This November, Harvard University cancelled their men’s soccer season upon discovering vulgar “scouting reports” rating the school’s women soccer players 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 reminded me of the alarming prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. It’s scary that so many news stories nowadays fit 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 “you only play hockey to get your 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. But besides even sexism, this incident is a simpler issue of decency. If the men wrote an insulting “scouting report” about another men’s sports team, it would still be fundamentally disrespectful. Thus, I can’t wrap my mind around the idea they thought their actions were acceptable in the first place, regardless of gender.
That said, I have never witnessed anyone objectify and sexualize men athletes in the same way they do women. Perhaps even more worrisome is that the comments cannot be dismissed as a 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 a strong response, though I wonder if it will do much besides making these athletes indignant. I think an even better punishment would have forced these boys to take responsibility for their words and face the same humiliation they inflicted upon their women counterparts-for example, a mandatory assembly in which each boy reads his comments to the entire school. l would bet that few students would dare to exhibit the same unabashed misogyny if they knew their peers and teachers would judge them for it.
The timing of this news at Harvard made it especially upsetting in light of our recent presidential election. My female classmates and I watched a woman with 31 years of political experience and social work lose to a man who was not just unqualified but blatantly misogynistic. We watched Trump deny multiple sexual assault allegations against him on the basis that the women were not attractive enough for him to sexually assault. We watched as America let him berate Clinton about her looks, clothes, and husband’s affair. 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 is our obligation to stop tolerating sexist comments, starting with youth sports: formative years in one’s character. And it is 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.