Controversy arises from locker room talk panel

The topic of combating sexual assault isn’t addressed by panelists.


Joe Dumas

Senior Austin Fuller, right, discusses the idea of dominance within manhood while Professor Mike Reynolds, left, looks on.

Catherine Stolz, News Editor

Arising out of concern surrounding Donald Trump’s comments on “locker room talk” as it relates to sexual assault, male members of the Hamline community hosted a discussion on the subject and the overall culture of masculinity on Nov. 1. While many agreed this was a good starting point for discussion, not all members of the audience felt that it was effective in addressing issues of violence against women.

Sociology professor Ryan LeCount and director of Counseling Services Dr. Hussein Rajput mediated the discussion between the panel, consisting of senior Austin Fuller, junior Kellen Overvig, Hedgemen Center director Carlos Sneed, English professor Mike Reynolds and former Heights hall director Mike Gerald. All men are either currently involved in athletics or have been involved in the past, though no one on staff for Hamline Athletics was involved in the panel.

Rajput and LeCount posed questions to the panel and opened it up to discussion, beginning with the topic of how men are socialized and the “boys will be boys” mentality. Panel members shared their personal experience and the pressures of growing up in a culture that values a stoic and tough view of masculinity.

“[Masculinity] doesn’t lend itself well to genuine vulnerability,” Gerald said. “There isn’t a space to create genuine relationships.”

Competition, specifically in athletics, was also discussed, in relation to competition’s place off the field and its place in relationships.

“Women aren’t just objectified, they are ignored,” Reynolds said when talking about how men talk to each other about sex and relationships.

Sneed discussed locker room talk as a metaphor for any space where men are alone and “the other gender” is not present.

“When we’re in that space we talk differently,” Sneed said.

Sneed compared locker room talk to “backstage racism,” and how people act differently when they are offstage, or out of public view. Sneed discussed the idea of closed communities of individuals of the same gender, religion or race talking amongst themselves. He said these situations can allow for behavior and language that would not be seen as appropriate in a more diverse setting, but happen often in these contexts.

The talk ended with panelists sharing a person in their lives that has influenced their perception of masculinity, with most citing their fathers.

When opened up for audience discussion, junior Kaele Culver’s hand was the first to go up.

Culver asked about the concept of locker room talk in relation to sexual assault, upset that the topic did not come up in the panel.

“Tiptoeing around this issue isn’t going to help,” Culver said. “I want to hear the words rape and violence against women.”

At this the panel fumbled, explaining that this should be an ongoing discussion, and more education is needed in order to change the culture.

“What they were talking about was all good,” Culver said. “But by not addressing the problems you can’t combat them effectively. It’s really about sexual assault and men can afford to not talk about it.”

The panelists themselves thought the event was a good starting point and hoped to hold more events like this in the future, including more discussion amongst students in the audience.