The rest of the Harvard men’s soccer season is cancelled, while the women’s soccer team claimed the Ivy League Championship. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons.
In 2012, a member of the Harvard men’s soccer team created a Google Doc, known among their team as a traditional way of “evaluating” incoming freshman joining the 2012 women’s soccer team. It’s called the Scouting Report, and, emailed amongst the team, crassly objectified the female athletes. A story about the matter was released in the student-organized Harvard newspaper, The Crimson, on October 25th of this year after the document was discovered by authorities.
The remainder of the men’s soccer season this year is declared cancelled due to the discovery of the document, as authorities and coaches were not previously aware of it. The Director of Athletics at Harvard, Robert L. Scalise, commented to The Crimson that he did not want this incident to be a “media thing,” but rather something that the school dealt with internally.
The document consisted of sexually explicit summaries of each woman in paragraph form, rating her attractiveness and perceived sexual appeal numerically. Each woman was given a crude nickname, along with an informal photo.
After the initial story on The Crimson came out, the Harvard women’s soccer team published a response letter on the online newspaper on October 29th titled Stronger Together. Eloquently and professionally, they voiced their thoughts after seeing the atrocious document featuring themselves. They called the document vulgar, unacceptable, and yet another example of objectifying women’s bodies for men’s entertainment: “We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance.”
Furthermore, they called for the men’s soccer team to reform their behavior, asking them to join them in fighting the well-known issues of hypermasculinity and general misogynistic attitudes. Overall, the letter served as a reminder not to brush this incident off as a normal activity, but to see the great flaws it brings to light in our society, and to reprimand the team for their utter lack of respect.
Sexual disrespect, in all of its many forms, is continually being fed under our noses. Social media, the internet in general, movies, TV shows, and advertisements are exposed to us everyday, and to an impressionable minor, seeing any sort of derogatory language, teasing towards a woman, or any other targeted community can simply add to the pile that may eventually lead to wrong behavior in the future. Altogether, boys only being offered “boyish” activities during childhood, to hearing the offhand dirty joke, and being exposed to media that is derogatory towards women in any way is assisting in the general issue of hypermasculinity, which is a recurring theme in our country.
Incidents like the Harvard men’s soccer team’s document cannot be simply brushed off as “something boys do.” This type of inappropriate behavior and disrespect must be corrected, publicly if possible, to make clear that this is not acceptable and should not be viewed as so in our society, no matter what kind of authority they possess. Because of this, I am glad that a form of discipline was given in response through cancelling the rest of their season, to further make the message previously noted clear.
Recently elected president Mr. Donald J. Trump has, in the past, bragged about groping women, and has a record of generally disrespecting women. He has brushed off his boasts as “locker-room talk.” Any sort of disrespect from any team as a whole is not acceptable, and those players do not belong in a locker room at all. Any sort of dehumanizing banter, as with Mr. Trump, must not be faced as just something a little stupid to say but as the scary issue it is, rooted in time itself.
As a female student athlete, although I am in high school and not college, I find this sort of behavior very disturbing, and not the environment I would ever want to find myself in under any circumstances. Whenever I hear an offhand derogatory comment, or see something objectifying in the media, it’s discouraging to myself and all girls in my generation. We want to grow up in a world that respects us, wherever we are and in any situation.
The Harvard women’s soccer team’s response was very admirable. They were able to voice their thoughts on the matter maturely, reflecting on the ridiculousness and complete unacceptability on the vulgar document. Their letter is now yet another aspect of the global conversation combating any form of dehumanization.
The letter ends with the following, lingering closing statement: “I can offer you my forgiveness, which is—and forever will be—the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.”