NBA

“They’re Just Words”: Battling Sexism From the Men’s Locker Room

Dallas-Mavericks-Locker-Room

There’s a rare group of us, the known unknowns of stand-outs who frequent men’s locker rooms willingly. Sometimes we’re invisible, sometimes we are not. This group is bound together, whether we like it or not, by our very sex. We are women who cover the sports world. Whether we’re reporters, beat writers, columnists, bloggers, analysts, PR reps, sound, or camera people, we’re rather easy to pick out from the sea of towels and men contemplating about the night’s performance on the court/field.

We are compeers, and the athletes see and speak to us with the same alacrity they often utilize when speaking to our male counterparts.

Not everyone sees it that way.

And they are quite often than not, ignorant.

Last week, the GOP desperately attempted to place a band-aid over a bazooka blast to the head after the emergence of a 2005 video that showed Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, demeaning women with a strange and terrifyingly cheerful readiness to Access Hollywood host, Billy Bush. Trump bragged that he liked to grab women “by the p***y” among other supercilious and hyper sexual behaviors. He later apologized to the American people, but brushed off his words as simple “locker room talk.”

That’s interesting: bragging about sexually assaulting women is common locker room talk.

“They’re just words,” Trump supporters say.

For just a second, let’s put a pin in that and look at something else.

Hollywood, California

Around the same time Trump, with his jacinth shiny hue, was whispering sweet nothings into Bush’s hot mic about being able to get anyone he wanted because he’s a celebrity, I was living in Los Angeles and working as a live-in script doctor for a movie director/producer. I was in charge of going over his work as an editor and ghost writer, attending film festivals on behalf of whatever film of his was currently making the rounds, handling PR on the film, etc.

In the years I lived in LA and held that position, here is a list of the following things that happened to me:

– Cornered by agitated men I turned down at parties and festivals.
– Mistaken for an escort by another director simply because I was friends with models (uh, where did that even come from).
– Yanked into the laps of producers and other reps during film events (when all I did was simply walk by them).
– Had to use a taser on a young producer who attempted to break into my living quarters after I explained to him that I simply wasn’t interested in him.
– Threatened with a bat and held up in a studio garage by a pornography producer after coming to the aide of a friend whom he was harassing.
– Threatened to be fired unless I gave up my virginity to my boss.

And that’s just a soft murmur from the foghorn concert that was my time in Hollywood, dealing with men who thought they could do whatever they wanted simply because they were, quote-unquote, famous. While I had many men I truly trusted, and still do, who stood firmly in my corner during that time, I was alone in that I was subject to harassment not because of my profession as a writer, but because of the mere fact that I’m a woman working in a man’s world.

I had to escape to the men’s locker room in order to actually feel safe.

Debunking the Locker Room Myth

The Dallas Mavericks’ locker room is surely disparate compared to most other team locker rooms. First of all, it smells like a meadow of rich wildflowers in springtime (something I never expected)… All. The. Time. Second, it’s welcoming and relaxed (unless, you know, you trade for a disgruntled point guard who manages to turn the atmosphere into a scene from Frozen) and extremely female-friendly. Young children of the players and staff even frequent it and hang around in the weight room, eating and laughing following a game.

The only time I ever witnessed an unsettling event was when a drunk fan managed to sneak in with the media. Sarah Melton, Director of Basketball Communications, who happens to be a woman, stood her ground and took care of the situation in an awe-inspiring, strong way. Some of the players were looking like they were ready to come to her defense and throw down, but she handled it herself.

Never once have I felt uncomfortable or out of place in that locker room. And yet, I was surrounded by famous men who didn’t think they deserved special treatment from women just because they were famous. Well, this is new (sarc).

“How do you know they don’t say things behind your back? They probably do.”

No offense, but they’re probably more concerned with their shooting mechanics and the actual game itself than have time to make a comment about my shirt or skirt.

The players, and most of the press, have been nothing but gentlemen in not only the presence of women, but within the presence of anyone. Sure you have that odd man out (usually a member of the press) who will be overly aggressive, but nothing a can of mace can’t handle.

“Well, Trump didn’t know he was being recorded.”

Um, he was on an Access Hollywood bus with a mic’ed up journalist!

You know why I don’t know about insanely personal things that have gone on in the players’ lives? Because I’m a reporter, and they know it.

“They’re just words.”

This isn’t a defense. That what was said by a human being running for the most powerful position in the free world, but hell, they’re just words. It’s not like he’s influencing a young, impressionable generation of men or anything, right?

You know what else is a word?

“No.”

That’s a word I said thousands of times when I was living in Los Angeles during every single one of those incidents I went through. No. It’s quite possible that thanks to a walking Cheez-It with small hands, the defense of a young man facing sexual assault charges will be the following in the future:

“The victim repeated the word ‘No’ to you and yet you continued to assault her.”

“Well, it’s just a word.”

Final Words (For this editorial, anyway)

In all honesty, my sense of humor around my close friends can come off as crude. I cuss, we debate about sexual occurrences, make sarcastic sexual jokes, but never once have jokes about actual sexual assault come into the conversation. People often think that women are put off by Trump’s use of the word, “p***y.” It’s not the word itself, but the fact that he bragged about grabbing women without consent… an action birthed from words that speaks volumes.

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