Different Kinds of “Locker-Room Talk”


If you voted for Donald Trump, even after the Access Hollywood tape was released, you can have no credibility if you not only claim to be outraged by Harvey Weinstein’s behavior but also feel compelled to denounce Progressives for not denouncing him.

Likewise, if you were not outspokenly outraged by the revelations about the behavior of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and the other men who harassed women at Fox News, then your outrage at Progressive silence about Harvey Weinstein is conveniently expedient at best and flagrantly hypocritical at worst.

And if you don’t understand why any of these men are being vilified for their behavior, then you have serious deficiencies in your moral perspective. You are not as big—or as openly–a scumbag as each of these men has been, but you are sustaining the cultural context in which they have been able to get away with this indefensible behavior not just in repeated instances but over multiple decades.

If you think that Harvey Weinstein should have been fired immediately from his position within the leadership of the company that he founded, then you are being hypocritical if you also think that Title IX investigations need to be rolled back because they are too likely to stigmatize young men accused of sexual harassment, sexual impropriety, and sexual assault. If the accusations are credible, then they deserve to be thoroughly investigated without exposing the victims to further abuse or other potential victims to similar abuse. Wrongful accusations should, of course, be treated as seriously as accusations that are supported by evidence. But, as a general rule, if all accusations are not treated consistently with seriousness, then there will continue to be more, rather than less, of this sort of indefensible behavior. A pattern of selective justice undermines all faith in justice, much as selective abuses of power very quickly, rather than more incrementally, escalate into rampant abuses of power.

It is ironic that many of the same people who seem to be skeptical about the motives of the dozens of women who have gone public with accusations against Bill Cosby are now wondering out loud why more women have not spoken out and are not now speaking out more pointedly against Harvey Weinstein—even though Weinstein very clearly has had more ability to harm, if not destroy, careers than Cosby ever had.

More broadly, if you believe that women’s rights are best defined by men (or are not still being defined largely by men)—that federal guarantees of equal pay for equal work, of equal access to a full spectrum of commonplace healthcare options, and of women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies are all unnecessary, if not pernicious—then your outrage over women being blatantly subjected to crass sexism is not just hypocritical but either mindlessly or willfully so.

There is a parallel in the reactions to taking a knee during the national anthem at NFL games and similar sporting events. The players engaged in such protests have indicated very plainly what they are protesting. If you have denounced the prevalence of incidents in which police have clearly used excessive and deadly force against Black men who are being stopped randomly and not suspected of some violent felony, then you can, perhaps, make the argument that the protest is misconceived. But if you have not denounced the escalation of police use of force against randomly selected Black men, then it is hypocritical of you to make any objection to the appropriateness of the protest because people like you have made the protest necessary. Ultimately, the players, and others, are not protesting just against the racially biased or poorly trained police who are too quickly emptying their weapons into Black men who are not even “suspects” in specific crimes. They are, instead, protesting against the absence of social and political outrage sufficient to change this pattern of unjustifiable violence being exerted against selected citizens by those whom we rightly expect and depend on to protect all citizens.

In the end, one cannot dismiss this sort of “locker-room talk” about racism while also dismissing the expression of very sexist attitudes and the off-handed admission of sexual harassment, sexual impropriety, and sexual assault as “locker-room talk.”


I have devoted a great deal of time drafting this relatively short opinion piece as carefully as possible. But I recognize that partisanship has become so deeply entrenched that it is impossible to address current controversies without being accused of partisan bias, especially if one wishes to express anything approaching a strong opinion.

Moreover, if being perceived as thoughtful means saying nothing that is potentially provocative, then “thoughtfulness” has lost all meaning. Indeed, we seem to be perilously close to accepting a political environment in which language itself has no real meaning—an environment in which there is no longer any consistent expectation that language actually reflects reality or expresses meaningful observations founded on something more than a very self-selective awareness of reality.

I see that earlier today Kellyanne Conway stated that Senator Corker’s tweeting is “incredibly irresponsible”—an assertion that beggars the very meaning of “incredible” given the context in which she is making this point about both tweeting and irresponsibility.


3 thoughts on “Different Kinds of “Locker-Room Talk”

  1. Pingback: Different Kinds of “Locker-Room Talk” | Ohio Politics

  2. Pingback: Different Kinds of “Locker-Room Talk” | Ohio Higher Ed

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