Sunday, October 9, 2016

It's NOT Lockeroom Banter

I rarely comment on politics. Actually, this isn't really about politics. It's about acceptable behaviour. I am a child of the 70's and 80's, a time when sexual harassment and assault were often simply accepted. As a child who hit puberty early, I spent my later elementary years being groped on the playground. Every day, really - every day, out on the playground the girls would be chased by the boys. The goal, to grab our breasts. As one of the more developed girls I was a frequent target. We never reported it. The unspoken attitude was boys will be boys. I learned to run fast. In junior high, when I was a counselor at a day camp, to the boys who would speak to my chest instead of my face I would say, "I'm up here. They don't talk." In high school, although I was a virgin and in a monogamous relationship, I still heard the whispers that I was whore.

By the time I went to Brandeis things seemed to be improving in the world. Brandeis was a wonderful and open place. Sexual harassment was being talked about and recognized as unacceptable, even as practice was slower to change. But I still understood that as a woman I would have to work a little harder. It wasn't always enough. I lost at least one job due to my gender. First the job was changed from "School Rabbi" to "Director of Jewish Life." Having a female rabbi simply wasn't okay. The board president was so confident it wouldn't matter actually told people I was hired just until they could find a "male rabbi." At the end of my first year, the position was eliminated. It was the only legal method to eliminate me.

I've seen questions this week about what Donald Trump's comments have to do with policy or with being president. I've read the comments that say it's ten years old. I've seen the comments that claim it was just lockeroom banter. I think if the tape was from the 70's or early 80's I may have said, "Well, what's happened since then?" But this wasn't 1978. This wasn't 1983. This was 2005. Yes, ten years ago, but well past the time when we accepted the phrase boys will be boys. It shouldn't have been acceptable in 1978. It shouldn't have been acceptable in 1983. It wasn't acceptable in 2005. And it's NOT acceptable to write it off as lockeroom banter or claim it's okay because 1) it was a private conversation or 2) others have acted worse. Mr. Trump can claim this is lockeroom talk, but his comments described sexual assult. This is NOT lockeroom talk. To say that people can get away with assaulting women as long as they are famous is NOT lockeroom talk. And to claim that is perpetuates the culture where I learned to run fast. It perpetuates a culture where I have to be concerned about my daughter being groped on a bus. It's time we all stood up to say this is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

The president of my country is not above the law. The president of my country should be a role model. The president of my country should be a person I can respect, and someone who I can be sure respects me. The president of my country can, and will, make mistakes. The president of my country cannot stand behind the claim that what s/he says in private conversation isn't important. S/he stands for what's right - in public AND in private.