Men’s Cross Country Maintained Misogynistic, Racist Email Chain

by Daniel Ahn, Helen Mayer, and Sam Wohlforth

A current junior member of the Amherst cross-country team sent a team-wide email containing a list of women that described their sexual histories and supposed sexual proclivities next to their photographs on June 14, 2015. The list was directed to the first-year recruits who awaited matriculation to Amherst in the fall, and purported to introduce them to the “friends of Amherst (XC).”

In the email, the team member refers to one woman as “a walking STD,” and writes, “Everyone needs their meatslab,”referring to another. He describes a third woman – “Without being too mean, she is a stuck up, snobby, bitch; AKA the perfect formal date for the desperate members of our team.”

The list targets eight people in total.

This is one entry in a series of similar emails sent during the early summer of 2015, and this series is in turn part of a misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and transphobic trend spanning verifiably from summer 2013 to summer 2015, and implicitly much further back in the team’s history.

One team member wrote on June 8, 2014, “You know the girls at your high school who aren’t that attractive or personable, so no one talks to them? Picture a college with ~900 of them and you have our lovely liberal arts institution.”

On June 24th that year, a team member asked a teammate, “do asians really have horizontal vaginas?”

The 2015 list drew immediate criticism from a team member, who has since transferred from Amherst, largely on account of the toxic athletic culture he experienced on the men’s cross-country team. He wrote, “That was one of the most fucked up things ive read in a while. I know youre friends with most of these girls but you took it way past friendly messing around.”

The first response to this came from a current captain, who made a conciliatory effort.

“Perhaps one of the more important parts of this email is to address the freshmen and let you know that this email chain is not a total reflection on individual team members or the team culture as a whole, especially in regards to [teammate’s] comments,” he wrote.

The teammate he referred to was the one who had sent out the initial criticism. He continued,

“As you can tell, a lot of jokes are being thrown around, and a lot of inside jokes. Eventually you’ll understand some of them, and still others may remain a mystery forever. Do some jokes go over the top? Yes, some certainly do go over the top. Many also don’t. With complete sincerity, don’t let this email chain color your vision of the team, nor let if affect your own beliefs, opinions, etc. We are not all misogynists, something I know [teammate] nor others nor [teammate] meant to demonstrate or imply. And again, if you believe this is just a naïve and biased view I hold then let me know.”

The team member who had sent out the list wrote an apology in response to the criticism.

“I’d like to follow up on [teammate’s] and [teammate’s] email with a very sincere apology of my own,” he wrote. “As many have said, the summer email chain is a time to poke fun at various members of the Amherst XC community, but I realize now that I took it over the top. Though there have been other controversial things said in the chain, I realize that my email went overboard. It is no conciliation, but please know that most, if not all of what I said was horribly exaggerated. Im sorry that I had to do that for a laugh.”

In the context of the team’s prior and following communications, the sentiments expressed in this conversation represent an anomaly. The original email was followed by one critique, one effort at reconciliation, and two apologies, before a team captain stepped in to direct the conversation elsewhere.

I think this topic needs one last serious email before we return the email chain to its normal light hearted manner,” he wrote. “For everyone on here, not just the freshman, please know that most everything said on the email chain is a joke, people will almost always denote when they are being serious on here.  Trying to get a laugh out of people can be very hard and very often people go a little too far with their jokes, and I’m not just talking about us here but comedians everywhere. If you type in “comedians in trouble” into google you get tons of hits on comedians who went too far on their jokes.  If professional comedians miss the line sometimes it only makes sense that we would too. Offensive jokes are not a reflection of someone’s political or moral code, they are simply a misjudgment.  That being said if someone says something that really offends you don’t just let it pass by but please keep in mind the person did not seriously mean what they said.”

In an email written three days prior to the list, a team member posted a picture of himself lying down between two women, and wrote, “Here you’ll see me with my main bitch ***** and my side hoe *****. Also notice the bump where my penis should be. That’s my penis. The upperclassmen know not to fuck around with these two lovelies, but freshman be warned: touch either of my meat slabs and I will fucking end you. Especially *****. God knows the little one can’t protect herself.”

And the day after the apology, an incoming recruit who is now a sophomore wrote,

“If Rachel Dolezal can be president of an NAACP chapter, I can be a sophomore. […] If the Amherst football team ever plays the Redskins (not sure how that might happen, but a worthy hypothetical), the politically correct faction of campus might burn the college to the ground.”

Neither email attracted criticism.

One particular ongoing conversation in the team emails was centered on another guide for first-years, this time introducing the members of the team. The list was written by a current junior and sent out on June 10, five days prior to the “Friends of Amherst XC” list.

