To the Columbia men’s wrestling team:
I spend over 30 hours a week in Dodge Fitness Center. I spend my time doing a variety of things for a variety of teams. I do your laundry, clean your towels, wipe down your mats, hang dry your uniforms. Unpaid, unacknowledged, and often unseen, I don’t do what I do with an expectation of recognition, but I do so with an expectation of respect.
I respect and admire every athlete at this school. I see your determination, ambition, and tenacity. When I wash your clothes after practice, I know how hard you have worked for the programs you love, and it is an honor to help you in any way I can.
So when screenshots of a GroupMe surfaced this Thursday, I was angry, hurt, and disappointed. I was disappointed because when I looked at you and saw proud representatives of this school and this athletic program, you looked at me and every woman—women of color specifically—on this campus and saw “feminist bitches” who were inferior to you. When I cheered for you in the stands, you degraded me in private. While I was proud to call you Columbia Lions, you called all of us ugly socially awkward cunts. I regard you as people, and you regard me as an object.
And, perhaps worst of all, you probably don’t care. You don’t feel bad that your words hurt, you feel bad that they had consequences that affected you. You aren’t sorry for what you said, you’re sorry you got caught.
To every team on this campus, I hope you take this to heart. I hope you see what has happened and take a good hard look at yourselves and your teammates, and I hope you demand better of one another. Do not accept toxic “locker room talk” as OK, because when you witness and partake in it, your words affect your friends, peers, and fellow student-athletes. Hold one another to higher standards—not because your season might be at stake, but because your words denigrate real people. Real people who support you, love you, look after you, cheer for you, wash your towels, and clean your laundry. I admire your hard work, and I respect you, and I can only hope that you can afford me those same sentiments.
To my own team that I work for, I hope you understand that when you say derogatory things about women, you are saying derogatory things about me. When you objectify another student, you objectify me and every other woman who has put her time and energy into developing an inclusive Columbia community. Your jokes render this campus unsafe for so many women, perpetuating a culture that deems the objectification of women as not only acceptable, but expected. I respect each and every one of you, and I expect the same from you.
I am sincerely disappointed in all of you. I was so excited to watch your matches, cheer for you, and wear my new CU Wrestling T-shirt. I was so proud, and now I feel nothing but disappointment. With the wrestling season approaching, I can’t condone your behavior or your words. I refuse to support you and your teammates. But you probably don’t really care—-you won’t notice that I’m not in the stands, you won’t notice that my voice isn’t cheering with the rest of them. Your opinions might not change, but mine sure have.
The author is a Columbia College junior majoring in American studies and French. She is the head manager for the Columbia men’s basketball team.
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