EDITORIAL: Not here, not there, not anywhere
‘Locker room talk’ shouldn’t be used by athletes or anyone else
“Locker room talk” is another way of saying “boys will be boys,” regardless of whether they’re grown men like 70-year-old Donald Trump, scheduled to be the 45th President of the United States, or the 18 to 22-year-old players on the Harvard men’s soccer team. It’s a term that’s dismissive and ignorant of how normalized sexually degrading comments are primers for normalized sexually degrading behavior. So when the Harvard men’s soccer team was discovered to have a “scouting report” on female soccer team recruits, swift condemnation of this practice was the only reasonable way to address this loathsome behavior.
Recently, Harvard’s college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, discovered a publicly searchable Google document written in 2012 that included women’s sexual appeal ratings on the scale of 1 to 10, explicit descriptions of their physical traits and speculations about the women’s preferred sexual positions. Some said, “doggy style,” another said “the triple Lindy” and another one said the woman was “manly” and not much needs to be said about her. Although it was written several years ago, several members of the 2012 men’s team declined to comment on the document, including whether subsequent men’s soccer teams created similar “reports.” Despite it being unknown whether the current men’s team continued this inane tradition, Harvard’s sanction by cancelling the rest of the season was the right thing to do. As a progressive institution that looks to eliminate remnants of sexism and stymie pervasive sexual assault on campus, Harvard sets an example for other college sports teams and sends a message to both men and women about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Now there are more reports about other sports teams conducting the same practice being discovered, such as the Harvard men's cross country team that made similar spread sheets. However, only teams that wrote sexually explicit descriptions are being called out for it. The distinction of how language is delivered is confused: You can talk about, but you can’t write about it? It doesn’t make much sense, but perhaps the only way that others can discover the way explicit language deployed against women and other people is if there’s publicly available writing that corroborates them.
Nonetheless, this type of language and action should be addressed, because it reduces women to their physical appearance, regardless of their accomplishments or intellectual capacity. Anywhere women go there’s a barrage of comments and judgments on their appearance. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endured waves of ridicule based on her appearance and about how “she was not necessarily attractive,” even though attractiveness wasn’t a qualification for the presidency. When women work in business, they’re obligated to wear high heels at work or certain types of hairstyles, and black women’s natural hair is deemed as inappropriate and not allowed. If you wear too much make up like Kylie Jenner, you’re criticized, but wear little to no make up like Alicia Keys and you’ll still be criticized. The lewd comments about the Harvard women’s soccer team were all the more harmful in how they perpetuated this same train of thinking that overvalues women’s looks above anything else.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh argued in defense of the Harvard men’s soccer team, echoing the notion that boys will be boys and it’s part of human nature. He said, “Who rates women on a scale of 1 to 10? Hah, try everybody!” While women are regularly evaluated on their appearance, calling someone attractive, beautiful or pretty is strikingly different from saying “Yeah … She wants cock,” or that someone "was both the hottest and the most STD ridden ...” Admittedly, some men and some women talk about the opposite gender in this way, but it doesn't have to be that way. The consequences for this way of thinking and behaving can't be ignored. The locker room excuse needs to be done away with, because at this point, it's not limited to athletic teams — the world is a locker room.
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