Newsflash: Elite universities are as rife with sexism as any other college.
Harvard this week took the unusual step of prematurely ending the season for their men's soccer team—currently first place in the Ivy League—following the revelation that members had for years produced an annual "scouting report" that ranked incoming freshman players on the women's team according to their looks and sex appeal. The Harvard Crimson broke the story in late October, having obtained one such document circulated by the men's team over email in 2012:
In lewd terms, the author of the report individually evaluated each female recruit, assigning them numerical scores and writing paragraph-long assessments of the women. The document also included photographs of each woman, most of which, the author wrote, were culled from Facebook or the Internet.
The author of the “report” often included sexually explicit descriptions of the women. He wrote of one woman that “she looks like the kind of girl who both likes to dominate, and likes to be dominated.”
The author also speculated on each woman's level of sexual experience, assigned each a sex position, and mocked several women's appearance. The email thread also alluded to a previous year's "scouting report," seeming to confirm its status as a team tradition: According to one teammate, the assumption that one player “was both the hottest and the most STD ridden was confirmed.”
Robert Scalise, Director of Athletics at Harvard, condemned the practice and Thursday sent an email explaining the decision to forfeit all remaining games:
As we move forward, Harvard Athletics will partner with the office of sexual assault prevention and response and other Harvard College resources to take additional steps to further educate the members of our men’s soccer team, and all of our student athletes, about the seriousness of these behaviors and the general standard of respect and conduct that is expected.
Six of the women appraised in the men's team's secret ratings system in 2012 together penned an op-ed for the Crimson, seeking to dispel anonymity and reclaim their voices from media outlets that would carve them into sound bites.
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.
The Harvard women's soccer team beat Columbia University by a score of 2-1 on Saturday, with a golden goal in double overtime, winning the Ivy League title.