When Donald Trump excused his lewd, explosive conversation with Billy Bush from 2005 as “locker room talk,” my ears pricked up and not just because the gender wars he’s engendered have been such excellent fodder for a blog titled “The Games Men Play.”
In my forthcoming novel “The Penalty for Holding” (Less Than Three Press, 2017), about a gay, biracial quarterback’s quest for identity, acceptance, success and love in the NFL, I have a couple of locker room moments in which women are discussed and even confronted in a less than respectful manner.
My hero, Quinn Novak, is always quick to defend them and treat them as equals worthy of respect. In one case, he makes it clear that his teammates needn’t worry how they would “do” Brenna James, a columnist and Quinn confidante. The forceful Brenna would be doing them.
Since Trump’s remarks, any number of sportswriters and male athletes have said in effect that locker rooms are filled more with the Quinns of the world than with his less enlightened teammates. But that doesn’t dismiss the fact that men have used conversations about women both to bond and to express dominance. (And that some men walk the more aggressive talk, hence, the new “Tweet me your first assault” movement, in which author and founder Kelly Oxford asked women to recall some of the most traumatic moments in their lives. She’s gotten more than 27 million responses and views so far.)
Remember Richie Incognito? The former Miami Dolphin – now a linesman with the Buffalo Bills – was suspended for harassing Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin by sending him racist, sexist, homophobic texts in which he threatened to do unspeakable things to Martin’s sister. Not surprisingly, Incognito is a Trump supporter playing for former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, another Trump-et. I guess like finds like. And won’t it be fascinating when quarterback-activist Colin Kaepernick, back as a starter, and the San Francisco 49ers play the Bills this Sunday.
But, you say, the Dolphins scandal was four years ago. We have learned since. Au contraire, mes amis. It seems that former Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner, a key figure in the bullying scandal, was suspended this summer for holding a sexually suggestive football clinic for female fans in his new role as Texas A & M offensive line coach.
So boys, I guess, will still be boys. But hey, apparently some girls like that. Some women and many men are OK with Trump’s Bush-league comments, because “he tells it like it is.” I’m afraid reality TV and the internet have created a false sense of what authenticity and honesty are. The minute you train a camera on someone, that person is acting for the camera. A reality TV show is no more real life than “Hamlet” is. But at least “Hamlet” as a work of art is true about human nature. Whereas just because something is real doesn’t make it true. Just because you say whatever comes into your addled head doesn’t make you honest or correct. It just means you have no filter. Remember, Hitler told it like it was, too.
Why would it ever be good to voice crude, disrespectful remarks? And yet, whenever Trump is criticized, he crumples, outraged on Twitter.
Honesty, apparently, is just a one-way street.