Locker Room Talk: Where to draw the line and what you can do about it

Image: Gary McNair


S O C I E T Y – B A N G L A D E S H


Tahmid Shuvro

Just so you know, theoretically, nations like ours don’t have enough ‘good luck’ to chat in the locker room. Phew! It happens when women aren’t listening, and mostly, men in western countries use the word to explain their venting and babbling about various topics. However, the term, locker room chat, is immediately widely debated, thanks to Donald Trump. It’s a pretty broad term, but these days it means only one thing. 

What exactly is Locker Room Talk?

The Locker Room Talk simply refers to the boys in sex-separated locker rooms, like those in schools or colleges and fitness centres that you’ve seen in Hollywood movies, where men come together after testosterone-fuelled tasks and talk about different things which, most of the time, should not be exposed in real life. It means an exclusionary world where women cannot attend (more like “should not attend”), where men may feel free to freely establish spaces where they can practise misogyny, and then depart the room and have never doubted their acts or character.

In terms of our country, this happens usually between a group of guys while hanging out or in a boys-only WhatsApp or Messenger group. They come together to share their views on the bodies of women and to trade misogynistic ideas that they are cautioned to talk loudly in any other normal community.

Why is it harmful to have such conversations?

People throw statements like “Maybe they did not mean it” or “They are not actually doing it”. Even if it’s true in some cases, when they say something about women that is problematic and show the repressed ugly mentality they are possessing, they think it is acceptable among their peers. All laugh at their sexist remarks. They justify those sexist statements or that misbehaviour in their head. They feel like heroes as they possess the strength to degrade women. These talks have an effect on the thoughts of the other men there.

Locker Room Talk promotes the objectification of women, which explains men that demeaning women makes them “manlier”. A significant number of men take away the gist and, subconsciously, normalise these misogynistic talks and behaviours towards women. And, they are the biggest problem.

Most of the time, these locker room talks don’t remain as jokes. They start to spread rape culture implicitly (sometimes directly), and take away women’s bodily autonomy and position in the society. It teaches that women can be treated inhumanely, and sexism is a way of gaining influence. Such talks can never be innocuous because these create a mindset that dehumanises women. 

Do you think a man who seriously sees women as just a lump of meat, will ever build real interpersonal relationships with women? When these men consider other women symbols of sex, they destroy their ability to have a meaningful relationship with women. One cannot interact deeply with someone whom one doesn’t even consider a complete human being. 

Where to draw the line?

There’s a fine line between objectification and admiration. There’s also a fine line between objectification and banter. Admiring a woman’s appearance or personality, and maybe only humourously pointing out any odd event of a certain entity (regardless of their gender) that doesn’t demean them, is fine. This is a basic human interaction — no reason to get offended by it. But, most men slip back and forth between the words — objectification, banter, and admiration, in everyday conversations.

Most of the guys don’t think they have less regard for women when they’re partaking in or experiencing this kind of conversation. Eventually, their minds make connections that generate inherent bias. This indicates that we might handle women differently without knowing or realising it. 

How to deal with it?

When you’re with a group of male friends and they begin to make sexist remarks, you might not feel enough strength to speak up against them. It might ruin your position in the group and those people may stop thinking of you as a friend. But, if you’re not comfortable enough to speak out against these sudden misogynistic claims, you should just stop being a friend with them. 

Always try to speak up and confront the disrespectful conduct if you’re a witness to it. If you don’t, it will mean that you accept those sexist remarks. You can also pull people out for a personal chat, which can be a nice way to let them know that their comments are very disrespectful towards women. You can also talk about women who have been exploited in their lives and why you believe their commentary is detrimental to all women.

We, men, need to make each other feel responsible towards the way we treat women. The attempt to normalise Locker Room Talk as some sort of ‘normal conversation’, is wrong. We must do better. And, if we don’t, the culture that men have developed — permissive to anything from casual abuse to a rapist in daily life, will remain unchanged. 

 


Tahmid Shuvro prefers watching philosophical and psychological videos to sleeping.

 

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