Editorial: Time to redecorate Kinnick's pink locker room


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When opponents of the Iowa football team walk into their locker room on any given autumn Saturday, they are met with a tradition that is unique even by the somewhat off-kilter standards of college sports traditions. The locker room, the walls, the stalls, the towels, the floor, even the urinals, rather than displaying the shade of white common in most Iowa facilities, are bright pink.

The famous pink locker room, started in 1979 by legendary football coach Hayden Fry and garishly renovated in 2005, have become ingrained into the university’s DNA. There is a time when all trends must die, however: The pink locker room should be redecorated.

It’s blatantly obvious that the pink locker room is a rather childish example of a destructive and anachronistic culture. As University of Iowa Professor Kembrew McLeod pointed out in the Des Moines Register last week, the governing philosophy behind the color arrangement is that pink is a “girl” color; forcing the über-masculine opponents of the Hawkeyes to prepare themselves in the presence of a “feminine” color will disturb the opposing players’ minds so much that they will fail to conquer the Hawkeyes.

Fry himself admitted as much himself when saying in his memoir, “Also, pink is often found in girls’ bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color.” The underlying assumption of the pink locker room is a belief in sexist norms of male superiority and violent masculinity. Open-and-shut case.

Despite the undeniable problems posed by having a pink locker room, university officials and Iowa football fans continue to assert that the locker rooms are benign and even something to be proud of. UI Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge said the locker room is an example of strategically applied psychology since pink has a “calming effect.” Professors who have voiced concerns about the locker rooms have been met with intimidation from Iowa fans (a pretty standard tactic of misogynists when trying to delegitimize their opponents).

However, in spite of opposition, there is a growing movement to rid the university of this embarrassing tradition. McLeod has announced plans to start a “Million Robot March” to “use humor, media, satire, and civil disobedience to shame the school into ending this stupid, outmoded football tradition,” including protests during this fall’s Fry Fest, held in the honor of the man who started the pink locker rooms.

What makes changing the locker room’s color relevant, rather than just another meaningless episode of the Culture Wars, is that the culture the pink walls promote has very dire consequences. The culture of hyper-masculinity, embodied by the locker rooms, is exactly what leads to the rape culture — the tolerance of widespread sexual assault through victim blaming and the enforcement of patriarchal norms — which results in the egregious sexual-assault problem the campus (and campuses across the country) grapple with.

Now, it would be ridiculous to suggest that the pink locker rooms are the cause of rape culture or that painting the locker rooms black and yellow would magically fix the problem. But if the university is serious about clamping down on such things as the rape culture and institutional sexism, erasing one of its manifestations wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

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