For a group of people who claim to abhor “safe spaces,” Donald Trump and his conservative defenders sure do like characterizing the men’s locker room as one. That’s the excuse Trump and his surrogates have been spitting out over the last three days in response to leaked video from 2005 that reveals the presidential candidate saying lewd and downright violent things about women. It wasn’t real, Trump argues—it was “locker room talk.”
Women, politicians, pundits, and decent human beings alike called bullshit on this lightweight explanation, first issued Friday evening, arguing that it couldn’t possibly justify Trump’s assertion on the video that his star power allows him to grab women “by the pussy.” Even still, his fiercest defenders continue to repeat the locker room line like dutiful parrots, claiming the sacredness of the space as fair ground for misogyny. The question isn’t whether this sort of talk actually goes on—it certainly does in some places—but rather why some people give still give it any sort of protection. What’s so damn special about locker rooms?
They’re the setting of many-a-movie scene, where young men convene, towels around their waists, never up to any good. In films, they’re usually either talking about how they want to score, or speaking crudely about a woman’s appearance, or hatching a plan. Even in Disney’s High School Musical, the basketball team corners Zac Efron’s character in its precious locker room to guilt him into ditching theater and the girl he likes in favor of hoop dreams and pleasing his toxically masculine father.
Historically, the locker room has been a place without options. It’s an environment rife with social pressure. It’s a space where dissent is not encouraged, and even men who disagree must bite their tongues, lest they be ostracized—or much worse.