Harvard University recently cancelled their men’s soccer season upon discovering vulgar “scouting reports” rating the school’s women soccer players based on sexual appeal and physical appearance.
I was sad to think of these intelligent and accomplished women reduced to something so belittling. Reading this story also brought to mind the alarming prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. It’s scary that so many news stories nowadays fall under the pattern of men feeling entitled to women’s bodies.
The hurtful and incredibly personal descriptions in the scouting report brought back memories of my own years playing hockey with all boys. Even around the age of eight, I’d overhear boys at practice arguing over who would have the privilege of not being my partner in a drill. By my teenage years at the rink, I’d been called many names, most often “bitch.” I’d had male coaches that would reprimand the whole team by saying we “played like pussies.” The comment I remember resonating with me the most was when a boy told me “the only reason you play hockey is to get the whole team to gang bang you.”
I am honestly not sure why misogyny and sexual comments like these are so rampant in sports culture. However, it’s disappointing to realize despite such a highly selective admissions process, the same behavior goes on at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Harvard’s soccer team proved that sexism places no limit on age or education. Besides even sexism, this incident is an even simpler issue of decency. If the men wrote an insulting “scouting report” about another men’s sports team, it would still be bullying and fundamentally disrespectful. Thus, I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea Harvard’s men soccer players would think their actions were acceptable in the first place, regardless of gender. That said, I’ve never witnessed anyone objectify and sexualize male athletes in the same way they do women. Perhaps even more worrisome is that their comments cannot be dismissed as a stupid and careless mistake, for they were documented with precision in an ongoing Google Doc.
Knowing the men’s soccer team was “in striking distance of winning its conference” before their season got cancelled does mollify my anger a bit, but not much. I thought the school’s punishment was the right response, and I hope it inspires Harvard’s male athletes to reflect on their treatment of women. However, punishing a single team will do close to nothing in combating the misogyny entrenched in professional, collegiate, and youth sports.
The timing of this story felt especially upsetting in lieu of our recent presidential election. We watched as a woman with 31 years of political experience and social work lost to a man who wasn’t just unqualified but blatantly misogynistic. We watched Trump deny over 20 sexual assault allegations against him on the basis that the women weren’t attractive enough for him to sexually assault. We let him berate Clinton about her looks, clothes, and husband’s affair. Meanwhile, the media and Americans paid little attention to the multiple rape charges (one against a 13 year old girl) that Trump was accused of. On November 9th, our country decided that name calling is not only appropriate among young boys, but in the oval office, too.
I’m fed up with women being categorized and labeled by their appearance. I’m repulsed by men’s excuses for degrading and dehumanizing women. I’m frustrated that women’s athletics in our “progressive country” don’t receive anywhere near the same respect or admiration as men. I’m exasperated by the stigma around feminism. And I find it discouraging to combat any of this when men in power outnumber women in all of these positions.
It’s our obligation to stop tolerating sexist comments, starting with youth sports: formative years in one’s character. It’s essential that the girls in our generation continue to achieve undeniable feats and prove by example the worth of women’s hard work and success. As a glimmer of hope to this story, the Harvard women’s soccer team won the Ivy League Championship one week later.