How dare you?
My thinly veiled fury is directed at the predatory coaches of the NWSL, the callous owners of the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars, and the executives at the league and U.S. Soccer who were more concerned with self-preservation than the health and well-being of players.
What makes you think you are entitled to women’s bodies and souls? Why on earth do you think you can touch women without their consent and act as if they are your toys or property? What gives you the misguided notion that it is OK to treat women as if they are disposable, like a dishrag to be used and then tossed out?
Who gave you permission to comment on and police their bodies and private lives, as if any of it is your business?
And who the hell are you to think you’re superior? To care only about what you want and what’s best for you without giving the slightest thought to the damage you’re doing?
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The abuse of players in the NWSL, and the utter lack of concern about it by those in power, is hardly the first time that women athletes have been demeaned and marginalized by the men around them. And make no mistake, it is almost always men. Usually white ones.
Pick any sport, at any level, and you’ll find a coach or administrator who has overstepped the bounds of basic decency and people willing to enable or excuse it for the sake of expedience.
But we also all know that what happened in the NWSL is a microcosm of what women in all walks of life endure every day.
It has to stop. In soccer, in sports, in all of society.
“The whole goal of this is that so no one else suffers from the abuse that so many players in this league have faced,” Becky Sauerbrunn, a defender for the U.S. women and Portland Thorns, said Tuesday.
“My hope is that each and every one of those (young) players can grow up in a situation where their coaches aren’t belittling them or sexually harassing or coercing them.”
That is a pathetically low bar. But all women could identify with former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates’ damning assessment of the pervasive and systemic abuse in the NWSL, having witnessed or been subjected to similar misogyny their entire lives.
This is not OK. And I am infuriated at a society that is only too happy to celebrate women when it’s convenient or makes men look good – girl dads! – but is silent on the degradation and abuse we routinely face.
We did not create the societal structure that gave primacy to men; again, white men in particular. It is patently absurd to give anyone elevated status because of a roll of the genetic dice.
Yet it has been left to us to dismantle this damaging construct, often by sharing stories of pain and trauma so horrific that men have no choice but to agree something is wrong and that things can’t continue as they’ve been.
“For so long, it’s been on the players to handle these things and to speak out. It shouldn’t be on us any longer,” said Alana Cook, a defender with the U.S. women and OL Reign.
There has been a lot of talk in the five years since the #MeToo movement began of toxic masculinity and the dangers it presents to women. A lot of pushback, too, from people who refuse to recognize the privilege that’s been automatically conferred on men and don’t understand why boys just can’t be boys anymore.
WHAT WE KNOW: Investigation finds ‘systemic’ abuse of players
But the concept really isn’t that hard. Women are full and equal human beings. We are deserving of the same respect and decency that is a birthright for men. We do not owe men anything, certainly not our bodies or our self-esteem.
And yet, here we are. Again.
“For so long, this has always fallen on the players to demand change. That is because the people in authority and decision-making positions have repeatedly failed to protect us and they have failed to hold themselves and each other accountable,” Sauerbrunn said.
“What and who are you actually protecting? And what values are you upholding?” Sauerbrunn asked. “You have failed in your stewardship.”
I will go further than that: You have failed as human beings. You put your pleasure and power ahead of women’s safety and well-being, and you didn’t care the toll that it took.
So I will ask again, how dare you? And what is it going to take to make you finally stop?
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.