president obama locker room

Dear President Obama,

Your new requirements for gender neutral bathrooms are anything but progressive. They are taking women back 80 years to a time when it was more important for girls to be kind than to be safe; when men were always given the benefit of the doubt regardless of the circumstance and when female opinions were brushed aside as trivial.

TIME magazine recently reported a disturbing story about a locker room in Manhattan where this policy is already in effect. The girls’ swim team encountered a person who presented as a man in their locker room. He was “bald, with heavy stubble, and a towel at waist level.” He had just stepped out of the shower in a locker room full of girls ages 6-18 changing for swim practice. They felt uncomfortable and told the swim coach, but employees are not allowed to say a word. All 18 girls now squeeze into the family changing room in order to avoid this man at the Rec Center.

Now, Mr. Obama, you are welcoming and open, so this scenario probably doesn’t bother you. Perhaps you should send YOUR girls into the changing room with this man who claims to be a woman. Let your daughters leave their Secret Service at the door and change and shower while he nonchalantly watches them. Though you have raised them to be strong, smart, independent girls who control their own bodies and destiny, remind them not to judge. Tell them to disregard their feelings of fear and violation. After all, it is more important that this man feels comfortable than that your daughters’ feel their bodies are safe. Even though he is an adult and they are still children, emphasize to them that they are to be polite and accommodating so that he feels happy and wanted. When they mention how they feel to you, wave them off with words like “overreacting and paranoid” and instead praise equality. Then, make your daughters go swimming again tomorrow.  Is your skin crawling yet?

While they are at swim practice, perhaps you could bring back the wage gap, the glass ceiling, and misogyny, to round things out. Or maybe your time could be better spent apologizing for a hasty policy without carefully thinking about real world ramifications for every day people. For kids who don’t have the luxury of country clubs, private pools, or careful parental supervision. For the kids whose only option is the city Rec Center and free after school programs. I need a background check to coach a soccer team, but any adult of either gender can waltz into a locker room full of unclothed children and our main priority is that adult’s  feelings? Certainly there has to be a better way. Let’s find it.