My friend David is funny, sweet and handsome. One night, he was dancing with a girl at some party. He was into it, and she seemed into it, too. So they continued to hang out back in the common room of David’s building. On the sly, David texted one of their mutual friends to ask if he should make a move.
The response: “I don’t think so. She wants a football guy :/”.
I go to a (sometimes insufferably) small liberal arts school in New England, where (surprise, surprise) athletes dominate campus life. Like everyone else who opts to attend such a school, I was well aware of this when I applied. And I have to admit that I appreciate the strong presence sports have on our campus. I missed out on the whole homecoming/pep rally/game night thing at my single sex high school, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience it for the next three years.
The problem is that when male athletes command too much influence on campus, intelligent, empowered girls tend to ditch their dignity in favor of winning these less-than-gentlemanly guys over. Rather than giving guys like David a chance, they chase after macho assholes whose egos are inevitably inflated by incessant pursuit.
When I first arrived at college, I had yet to interact with the special breed of athlete-chauvinist that informs the sexist jock stereotype. While growing up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I was more accustomed to a far rarer stock of young misogynist—the kind who totes a girl-as-prop to enhance his ridiculously contrived club-going, charity-starting, champagne-popping image. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with those fakes on a daily basis.
In college, on the other hand, the Gregs of the world are unavoidable.
“Don’t be such a bitch,” Greg said to me in his drunken, virile stupor. On two separate occasions. For no particular reason either time.
To be clear, I can be a bitch. But Greg couldn’t have known that. We had one seminar together during first semester. We’d exchanged a maximum of ten words. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me. Yet, Greg felt entitled to labeling me a bitch in public, out loud.
And I let him get away with it.
I was f*cking trained, from the age of four, not to take shit from guys like Greg. I’m the girl who sermonizes about the female virginity construct and lectures about why it’s so infuriatingly sexist that people avoid the word “cunt” like the goddamn plague. Still, when Greg called me a bitch, I didn’t bark.
Why? Because we were at parties on his turf, a house populated entirely by his teammates. Because I didn’t want to come off as that uptight, hypersensitive, prudish freshman bitch. And, most notably, because I—no matter how unwilling I am to admit it—wanted attention from Greg’s crew of football dudes. Though I wasn’t as overt about this longing as the girl David tried to get with months earlier, I wanted an athlete. So I let Greg call me a bitch.
By no means do I intend to assert that all jocks are gratuitous, gender-biased pigs, or that the unabating sexism that exists in sports culture is anything novel. I know some progressive male athletes who don’t conform to the misogynistic jock cliché. And while I may not have grown up on a football field, I’ve always been cognizant of the fact that sexism and organized sports are intertwined to a certain degree.
What I’ve come to realize through my encounters with Greg is that girls like me are not immune to guys like Greg. And girls like me who are attracted to the asshole athlete in the room and who condone his rampant assholery—even though we know better—are part of the problem. For whatever reason, it’s ingrained in our psyches that jerk equals masculine equals sexy. As a result, we let slide those jerks’ more lamentable attributes.
Long story short, ladies, we have to get over it. Whether we have to reassess what attracts us, or reprogram our brains, we’ve got to quit obsessing over the fratty chauvinists that give men’s football, lacrosse, hockey and soccer teams a bad rep. It’s not that women should shoulder all the blame for feeding some f*cked up dynamic. But by taking some responsibility, we do have the power to change things. Because the fact is that women-hating jocks can only tear us down so long as we let them.
Featured Image Courtesy of Fresh 2 Death Daily Blog