Shower Wars, Circa 1971

I spent the summer after graduating from college in Hanover, New Hampshire, working in a menial capacity on the Daniel Webster Papers project and mostly having fun. One day that summer, I had lifted weights at Dartmouth’s field house and was in the men’s locker room, preparing to take a shower, when the locker room was “liberated” by feminists.

This was first wave, or possibly second wave, feminism. Feminists of that time considered themselves radicals, but could hardly have imagined what was to come. In any event, two or three young ladies entered the men’s locker room and announced that they were liberating it. They might have had a legitimate grievance; Dartmouth was a men’s school at the time, and it may well be that the men’s locker room at the field house was larger than the women’s, or had more amenities.

The young ladies marched loudly into the men’s locker room and proceeded to disrobe and shower. As did I. As is so often the case, reality failed to measure up to expectation. The “liberation” was uneventful, and the men’s locker room continued to be used–exclusively, as far as I know–by men.

I have been thinking about this almost-forgotten event in the context of the Obama administration’s demand that all public school showers be co-ed, to the extent that any students want them to be. There are a couple of obvious differences between the world of 1971 and today. First, the young ladies who invaded our locker room in 1971 knew that they were perfectly safe. They took no risk.

And second, if any of us men had tried to “liberate” the women’s locker room, we would have been arrested and likely jailed. One can only imagine how a New Hampshire judge would have received a plea that a liberating man was *really* a woman and therefore should be allowed to shower with the girls.

Lord knows, the early 70s had their faults. But in some ways, that era was an oasis of common sense.