Notes on sexual harassment, discrimination, & soccer. A thread inspired by #NWSL, @itsmeglinehan's fierce reporting & @nwsl_players. (This thread isn't totally linear bec. my head is still SPINNING.)
Harassment loves a structure in which folks at bottom of pyramid have few resources & are easily exiled. Double where movement “up” comes w/ mystical rewards. Double again where structure is sexualized (gender segregated, ruled by men): University, Military, Church, SPORTS.
Harassment ecologies require silent complicity of majority. Disavowing what is right in front of you is a job requirement. Capacity for gaslighting is rewarded.
For people invested in these structures, not-knowing is a privilege; knowing is a problem. Men, in particular, are encouraged to not-know what they are doing. (Essay by me on this & Nassar case: drive.google.com/file/d/1kCHi8m…)
In a context in which your position is extremely precarious, it may feel not worth it, or "stupid," to speak out &/or not worth it to stay in the game. Knowing & not-saying? That is just unlivable. Really hurts.
Women can be enablers in this system: we live w/ particular pressures—these include the very real desire to not be the victim. So, you reject the possibility of that identification. “That could be me” turns into “what’s her problem?”
Even as a victim, you can disavow (meaning, know & not-know) what is happening to you. Victims get divided against each other in this ecology by a need to distance themselves from their own victimization (she's the problem/not me). It's a brutal survival tactic.
Patriarchy is a lot like its friend, Capitalism. It originates in theft—in the study of capitalism, this is called “primitive accumulation.” That form of wealth-power accumulation includes the systemic disenfranchisement of women & girls. friktionmagasin.dk/on-primitive-a…
Patriarchal structures service capitalist wealth accumulation. jacobinmag.com/2021/09/social…
Breaking collaborative relationships betw. men & women is one way the wealthy stage their war on the rest of us: break the relationship betw. men & women & you make solidarity across communities much harder to achieve. newframe.com/witches-witch-…
In this culture, we encounter sport as a mechanism for wealth extraction & accumulation. We are trained to associate success in sports in only these deeply unsustainable terms.
The targeting of gender non-conforming, non-binary & trans athletes is a part of this system & its cultures. One must produce women/girls as weaker sex & naturalize sex difference to keep us in a space that marks us as, basically, raw material for masculine ego formation.
Harassment gathers most visibly around BIPOC athletes, writers, staff. BIPOC athletes are subjected to aggressive body-based policing & in hate discourse are presented as not women, even not human. The discourse of sex difference requires a discourse of racial difference.
Solidarity betw. white & BIPOC athletes is necessary to fighting patriarchal, misogynist abuse in sports. This is another zone in which “that could be me” is twisted into “what’s her problem?”
Within these hierarchical structures, a toxic stew of sexualized & racialized hate leaks into interpersonal relationships, appearing in forms we aren't supposed to give serious weight. Think: racist, sexist, homophobic locker room talk.
Abusers & enables love tell you that, when they traffic in that kind of talk, it's "banter" & "just talk." Will even argue for it as an essential feature of workplace camaraderie & fun. #gaslighting
In a context in which speaking out may mean you are exiled forever from the group, this banter can make it hard to come forward early & to initiate a process of accountability & transformation.
In context in which you can't talk about these things, abuse is presented as a total aberration, as unthinkable & evil. Makes it REALLY hard to talk about boundary violations involving coach you respect & even love.
When a case finally comes to light, it feels too late. Victims have been pushed out of the sport, careers ruined. Whole system feels poisoned & like it needs to be destroyed. Scale of problem is overwhelming!
Even this is an effect of the problem - that sense of demoralization, that it all has to be destroyed bec. it is already destroyed - it reinforces the status quo. Cynicism is normalized bec. the alternative, that meaningful change in the here & now is possible, is a REAL threat!
@nwsl_players are testing the system: they are calling the bluff! They are asking owners how much they really care about the sport & challenging them to relinquish their control in the interest of the sport's total ecology.
Sometimes it's hard to hold onto this, but: anti-racist, BIPOC-centered, LGBTQ-positive, de-colonial feminisms are not features of a brand. These are ways of living and working together.
Access to play is a deeply feminist issue: sports are so important for so many people who need to connect with their bodies, & to connect with each other. Historically, in most of our societies, girls & women, in particular, have been banned, exiled, shamed for wanting to play.
We have fought so hard, over generations, for access to soccer—its governing bodies have a particularly shameful history when it comes to banning us from the sport & then taking it over and then starving the women's game of its most basic resources.
Professional sports really do not have to be like this!!! ALLEZ!!!

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