The guide describes a team member who is currently a captain – “Many debate what’s more disturbing: his fetish for the anus or his fetish for the Orient.” One of the jokes hinges on confusing two women of color personally known to the team. Another description suggests that a member of the team enjoys sexually pursuing children. A description of a current senior on the team reads “Sure, when you first meet him you may think: “Woah, is that dude in the trench coat going to rape me?”

The guide, shared with the team on June 10,  also includes a description of a current junior who was kicked off the team during his first week at Amherst. The description reads, “to put things in perspective: there are roofies in that Rubinoff, this is a bedroom in a Umass frat house (the night before a meet), and those walls were pitch black before a kilo of [current junior]’s premium Colombian Coco left a hefty white coat on the entire room. To be honest, [current junior] really isn’t a bad guy. But much like a Bull in a China Shop, he did far too many drugs while allegedly sexually harassing a girl and got kicked off the team. But he’ll be back for indoor…. Right?” An email sent to the team on September 8, 2014 in the wake of the current junior’s dismissal from the team stated that “his actions this past weekend were only one instance of multiple questionable decisions [current junior] has made in his short time at Amherst and he has therefore shown himself to be someone we do not want in our program.”

This email received the approval of a teammate who was then a captain: “I only laughed at 29 out of 30 of your descriptions and everyone knows you need 100% approval to get into Gad’s so better luck next time.”  A few days before the “Friends of Amherst XC” email, this same captain writes “Another note on getting by: the deconstruction-obsessed mutual-fellatio circle-jerk of liberalism that defines Amherst may make some of you ‘question your privilege’ that each and every one of you undoubtedly carries. This experience is somewhat uncomfortable and best avoided entirely.”

See here for our follow-up editorial: http://theindicator.wordpress.amherst.edu/special-reports/editorial-after-mens-xc-email-examine-all-athlete-spaces

 

43 thoughts on “Men’s Cross Country Maintained Misogynistic, Racist Email Chain”

  1. As a sign of general rottenness in Div III men’s sports teams and the more successful sports teams culture they strive to parrot, this really comes as no surprise. If you are still shocked to learn that men are toxically duplicitous when it comes to how they treat women (and each other, truly) it is because you care about them. In some area of your mind you carry some kind of concern for them. They may be your friends or your brother, a father even. To you, they are “just boys” who “don’t know any better.” But this is precisely the problem: they DON’T know any better.

    To tackle white supremacy (and this is a matter of white supremacy, nothing more nothing less) we have to consider the identities that prop up that cousin concept to white supremacy, white mediocrity.

    “Boys will be boys,” “locker talk,” and “just jokes” are thematic, predictable excuses for unchecked violent reservations about womxn, people of color, etc. I.E. NON-WHITE MALES. They legitimize and normalize fear and hatred of marginalized groups in a person’s mind. When a white boy gets the okay after delivering one of these jokes, it’s like a green light goes off in his head and every other subsequent “joke” has now been, by thin association, approved. The consequences of these ill-harbored thoughts on the identities it condemns is rape, further marginalization, silencing as well as the macro, institutional processes that they permit and engender: domestic violence, nationalism, imperialism. But the consequences for those who perpetuate this backwards-pointed humor are just as insidious. A “joke” that equates women to “meatslabs” is disgusting and dehumanizing and it cannot be condoned. But to tell and want to tell that kind of a “joke” is dehumanizing to oneself. And that’s just sad.

    Despite all of this, many will continue to whine (like the XC team’s own half-assed “attempt” at curbing offensive material and reigning back the severity of the jokes) that they are simply harmless jokes shared in a private space where these things are therefore okay to voice. But the truth is these thoughts are not confined to the spaces in which they are shared. They are confined to the space inside their heads, the mental space in which these thoughts are manufactured, considered, and carefully edited for just the right amount of punch.

    Doubtless, you have heard or seen someone in this very process. It seems quite arduous and clearly it demands much effort and attention. To them I ask: is it really worth it, though? Do you really think your jokes are that funny? If you worked that precious numskull of yours to craft the PERFECT ageless crack at a person’s vagina, couldn’t you have, uhm, maybe used your time more wisely? This is the essence of white mediocrity: an utter waste of time.

    Do better, sportsteams/white men/all men.

    Keep in mind that whenever you read an editorial concerning the problematic behavior of a group or individual there is always an air of doubt that dangles just above it that, as you read, tinges the article’s edges and slowly seeps into its pages. You are actively colluding with this doubt, whether you acknowledge it or not; it shapes your feelings, your thoughts, your opinions, your reactions.

    But this doubt is not only yours to shape. At the same time that you are reading about rapists on college campuses, those same rapists are bringing up counterpoints of their own, shaping your doubt and forcing it into the best possible light, pushing it through the best possible excuse, anything to get them off the hook and get you off their backs. And all the while and with every victory, that green light in their heads grows a little brighter, blotting out and blurring dissenting opinions, suffusing them with the assurance that, perhaps, as always, “boys will be boys.”

