To the Editor:
For the last few months, the feminist movement has appealed to the entire campus, stirring debate among all. Yet, one demographic above all seems underrepresented and less welcomed: male athletes. Perhaps athletes feel like they cannot bring as much to the discussion. Perhaps it is easier to sweep this issue under the rug. Today, we, as Senior male athletes, think it’s time to speak out.
To us, this is as much an endorsement of feminism as it is a necessary action. Some of us are a part of the current movement on campus. Others are not. But the discussions of gender have caused us to realize our athlete culture has a problem.
Male athlete culture plays a leading role in Andover’s imbalanced hook-up culture, classroom dynamics and even in defining the gender roles of females on campus that younger students emulate and eventually internalize. As we look back on our times on varsity sports here at Andover, it is easy to find highlight reels of our best moments, whether it was a winning goal or touchdown. Despite these athletic feats, our collective character has been tainted by the objectification and sexism that pervade athlete culture.
From preseason to team dinners, from the locker room to the playing field, every team has its traditions. Within each team exists a social hierarchy led by Seniors with the ability to positively influence the opinions of their underclassmen teammates. Sadly, this structure has frequently been used to perpetuate a cycle of sexism that is often times unintentional, but always destructive.
In more egregious examples of this problem, teams have turned relationships into games, people into prizes. Athletes have bonded over actions that marginalized and objectified women. Yet, the fault of this doesn’t land on the team’s shoulders, but on the culture as a whole that has structuralized and normalized these destructive behaviors from years past. The blame lies not on one captain or class of Seniors, but on the culture teams inherit from decades of captains and Senior leaders.
This culture may not be our fault, but it is our problem to fix. It is time for Andover’s athletes to find new, constructive ways to bond and develop team camaraderie—not ones based on conquering dances and competitively targeting females, not by prodding teammates to “hook-up” and teasing those who don’t. The definition of “cool” doesn’t have to be a traditionally masculine figure who objectifies their sexual partners or who climbs their respective social ladders through hook-ups.
Clearly teams are meant to compete and bring pride to the school. Athletic events are what shape the Andover/Exeter rivalry, they are why we have the Blue Key Head cheers that become anthems of our time here. The teams provide entertainment, but more than that they play a central role in our school pride. But teams also make up the community we all share with one another. Senior athletes are role models. We are looked up to, whether we realize it or not. With seniority, popularity and respect comes a platform that must be used to improve our community.
Unfortunately for us, we are taking advantage of this platform with only a week left in our Andover careers. However, a new Senior class of athletes will take our places next fall. As we look back on our athletic careers, we see a lot of accomplishments we are proud of. But we also see a lot of things we regret—times when we should have spoken up and times when we perpetuated the destructive athlete culture on campus.
As we leave, the responsibility to change this destructive culture falls on the shoulders of next year’s leaders. The athlete culture on campus stands on years of history that we cannot change. But next year’s captains and Seniors have the power, dare we say the responsibility, to change athlete culture for the future.
We have a choice: we can silently perpetuate the culture we inherited, or we can choose the culture our teams and community deserve.
Tyler Olkowski ’13
Co-signed and edited by:
Babatunde Bello ’13, Track Captain
David Crane ’13, Volleyball Co-Captain
Alex Demeulenaere ’13, Squash Captain
Eddie Ellis ’13, Hockey Captain
Stephen Fehnel ’13, Lacrosse Captain
Connor Fraser ’13, Cross Country Captain
Henry Kennelly ’13, Water Polo, Crew Captain
Shin-Jae Lee ’13, Golf Captain
Haonan Li ’13, Volleyball Co-Captain
Jack McGeachie ’13, Soccer Captain
Brendan O’Connell ’13, Basketball Captain
Seamus O'Neill '13, Baseball Captain
Demetrios Papageorgiou ’13, Track Captain
Jack Ward ’13, Football Captain
Ross Bendetson ’13, Hockey
Gabe Freund ’13, Soccer, Ultimate
Topher Hedley ’13, Track
Jack Katkavich ’13, Soccer, Lacrosse
James McLeod ’13, Soccer
Nickhil Nabar ’13, Track, Cross Country
Justin Wang ’13, Swimming