Harvard University recently cancelled the 2016 season of its top-seeded Men’s Soccer Team after a report came out that in 2012, members of the soccer team made “disgusting” recruiting report wherein they rated potential members of the women’s soccer team based on their looks and perceived sexual capabilities.
Read the powerful response of the women who were subjected to this sexist and deplorable act. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
“In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. 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. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men’s entitlement to bodies that aren’t theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks.”
On Monday, October 24, The Crimson published a story detailing a “scouting report” written by members of the 2012 men’s soccer team regarding incoming female recruits on the women’s soccer team.
We are these women, we are not anonymous, and rather than having our comments taken, spun, and published behind the guise of a fake anonymity offered to us by numerous news outlets, we have decided to speak for ourselves.
When first notified of this “scouting report” each of us responded with surprise and confusion, but ultimately brushed off the news as if it didn’t really matter. As if we weren’t surprised men had spoken of us inappropriately. As if this kind of thing was just, “normal.”
The sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so “normal” to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on. Yet as the media has taken advantage of the Harvard name once more, it has become increasingly difficult to evade the pervasiveness of this story, harder still to elude the abhorrent judgment of our peers and the outrageous Internet commentary of the public, and hardest to subdue the embarrassment, disgust, and pain we feel as a result.
In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. 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. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men’s entitlement to bodies that aren’t theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks.
Having considered members of this team our close friends for the past four years, we are beyond hurt to realize these individuals could encourage, silently observe, or participate in this kind of behavior, and for more than four years have neglected to apologize until this week.
We have seen the “scouting report” in its entirety. We know the fullest extent of its contents: the descriptions of our bodies, the numbers we were each assigned, and the comparison to each other and recruits in classes before us. This document attempts to pit us against one another, as if the judgment of a few men is sufficient to determine our worth. But, men, we know better than that. Eighteen years of soccer taught us that. Eighteen years—as successful, powerful, and undeniably brilliant female athletes – taught us that.
We know what it’s like to get knocked down. To lose a few battles. To sweat, to cry, to bleed. To fight so hard, yet no matter what we do, the game is still out of our hands. And, even still, we keep fighting; for ourselves, yes, but above all for our teammates. This document might have stung any other group of women you chose to target, but not us. We know as teammates that we rise to the occasion, that we are stronger together, and that we will not tolerate anything less than respect for women that we care for more than ourselves.
While at Harvard, our coaches taught us that the only thing we can control in life is ourselves—our own attitude and effort—ultimately, our own actions and our own words. The actions and words displayed by members of the 2012 men’s soccer team have deeply hurt us. They were careless, disgusting, and appalling, but an aberrant display of misogyny such as this does not reflect the type of environment Harvard Athletics cultivates. Harvard Athletics, specifically Harvard Women’s Soccer, succeeds because despite any atmosphere of competition, we know how to be a team—to lift each other up and bring out the best in those around us to achieve our goals. With these recent events, we have seen this firsthand through our support for and empathy of one another above ourselves.
“Locker room talk” is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is the locker room. Yet in it we feel blessed to know many men who do not and would never participate in this behavior out of respect for us—out of respect for women. To them we are grateful, and with them we strive to share a mutual respect through our own actions and words.
As women of Harvard Soccer and of the world, we want to take this experience as an opportunity to encourage our fellow women to band together in combatting this type of behavior, because we are a team and we are stronger when we are united.
To the men of Harvard soccer and to the men of the world, we invite you to join us, because ultimately we are all members of the same team. We are human beings and we should be treated with dignity. We want your help in combatting this. We need your help in preventing this. We cannot change the past, but we are asking you to help us now and in the future.
We are hopeful that the release of this report will lead to productive conversation and action on Harvard’s campus, within collegiate athletic teams across the country, and into the locker room that is our world. But ultimately, we hope this will catalyze the cultivation of an environment and a culture that strives to lift up all of its members.
Finally, to the men of Harvard Soccer and any future men who may lay claim to our bodies and choose to objectify us as sexual objects, in the words of one of us, we say together: “I can offer you my forgiveness, which is—and forever will be—the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.”
Brooke Dickens ’16, Kelsey Clayman ’16, Alika Keene ’16, Emily Mosbacher ’16, Lauren Varela ’16, and Haley Washburn ’16 are the six members of the Harvard Women’s Soccer recruiting class of 2012.