From not fitting into the clothes the other girls were wearing in junior high to being called chubby, fat and ugly since first grade, I was plenty aware that my body didn’t fit the bill of ‘pretty’.
All my friends in high school were, in my opinion, pretty. And skinny. In fact, my best friend to this day is one of the most slender women I know. She was when were 17 and she is now that we’re 30. One afternoon a few of us were laying in my bed taking a body shape quiz. I, as always, was a pear. She joked that she didn’t fit any of the types and was a ruler-type. We laughed until we cried. We still laugh about it.
In that moment, on my bed with my pretty friends, I felt zero shame about my body. These were my friends and they loved me, saw me for who I was and valued me.
Too bad the safety of that circle of girls in that room wasn’t where I grew up. Unfortunately, the opinions I held about my body and thus myself (because developmentally I wasn’t able to separate myself from my body yet, that would come later) were already solidly formed. The shame I carried was deep, heavy and real. The disgust I held toward my body for not getting me friends, for making people dislike me, for not getting me a boyfriend sooner (because, again another message I received as a girl: ultimate validation is in a man affirming you), and for keeping me out of many social circles was a part of my identity. I hated myself.
In second grade, my classmates came up with ‘Katie K germs’. You could get them from touching me or touching something I touched. You could pass them to others, but not if you held your fingers together in a certain way. I had one friend that year, but she asked I keep our friendship a secret.
When I was 15 and got my first boyfriend and started having sex and lying to my parents and sneaking out and stealing clothes, my anxiety got so horrible that I couldn’t eat. Of course it did. But, I lost a ton of weight that year and was able to, finally, buy jeans from the juniors section at Kohls. They were similar to the jeans skinny, popular girls wore. I felt like a new person.
When we, that group of girls who sat on my bed with me as we took quizzes, were 17, we went “out” one night. Out meant we went to see a youth group leader playing in his band at a ‘club’ in the city. We decided we’d go to a diner after the show for ice cream. Walking next to my thin friends headed toward the car, a man looks at us and at says, “Damn, girl: you thick!”. We froze. Sure, I’d been heckled before, but not in front of friends. Not when we were trying to get home before curfew and after hanging with our youth group leaders and eating ice cream and listening to Relient K all night.
My heart started to race. My cheeks flooded red. I knew he was talking about me, not to me, because surely he didn’t think I was a whole person with feelings because otherwise, why would someone say that to a girl? My friends started to laugh and so did I. We kept going and for a few years, it was something we would bring up or talk about in a light hearted, reminiscent manner.
But that night solidified a message I had been told since first grade: something is wrong with my body and therefore me. No one else in our group got heckled that night. In fact, no one even thought for one second when that guy yelled out that he was talking about anyone but me.
And it watered and fed a lie which I am so sad and heartbroken grew. A lie that we see played out all over culture and society and media and in the heart of nearly every girl and woman we know. A lie that dominated how I viewed myself and my body and what to do with those two things (self and body) for much of my early twenties. The lie that I was the problem, not the heckler or the culture that made the heckler. It was me.
By now, we’ve all heard the Trump audio. We’ve read lots and heard lots, a lot good and a lot bad.
I have been nothing short of heartbroken at the easy dismissal of this as ‘locker room talk’. To call it that, and to not be more upset that it’s being referred to as such is appalling. It’s appalling and frightening and enabling a culture of sexism and racism because nothing stays behind closed doors. Nothing stays in the locker room. If you think something, if you hold a deep belief in something, sure it will come out in your unguarded moments, but more so, it will come out in your actions.
Our beliefs create our thoughts and our thoughts inspire and initiate our actions.
In the last year alone, we can find example after example of ‘locker room talk’ which resulted in a racist or sexist act or some massive action of division in our country.
A Black man was shot and killed in Tulsa. An Officer was recorded saying that he ‘looks like a bad guy.’ Locker room talk?
A Black man was shot and killed in Saint Paul. An Officer was recorded saying he looked similar to someone who robbed a store because he ‘had a big nose’. Locker room talk?
The issue with ‘locker room talk’, which I’m assuming as Trump meant it, means a conversation that is between people who are similar in some ways and is never intended to become public, is that it reflects what someone actually believes and is driven by.
The issue in America is that we, as a society, hold sexist and racist beliefs. Until we can be blatant and honest and root through those beliefs via the fruit (locker room talk), nothing will change. The reality that we think we can say someone looks like a bad guy because his hood is up, his skin is black or his nose is bigger than yours, is racist. Flat out racist. The fact that a man can think he can grab a woman’s genitals without consent is violent and sexist. Flat our sexist.
These statements we’re hearing, these leaked ‘locker room’ conversations, are proof and fruit of the seeds of racism and sexism that have infested and taken root in our country.
So, as a woman who has been bullied and shamed and assaulted and groped and heckled and cat-called, and as a wife and friend and mom, my heart has been breaking that more men, more Jesus-loving men, are not coming forward saying enough is enough.
Yes, we’re your daughters and sisters and wives and pastors and friends, but we’re first and foremost people made in the image of God. On behalf of Him, if not us, say this isn’t okay. Say that you’re not okay raising your daughters to feel unsafe walking to their cars. Say you’re not okay with the deep shame women feel that’s being supported in the media and our culture at large. Say that there is no context on Earth that would make statements like this okay.
And then, look up. Look up and see and how these brushed away, seemingly one-off statements actually contribute to a whole mess of toxic and dangerous ideology.
How words make worlds.
How what we say matters because it’s what we believe.
And if we want to change things, then we need to start at home, with us. We need to deeply examine what we believe. What we think is okay and what we think isn’t okay.
Nothing stays in the locker room.
When I, as a woman, feel called out or targeted or isolated, nothing kills those feelings and damns them to hell where they belong more than when a representative of those messages (in this case, a man) speaks the opposite. When a man, or men, rally behind women, affirming them and speaking value and worth, it kills the power of the shame more so than anything else.
When the ideas of right and wrong aren’t the focus, but rather, where would Jesus be and what would Jesus be saying become the aim and the way.
When we can be more concerned with people’s hearts and stories than our own or not taking blame or making sure we’re not being blamed or making sure people know for sure for sure where we stand, beautiful things happen. I think that’s how we can heal some of the division we’re seeing and experiencing.
Because these aren’t issues. They’re people. It’s me.