Our Post-Election Locker Room Talk

by Brooke Barron, Women in Public Policy

A few weeks before the election, First Lady Michelle Obama responded to Donald Trump’s claim that his boast of sexually assaulting women was mere “locker room talk” by telling America: “The men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.” This prompted the women at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley to start thinking about an alternate version of locker room talk. We wondered what locker room talk might look like among people who value women as human beings, regardless of whether they are mothers, sisters, or daughters. The Goldman School has a locker room, and we had something to say. So we reclaimed locker room talk, using posters in our locker room to prompt conversations about women’s empowerment and misogyny, two central themes during this campaign season.

With the election over and preparations being made for President Trump’s administration, we’ve come up with some candidates for locker room conversations in this new reality. We’re channeling our energy toward action, and we have a lot to talk about. While reproductive rights are one crucial issue, there are so many other policies that impact women’s lives, such as affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and campus sexual assault prevention. During the Obama administration, real progress was made in some of these areas, like not treating womanhood as a pre-existing condition and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In many other policy areas, like addressing the shameful rape kit backlog and expanding educational opportunities for girls all over the world, the work must continue. The progress we’ve made shines a light on how much farther we need to go, and now — suddenly — how much we have to lose.

The women at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities have always faced discrimination and oppression in America. Latina women make 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns; undocumented female workers forced to live and work in the shadows are susceptible to sexual exploitation; trans women are routinely targeted by hate crimes; and those are just a few examples. In President Trump’s America, these women are facing true danger, thanks both to the racists and misogynists emboldened by our President-elect’s hateful rhetoric and the discriminatory policies he promises to enact. If we take President-elect Trump at his word, Muslim women may be required to register with the federal government. If policing programs like stop and frisk are expanded nationally, black women, already targeted by police brutality, may find themselves and their children even more vulnerable. If the new Supreme Court justices swing the Court back to the extreme right, the Defense of Marriage Act could once again become the law of the land, eliminating vital rights of lesbian women.

In the face of these discriminatory policy proposals and disturbing rhetoric, our locker room conversations are about how to fight back. Mounting a resistance will take constant action and vigilance. Our President-elect’s misogynistic, racist, and Islamophobic language, nominations, and proposals must continuously be challenged.  It’s time for us to move from talk to action.

How? Let’s stand together. Let’s build a wall. A wall of opposition to President-elect Trump’s agenda, made stronger because of its diversity. Now is the time for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our trans sisters, our disabled sisters, our Muslim sisters, our queer sisters and our undocumented sisters and declare that an assault on one is an assault on all. If we’re going to get through this (and we will) it is because we will live out the words “stronger together” and make them more powerful than the campaign slogan ever was. This is our locker room talk, and we hope you’ll add your voice to the conversation.

Brooke Barron is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Goldman School of Public Policy and a member of the Women in Public Policy student group