Cooper: Trump’s comments are not ‘locker room banter’

Danny Cooper, Columnist

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Donald Trump is involved in a campaign-threatening scandal. In case you were stuck under a rock last weekend, you may have missed the video clip from 2005 of Donald Trump talking about how he, thanks to his fame, could “grab (women) by the pussy.” Trump characterized his comments as “locker room banter,” language he continued to use to defend himself during Sunday’s town hall presidential debate.

This is an unacceptable excuse. Trump’s words have no place in locker rooms, frat houses nor any other male-exclusive space. Implying that they should be allowed to exist in private, male spaces — and implying that locker rooms are only male spaces — perpetuates the existence and implications of rape culture, as noted by Kathryn Garrett in her op-ed.

Trump seems to be saying locker rooms, and sports facilities, are all-male spaces. Has he heard of some of the greatest athletes in the world, like Serena Williams, Katie Ledecky or Simone Biles? Or does he not think they use a locker room before dominating their opponents? Trump assuming that locker room conversations must be crude at best and solely between men disparages female athletes, professional and amateur. As Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum tweeted on Sunday, he hasn’t “heard that one in any locker rooms.”

Neither has Christine Brennan (Medill ‘80, ‘81), a USA Today sports columnist and former editor at The Daily, who estimated she has been in close to 1,000 men’s locker rooms throughout her career. “From my 35 years of experience, in no way, shape, or form is that locker room talk,” she said.

Brennan said the comments were more extreme than anything she had ever heard. “My worst locker room experience… amounted to some hooting and hollering.”

Brennan noted that female reporters are commonplace in men’s locker rooms now, and, as the mainstream coverage of women’s sports increases, more male reporters will be in women’s locker rooms.

The big difference between male and female locker rooms, she said, was that female athletes wait for the media to finish interviews before they get changed out of their sweaty uniforms, unlike their male counterparts.

“Women are so happy to have any attention and any coverage,” she said. “Elena Delle Donne will sit there and do every interview, not only because she’s fantastic, but also because she realizes she is part of selling the product,” which male athletes, Brennan notes, do not have to worry about as much.

This difference in coverage stems from a sexist culture in which someone like Donald Trump can describe and attempt to legitimize repulsive comments as male-exclusive locker room talk. Locker rooms are a workspace for men and women, a necessary part of the sports world. They should not be thought of as places where hostility toward women can thrive because that is rarely the case and is always unacceptable.

Brennan and McCollum have spent their careers in locker room environments without hearing anything nearly as reprehensible as Trump’s comments. Brennan herself is an example of how ridiculous it is to suggest that the locker room is a space solely for men. Reporters like her fought to carve a space for women in locker rooms, and generations of female athletes have toiled in order to gain a share of the media attention from their male peers.

Moreover, sports thankfully ceased to be the exclusive province of men long ago. As Brennan asked rhetorically: “Maybe we should remind (Trump) of Title IX, and the fact that there are millions and millions of American girls and women playing sports, and in locker rooms, every day?”

Danny Cooper is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at danielcooper2019@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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