Former members of the Harvard women's soccer team reunited to write a powerful, heartbreaking opinion piece they should never have had to write.
The op-ed was written in response to The Harvard Crimson's recent story about the men's soccer team's "scouting report," a publicly searchable guide written and maintained by the 2012 Harvard men's soccer recruiting class detailing and rating members of the 2012 women's soccer recruiting class.
The document included the women's physical attributes, crude nicknames, and guesses as to their preferred sexual positions. While the disgusting digital tradition appeared to begin in 2012, conversations continued well into this year.
Within days of the newspaper revealing the abhorrent practice, the university cancelled the remainder of the men's season (two games) and any post-season play.
But that's not exactly a "victory" for Harvard women's soccer. Soon, former women's team members were inundated by the press, their comments taken and spun out of context. Their lives were disrupted through no fault of their own. And for current players, the scandal overshadowed what would soon be a championship season.
Tired of outlets misrepresenting them, their team, and their school, the six members of the 2012 women's soccer recruiting class wrote an opinion piece for The Harvard Crimson.
Brooke Dickens, Kelsey Clayman, Alika Keene, Emily Mosbacher, Lauren Varela, and Haley Washburn, now Harvard alumni, came together to tell their side of the story in a piece titled "Stronger Together." In doing so, their voices carried for the millions of women who don't often get that chance.
"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."
While the women bravely shared feelings of hopelessness, concern, and frustration, strength and hope were on display too.
Being a target of misogyny of this magnitude would hurt and devastate anyone, but as athletes and young women, they are accustomed to getting back up in the wake of defeat.
"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."
They're banding together now, not just as athletes or Harvard alumni, but as women.
Incidents like these are not confined to the locker room or college campus: They're everywhere. But women, athletes or otherwise, are stronger when they come together to speak out against sexual mistreatment. All of us, not just women but men too, need to come together to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
"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.
From locker rooms to boardrooms, from the warehouse to the White House, the Harvard women's soccer team is right: We need to come together to stand up to misogyny.
Misogyny is not cute, funny, or harmless. It's cruel. It's devastating. And from micro-aggressions to sexual assault, sexism is creating and perpetuating a culture of rape and violence against women.
To put an end to it, we need men and boys to recognize in no uncertain terms that women's bodies and minds do not belong to them. Whatsoever. Full stop.
"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 need women to continue taking the brave step to get support and/or report their attackers in the wake of emotional, physical, and sexual violence, too. You and your voice are important. Know there are people nearby and around the globe who will stand with you and support you.