    1. Please please don’t unnecessarily call out white men. You know just as well as anyone else that its not the color of someones skin that creates this behavior, that encourages it, or makes it okay. I don’t speak that way and my white male friends don’t speak that way just like my black and asian male friends don’t speak that way, and my female friends don’t speak that way.

      1. None of what you said even begins to provide a basis for why we shouldn’t interrogate the behavior of white men and hold them accountable.

        You clearly aren’t even confident enough about this drivel to put your own name on it.

        Do you not like the qualifier? Did it make you cry meaty white athlete tears?

      2. White males will be called out. Misogynistic attitudes develop when a group in power goes unchallenged; in the US (and debatably, globally) that group is white males. White males have overwhelmingly dominated the conversation on women’s sexuality, and that conversation has gone unchallenged for far too long. White men have drawn the lines around what is “feminine”, what is “sexy” and what “woman” means. This team used those white, male, power-backed definitions to put their female team mates down. It IS because of whiteness and gender advantages that these attitudes remain in place. So yeah, gold star to you for not being a misogynist. But you still live in a world defined by a shit ton of white males, and you benefit from it, even if you’re not capitalizing on that benefit by belittling women.

        1. “White men have drawn the lines around what is ‘feminine’, what is ‘sexy’ and what “woman” means.”

          I would argue that the fashion industry, which is primarily run by women and by non-heterosexual men, has drawn the lines around what is feminine/sexy/womanly. Look at any fashion show, where the women are boyish, tall, and willowy, with few curves. Do you think straight white men picked that out? Look at the plethora of companies marketing “big is beautiful” and highlighting the “real”ness of their consumers. Do you think most men fantasize about the real? Does ANYONE fantasize about things that are realistic? Between the man’s ‘feminine ideal’ and the woman’s ‘feminine ideal,’ the latter receives far more traction in marketing, media, and pop culture at large.

          1. Lol this is literally not true. Fashion is far and away run by men, white men at that. The industry’s co-option of feminism and “body positivity”, like capitalism’s co-option of feminism as a whole, is entirely engineered by men to sell product. You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about and haven’t thought much about this at all.

    2. Generalizing all men/white men/male athletes as mysoginistic is the same as calling all Muslim people terrorists. It’s close minded and yes, prejudiced. Simply being white/an athlete does not make one a mysoginist. Everyone deserves to be judged on their character, not their skin color or extra-curricular endeavors.

        1. like there are many more things for you to interrogate before you approach this again but that’s a nice place to start at least? hope it helps!

          1. Do you mind discussing your views on positionality in terms of its intersection with natural selection? And could you also reflect on the reality that zero institutions or social structures — either in humans or elsewhere throughout the animal kingdom — are inherently “fair” or “equal?”

            PS: I’m aware that white male privilege exists. I just don’t understand what the solution is. Label all white males as toxic, racist misogynists, then prevent them from saying anything remotely racist or misogynistic, and then what?

            *Just some honest questions. Please don’t get offended.*

          2. Biological racism is a direct result of examining positionality through the framework of natural selection.

            This is only one of many examples that demonstrate precisely why it’s an abhorrent lens. A few weeks back, somebody put up posters that argued for the legitimacy of phrenology as the basis for white hegemony. Applying biological determinism to positionality is—on its surface, even—the sort of pseudoscientific drivel that can only uphold marginalization.

            So no, the two don’t intersect unless we entertain antiquated discourses that had no place (in or outside of the academy) to begin with.

            and I agree — none are inherently “fair” or “equal”. The whole point is that we’re trying to move towards things being *more* fair, say, through ideas like equity (so, solutions that actually acknowledge and engage with the real context of a problem) rather than equality.

            On sweeping criticisms:
            Because of socialization, most (if not all!) people who engage with masculinity will, at some point, exude some toxicity.

            I was talking about the ACXC stuff in class today, and somebody mentioned that ACXC “didn’t seem like the kind of guys who would do this sort of thing.”

            If we frame this conversation as “it’s just a handful of teams” or “it’s just a handful of men” we distract from the actual exploration and interrogation of phenomena like masculinity, whiteness, and the figuration of “athlete”. This isn’t just a problem with these individual students — it’s a cultural issue, both amongst current students and alumni. It gives a sort of wiggle room that allows people to continue ignoring their duty to question how they too might be (intentionally or otherwise) a part of the problem.

            Further, notice that these athletes are being labeled because of what they did and what they chose not to do. The other people being labeled as such are being uncritical, defensive, and unwilling to have a conversation.

            That isn’t argumentation, it’s fragility. Nothing more, nothing less. The expression of that fragility will be racist, sexist, queerphobic, etc. or some combination of whatever nonsense.

