What 'Locker Room Vulgarity' Meant in the 1984 Presidential Campaign - Atlas Obscura
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What ‘Locker Room Vulgarity’ Meant in the 1984 Presidential Campaign

Different times.

After a tape surfaced last week of Donald J. Trump, the 70-year-old Republican nominee who has long been accused as having very short fingers, bragging in 2005 about grabbing a woman’s “pussy,” he repeatedly dismissed the lewd comments by invoking a phrase used as shorthand for sexually explicit male communication. It was nothing more, he said, than “locker room talk.”

“Locker room talk” has a long history—one which, it should be said, hasn’t usually included sexual assault—and that history includes another presidential campaign, and another female candidate.

The year was 1984. Vice President George H.W. Bush was debating Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman on a major-party presidential ticket. Their debate was judged to be mostly a draw, though Bush afterwards, in a candid moment caught on tape, apparently left the stage feeling pretty optimistic. 

“We tried to kick a little ass last night,” he told a longshoreman on the campaign trail. 

The remark caused an uproar, with the New York Times referring to it as a “locker-room vulgarity,” while a campaign official for Ferraro said Bush had “gone beyond decency.” 

But Bush defended it, saying that it was an “old Texas football” expression, and an aide called the criticism “utterly ridiculous.” 

The episode soon blew over, and Bush and President Ronald Reagan later went on to defeat Ferraro and her running mate Walter Mondale in one of the biggest landslides ever. 

And while Bush’s remark seems a bit quaint these days, other comments that year might not be as surprising spoken in 2016. 

On the day of the debate, for example, Bush’s press secretary said Ferraro was “too bitchy,” for voters, while Bush’s wife, Barbara, also got in the mix.

From the New York Times

Mrs. Bush, while bantering with reporters on Monday, characterized Mrs. Ferraro as a ”four-million-dollar - I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.” Mrs. Bush later apologized and said she had not meant to suggest Mrs. Ferraro was ”a witch.”

She definitely meant to say “witch.” Looks like women have locker rooms, too.