as a justifier for the offensive comments he made in 2005.  It’s a cheap excuse that almost says more about his character than the comment itself. And one that also mischaracterizes all men in one fell swoop.

“Locker room talk” as a catchy phrase perpetuates the toxic notion that a) men need only be respectful of women when women are around and b) this kind of behavior is so ubiquitous we should all shrug it off. Here’s another way to put it: Trump believes integrity only matters when there’s an audience to see it, and he thinks we all feel that way. If that isn’t a dangerous pillar around which to build a presidential campaign, I don’t know what is.

His inability to understand the gravity of his own remarks speaks to his identity as the worst kind of manipulator. The statement he made last Friday after the news exploded rang all the wrong bells. Writer Leah McElroth took to her Twitter on Saturday to break it down here. It’s worth a read.

But he did more than reveal the nature of his integrity in that Friday statement and subsequent apology last night, he also took down his entire gender in the process. Here’s a man who has promised to protect every American, to fight for every family, to fix every problem in this country and make it great. And yet he doesn’t understand a core tenet of human decency: respect. For women and all the girls who are learning their value, certainly, but also for his fellow men and all the boys who are learning how to wield their power.

On the other end of Trump’s proven ignorance, though, is something less likely to make your head mysteriously separate from your body out of disgust: the millions of men and women who are now united by a common enemy. Take author Kelly Oxford’s tweet from Friday, in response to the lewd recording, that called for women to share their personal experiences with assault with the hashtag #NotOkay.

And then, soon after:

The response? An outpouring in the tens of millions and still growing. Sharing personal anecdotes of sexual assault is an act that is riddled with unfounded shame, but following the Friday fiasco, staying silent clearly seemed more shameful. In a Q&A with the Washington Post on Saturday, Oxford hit on something really important, which is that maybe the best thing we can do is use this wave of bigotry to bring us closer together and educate others. Every storm has a silver lining, right? Maybe the silver lining of Trump’s campaign is a newfangled urgency among men and women to support both themselves and each other. Have you felt it?

Photo from Crazy Stupid Love, 2011.

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