Amherst athlete’s Op/Ed fails to address “locker room talk”

BY KATIE PRINCE '19

The conversation across the nation, sparked by our now elected president Donald Trump, has been about “locker room” talk — what it is or isn’t. The real concern is not that the talk in locker rooms be respectful, but also what this new president who has made comments disregarding the gravity of sexual assault will mean for the future justice for sexual assault survivors. I am worried for their stories — our stories — under this presidency. Will we be taken seriously or will we be treated like Trump’s alleged victims have been? Will we have articles supporting these women or will we get more articles protecting male egos in the midst of these women’s tragedies?

Recently, David Lander, a senior on the Amherst College men’s soccer team, wrote an article in response to Donald Trump’s idea of locker room talk that was published by the Huffington Post. Lander’s vocal stance against Trump’s idea of what men talk about in their locker rooms caused a fury of shares with comments of admiration and congratulations on social media sites. Given my personal experiences on the Amherst campus, I was already skeptical when I began to read this article, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by Lander’s repulsion towards Trump’s version of locker room talk and his own account of what is talked about in the hallowed Amherst locker room. However, I was a bit turned-off by him calling the women in his team members’ lives “girls.” I brushed this stylistic error aside and continued reading. 

I was impressed by his acknowledgment of the women’s soccer team, whose locker room is near theirs; he says, “We are good friends with these women; we practice every day on the same field; we watch their games, and they watch ours. We see each other as peers.” I was truly pleased to read a male athlete acknowledging the equality of the female team and showing his personal connection to the women he is claiming to support. 

The same uncomfortable feeling that I felt when Landers said “girls” instead of women came back in the second paragraph. Lander boldly claimed that not only is the Amherst men’s soccer team’s locker room free of sexually predatory talk, but that all of the Amherst sports teams’ locker spaces are as well. He does not stop there. He then says that he has played against many sports teams up and down the East Coast and the South, and claims, “we believe [Donald Trump’s type of locker room] is not their locker rooms either.” Lander is claiming that not only is every Amherst locker room squeaky clean of sexually perverse talk, but so are those of all of the teams they’ve ever played. In essence he is saying that they are a band of good brothers who stand for the rights and respect of women. 

It was after reading this part of Lander’s article that I realized for whom this article was really written. This article was written for the egos of the male athletes and for the reputation of Amherst College. It is no wonder that, according to the Boston Globe, Amherst College’s president, Biddy Martin, lauded Lander saying that the article “exemplifies Amherst’s values in multiple ways.” This article attempts to diminish any blemish to the sports teams’ reputations and, in turn, the college’s. This Amherst athlete whose college faces several Title IX claims and is known to be a breeding ground for rape culture says in essence, “No, not here, not us — we always respect women,” which ignores the countless experiences and outcries of women on their campuses, both reported and not. 

It’s funny how it was Donald Trump who publicly said at one of this year’s presidential debates, “No one respects women more than me,” which is another male ego being self-stroked in the face of numerous allegations of sexual assault and impending litigation in Dec. 2016 for raping a 13 year old girl. It seems like such a convenient coincidence that this is the very person from whom Lander is trying to distance his team and all of Amherst’s teams when their own college is in a similar position. 

Reading this article, I didn’t see a man standing up for the women who have been assaulted at his own college or any other — or standing up for women at all. I saw a man standing up for his own and fellow male athlete’s reputation to separate themselves from nasty terms that have been following Amherst College around such as, “rapist” and “sexual predators” in the same way that I saw Donald Trump standing up for his own reputation to cover his nasty trail of sexual offenses. 

Lander claims that his team is shutting down any sort of disrespectful or sexually inappropriate talk amongst the team members about women. He says that sexual assaults on college campuses need to stop, but he doesn’t offer any sort of solution other than, “changing how women are talked about” Although he claims that his team members are being activists in various ways to help stop rape culture on college campuses, he does not once mention how his very own campus has a long history of problems with sexual assault and rape. 

Are we supposed to just trust the male Amherst athlete’s honor and word when college sports team members are among the largest perpetrators of sexual assault? I can speak from personal encounters as well as friends’ experiences to say that the Amherst male athletes are not at all squeaky clean, assault-preventing men. I have found the opposite, if anything. And if Lander would like to know where I get these facts, I suggest he check his school’s campus police log.

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