So, the male candidate for president is caught on tape making sexually vile comments about women. He dismisses the episode as "locker room talk". This response implies that this is the sort of language that you can expect when a couple of guys are comfortably talking to each other while wearing nothing but towels around their waists after a friendly football game.
Well, I don't know if that is what happens in a locker room. I've never been in one. But I do know one thing, I have heard this sort of talk in other places: at work, at a restaurant, at a conference... Just a few examples:
And too many episodes of questionable "accidental" touching, uncomfortably-long handshakes, and comments about parts of my anatomy said as "compliments".
I don't know if these episodes are always intended as malicious assaults, but what are their effects? Can women in academic positions be taken seriously if we are talked about like that by our colleagues?
If anything good has come out of this sad episode in the presidential campaign, it is this: we are talking about it. We must talk about it.
I used to talk about these personal experiences only with my female students when they would come to me with complaints about their own encounters with "locker room talk". I would respond by saying: "it is not your fault, let me tell you what happened to me..." And the student would feel a little less alone and get courage for another day. But now I have decided to talk about this with male students too. I will let them know how this kind of language really hurts and how it sets back years of progress for both men and women.
Let's open the conversation. Have you experienced this kind of language in academia? Let's share our experiences and talk about how to stop it. What did you do about it? Leave your comments here.
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.