Spokesman John Cramer wouldn’t elaborate on what the material contained or who, specifically, it targeted, but he said the school will decide over the next few days whether to end the team’s season.
“We also will work collaboratively to determine additional actions aimed at education and positive culture building for the team,” athletic director Mollie Marcoux Samaan said in a statement.
Will Meek, a psychologist who works with students at the University of Portland in Oregon, said such derogatory remarks among groups of young men, particularly those on sports teams and in fraternities, are nothing new — but technology has given today's youths a new platform, one that grants hurtful speech more prominence.
“On a surface level, it could be called bonding,” Meek said. “But beneath it all, they’re performing for each other, for other men, trying to be part of the ‘in group.’ ”
Meek, who teaches classes about the psychology of masculinity, said his young male clients sometimes express guilt about verbally stripping others down with their peers. “They feel pressure to go along with it,” he said. “They want to prove they’re ‘real men.’ ”
They also know recording this activity opens the door to getting caught. Sometimes, he said, the thrill of impressing the guys outweighs the potential consequences.
The investigation into the swimmers’ conduct comes after Harvard University canceled its men’s soccer season in October upon discovering players had written and circulated a “scouting report” about female athletes, rating their appearance and perceived sexual prowess. “She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position,” the author wrote about one woman in the document, an apparent annual tradition.
Days after the soccer team was punished, Harvard’s men's cross country runners stepped forward with their own appraisals of female athletes, this time in spreadsheet form. (The team captain told the Harvard Crimson it was better to come clean before the school found the conversations.)
In November, the men’s wrestling team at Columbia University sparked an investigation after the student newspaper published images of their group text messages, which included racial slurs and such lines as: “Columbia b------ feel entitled to something when in reality they’re all ugly socially awkward c----.”
Popular culture exacerbates this behavior, implicitly granting young men permission to partake in conversations they’d be ashamed to share with their mothers, said Jackson Katz, an anti-sexism educator and author of “Man Enough: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity.” Trump, he points out, dismissed his disparaging remarks about women, which were caught on tape in 2005 and released a month before the election, as “locker room talk.”
“They might think, perhaps subconsciously, ‘The most powerful man in the world can do this,’ ” Katz said, ‘so I can, too.’ ”
He encourages his students, regardless of gender, to think about how their words could affect others. An open letter published by six Harvard women's soccer players opens a window into the potential pain.
“We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this,” they wrote. “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.”
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