In sports, a scouting report is an evaluation of the players in which a team is interested. It considers players’ strengths, weaknesses, and skills, as well as “intangibles” like how they would fit into the team.
Since at least 2012, the men’s soccer team at Harvard has created a scouting report of its own—on the women’s soccer team. Instead of statistics on offense and defense, their 9-page report ranks their female counterparts as sexual objects.
I’d like to say I’m surprised. Really I would. I’d like to contend this is an isolated incident. Sadly, it’s not even unusual.
The women involved had this to say:
“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.”
What does surprise me is that Harvard took the unusual step of canceling the men’s soccer season. I wish I weren’t surprised by that. In a year where a multitude of men and women have excused “grab them by the pussy,you can do whatever you want” as “locker room talk” and something in which all men engage, it’s refreshing to see these Harvard men being held to a higher standard.
But let’s face it: the standard isn’t all that high. We’re talking about basic human decency, here. We’re talking about men seeing women as complete human beings, not as abstract sexual entities designed for male objectification and pleasure. We’re talking about a group of at least 11 men maintaining for FOUR YEARS a scorecard of the relative fuckability—because that’s what it is—of women they considered friends and comrades in sport and thinking it was a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
And culturally, it apparently IS a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
The truth is that these reports are routinely and gleefully published on the internet. “Top 10 Hottest Actresses in Hollywood,” “50 Celebrities with Ugly Spouses,” and my personal favorite “The Most Unforgettable Athletes in All of Sports,” complete with a crotch shot of a (most likely underage) female gymnast’s genitals exposed by a wardrobe malfunction.
Viewed in this context, it isn’t hard to discern why these men felt this behavior was acceptable in the first place.
Except, they knew it was wrong. Somewhere, deep down, they knew it was wrong and went on doing it anyway.
How do I know that? They kept it a secret, and when they were caught, there was a “failure to be forthcoming.”
That’s what the silencing of a conscience sounds like.
We all make judgments about the physical attractiveness of potential and sometimes implausible sexual partners. Whether you like blondes, get smitten by a dazzling smile, or appreciate a fuller figure, there are some physical attributes that make any given person more or less attractive to you. (Full disclosure: I have a thing for redheads and Mark Ruffalo. See what I mean about implausible?)
That we have these preferences is not the problem. The problem is when we reduce a complete human being to a single characteristic.
The men involved in this incident have now issued a public apology. They state that their actions “did not and [do] not reflect our view of the members of Harvard Women’s Soccer or of women in general” Then why did they write them down? The apology continues that they “take responsibility for [their] actions.”
But if that’s the case, why were they not forthcoming with the truth?
The women’s team offered their forgiveness, signing their statement, not with “Harvard Women’s Soccer,” but with the name of each of the six members of the Harvard Women’s Soccer recruiting class of 2012.
The men, who also stated that they “hope to guide conversation among the other athletic teams about sexism,” did not divulge their identities or sign their statement in any way. This begs the question: How do they intend to lead a conversation about anything while remaining anonymous?
You can do better, boys. And you should.
Photo credit: Pixabay