On my way back from GA, Sunday, I traveled in a Smart Travel van out
to the MSP airport at noon. When the van arrived at the Millennium Hotel entrance (where we waited), there was already a heterosexual couple in
the rear seat and a man in the seat just in front of the rear seat. The two men were UU ministers; the woman was the spouse of the minister I write about here. I recognized some of the names of the ministers and other ministerial leaders though no one had their GA badges on at that point. There was no way of knowing who the other riders were (including people who got on from a stop at the Hyatt.)
For the whole trip we heard a variety of unprofessional remarks, including a lengthy discussion of colleagues they knew in common and a litany of who they both knew, who they liked, and who they didn't (inappropriate comments on the latter). Then the one (who I think is from the Boston area from the content of their remarks) told a very unfortunate, crude locker room type 'joke' which I will not repeat here. The wife attempted to stop him from this frat house humor.
It was a kind of buddy joke, best told in private—but actually best deleted from one's memory lest it come out at an unfortunate time. They assumed that they were safe--a dangerous assumption to make on a pubic van. They let their guard down. I think most in the van were UUs, but don't know that. No one else was conversing, so they all could have heard every word.
I'm no prude but the whole discussion was egregious. The van contained mostly women, except for my husband and the driver. I do not know the ministers’ names and did not recognize them (I think the joke teller was from North of Boston). Had I been less tired, I would have tried to redirect the conversation, been proactive, been ministerial (I work as an interfaith chaplain and served as a parish minister for 2 years). It was so unexpected, that I can only charge myself to be more proactive when/if other similar situations arise.
Ironically, I have been reading the book edited by Gretchen Woods "Leaping from our Spheres: the impact of Women on Unitarian Universalist Ministry." Thus I got a vivid, first hand example that the sexist 'male bonding' of the past persists. Tom Owen-Towle has a chapter in it talking about "Men as Colleagues, Brothers, and Allies."
Gretchen Robinson, MAPR