As a man, one who has hung around a lot of locker rooms in my day, I’m appalled at Donald Trump’s poor excuse for an apology. For him to dare to say that his lewd talk about groping women and sexually assaulting them was merely locker room talk is unacceptable for a presidential candidate—it’s unacceptable for anyone.
Is it any wonder that we live in a world where men sexually assault women and the levels of violence against women are out of control? When a presidential candidate can get away with such a poor excuse of an apology it’s beyond my understanding. Where’s the accountability?
There’s no denying the influence men have on other men, especially in a locker room.
I’m not going to pretend that the responsibility for creating a world where women earn more respect from all men lies only in the hands of men. We can all contribute to shaping a world where women get the respect they deserve. We can all, as parents and members of our communities and workplaces, have a positive influence on boys, youth, and young men.
However, the influence of men on other men, especially younger men is can’t be ignored.
What I say and do shapes the men around me.
As a father of three grown men I imagine that most of my influence on my sons has taken place. I’m proud that they understand that women are to be respected, that they’re not to be talked about lewdly in locker rooms—or anywhere else. I also know that what I say and how I live can still influence them. My respect or disrespect of women might still impact how they treat women. This is not only true of my influence on my sons, but it’s especially true of my influence on other men.
How I talk about women in my home, in the workplace, and in the locker room matters. How I treat women matters. If a man grows up in an environment where women are not respected or treated as equals, and he hears other men disrespecting women, it will simply be an affirmation that it’s OK to disrespect women.
No man should ever underestimate the influence he has on another man.
If I, as a man, want to help create a culture that will move us towards greater gender equality and respect of women, I can do so with my behaviour when I’m with other men. The one on one conversations I have, or the conversations I’m part of in a locker room or bar are all part of my sphere of influence. If I make disrespectful comments about women, or simply sit by while I hear them, I’m contributing to the culture that Donald Trump propagates with his locker room talk excuses.
I urge men to be aware of their language, of the things they say and do, and of the influence they have on others, especially other younger males.
We need to be honest and admit that we live in a world where gender inequality and disrespect of women exists in large part because of the way men abused their influence. Let’s own that. But, more importantly, let’s own the future we shape. Let’s be part of creating a world where every man sees every woman as a person worthy of respect, whether that’s in a locker room or anywhere else.