Foreword: In May 2020, a social media expose of certain boys locker room chats sparked extreme anger and reactions among people. We spoke to a counseling psychologist and a trauma recovery specialist about how one should respond responsibly in this situation and here’s what she said:
Every one on the internet is talking about the locker room incident. How does it make you feel? Does it make you feel that you need to respond to it as well? Does it make you feel that you need to express your empathy towards one side? Does it make you feel that you need to voice your opinion and your take on it? If yes, then you must do it. But before that, you must listen to this!
It is 100% important to call out such behavior and to punish such people, to let them know that their actions are always going to have consequences and that they can’t get away with something like this. That being said, we need to take responsibility for our reactions at this point because our reactions could lead to some severe mental health issues, self-harm, and even suicide in some people’s lives.
When a woman is mistreated, bullied, sexually harassed, objectified, or blackmailed for her pictures by her own boyfriend, it breaks her into pieces. She loses her confidence, she loses her self esteem and she starts to think that something is wrong with her. She becomes so insecure and paranoid and scared that she continues to be so even years after this incident. It starts to impact all the areas of her life. She can’t look in the eyes of her parents without feeling ashamed or guilty. She cannot go back to chasing her dreams fearlessly, she cannot trust someone again, can’t be in a relationship again, can’t seem to even trust her friends and there comes a point where she starts to feel so guilty, so shameful and so overwhelmed that she starts to cut herself away from all the people around her. That’s where she starts to think, how she lost her childhood, how she lost her playfulness and how she’s filled with the feelings of guilt, and shame and how to her it seems like it’s never going to come to an end and that’s when she thinks that probably she should put an end to all of this and a lot of women do. Every woman, every man or anyone for that matter who’s been at the receiving end of such kind of abuse can relate to this. They know what it means to be shamed, to be ridiculed, to be mistreated in this manner and so their rage, their anger towards this locker-room incident is absolutely valid and justified.
So what are we going to do? How are we going to deal with this situation once we are done reacting? Are we going to answer shame with shame? Is the answer to being ridiculed, ridiculing them? Are we going to allow the pain we went through as victims and as friends and family of victims to change us into being inhuman and insensitive? We need to remember that there is a difference between punishing someone and shaming someone and both of these things have very different consequences. So next time you log in to react to this incident ask yourself is shame, rage, and anger going to do any good to anyone?
But if you see anyone expressing their anger or rage try to also understand where they’re coming from. For example, if there are women who are saying, no, all men, then maybe they are those women who are coming from the place of being hurt, being at the receiving end of such abuse and so it makes their thinking polarized, makes them think that it’s really all men who are doing this. And if there are some men who are saying that no, not all men, then maybe they are those men who are coming from a place where they don’t just believe in gender equality but they also raise their voice towards it. They also advocate it and maybe they feel unacknowledged for doing so and maybe it breaks their heart to see how they are still seen in the same light just because they are men.
At this point, we need to remember that this fight is not between men and women, this fight is between insensitivity and empathy, and you never defeat insensitivity with shame.
So how do we fight insensitivity? By talking to each other instead of attacking each other. Instead of using our social media handles to spread hate messages, we can talk about how we feel about these things. Women who’ve been at the receiving end of such abuse can sensitize their male counterparts by talking about how they felt when they went through all these things. Men who see it happening around them can talk about how cringe they feel when they see it happening, together we can talk about how can they call out such behavior or such conduct when it happens in our own close group. We can talk to our parents and initiate such conversations with them. Tell them the importance of sex education and gender education and encourage them to talk to their friends about it. They need to remember that we are all stakeholders when it comes to changing these boys into locker room boys and we need to take responsibility collectively.