    3. A reply exemplifying the kind of thought processes and mind set, prevalent in northeastern liberal arts schools, being lambasted by these young men, could not have been better written by a modern Jonathan Swift himself.

      Let me make your “green light” phantasm a little more corporeal; Amherst XC, you guys are in the right on this! You cracked some jokes and had to the good taste to do so out of the public eye, you immediately qualified these jokes as such, and made it clear that there are limits to what will be tolerated. You behaved in a perfectly reasonable way, should not be made to feel guilty, and should feel righteous in defending yourselves from whatever PC maelstrom is about to touch down on your locker room. Carry on boys, you’ve done nothing wrong.

      1. They knowingly and willingly violated a zero-tolerance code of conduct they agreed to follow should they want to participate in our athletic program.

        How are they in the right? You don’t provide any support for that suggestion, instead opting for the usual “PC culture” cop-out.

        Can you explain why without using the words “political correctness”? This might be a valuable thought exercise.

    4. “But the truth is these thoughts are not confined to the spaces in which they are shared. They are confined to the space inside their heads, the mental space in which these thoughts are manufactured, considered, and carefully edited for just the right amount of punch.”

      Ah yes Adrian! We must stop these boys from speaking freely, lest they commit such horrendous thoughtcrimes!

      “Do better, sportsteams/white men/all men.”

      Of course! It’s good that we hold prejudices against all athletes and white men, for they hold bad prejudices against other people! What a perfect example of doublethink.

      I’m so glad young people have finally found the wisdom in my ways.

  2. Reminds me of the time a member of the same team told the Smith track team that the entire Men’s XC team had ingested “horny goat weed” before mixing with us to increase their “sexual desire.” Rest be assured, we haven’t mixed with them since. Glad you guys wrote this.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear they disrespected you too. None of them are innocent in this because the ones who didn’t speak up are complicit in the actions of their teammates. I’m shocked and hurt that these people I would have considered my friends could say these things and then look us all in the eye as if were ok to treat women like objects. Stay strong.
      –member of Amherst women’s cross country and track teams

      1. Is this a safe environment for my daughter? Will these kids just be suspended from the team or expelled from school? Not sure I want my daughter part of this culture. Quite the contrast to the Huffington Post article from the Men’s Soccer team.

        1. Misogynistic behavior by male athletic teams is certainly not endemic to Amherst. The Huffigton Post article literally only expressed the soccer team’s adherence to basic levels of human decency (not hurting other people) and neither this ACXC instance nor the HP essay should really be used as deciding factors when choosing a college. The women’s XC team is a group of great people and I’ll value the experience and education I received here forever. The male-dominated culture is an unfortunate reality of Amherst and most colleges and universities that have large athletic programs in proportion to the size of their student body.

  3. “. . . deconstruction-obsessed . . .” Really? Please, point me to the department–I’d love to learn more! (Was this captain trying to impress the underlings by pulling a four-syllable word out of his ass?)

  4. My favorite thing is the bit about the “liberal circle-jerk” as though liberals aren’t the reason people are allowed to espouse repugnant nonsense under the guise of “hearing the other side.”

    A liberal circle-jerk would suggest that Milo Yiannopoulos be allowed to speak on the basis of unbridled (frankly, irresponsible) pluralism. It is a big reason why teams like this don’t get penalized.

    Perhaps the accountability-averse should learn the difference between the left and liberalism before they try to talk down to anybody.

    1. It is quite the opposite, nearly all attempts to quash free speech are done so from the liberal end of the spectrum, especially in colleges around the country. You mention Milo Yiannopoulos but fail to mention that at many institutions speakers sharing his point of view are essentially driven out by liberal students who make threats or throw temper tantrums to ensure they are not allowed to speak.

      Frankly I find the nonsense you spew to be quite repugnant and racist but I’m not going to throw a hissy fit to prevent you from spouting bs and showing everyone how ignorant you are Morgan.

      1. I think you should look into what liberalism actually is before you reply with some nonsense that exemplifies my last sentence:
        “Perhaps the accountability-averse should learn the difference between the left and liberalism before they try to talk down to anybody.”

        Study up, hon. Then we can talk.

      2. Apart from that empty caricature of “liberal students” (those twenty year-old demons, so tyrannical, ignorant and also childish!)… Consider what it actually means to really “quash free speech,” what limits there might be to our collective responsibility to uphold free speech, and what free speech actually entails.

        For one thing, it certainly does not mean that all speech should be equally respected as worthy of our attention, nor that all speech should be offered a platform anywhere…

  5. Thank you for writing this. Sadly, none of this is a surprise to me. I am a woman ran track & field at Amherst in the early 00’s and had a number of truly disturbing experiences with runners at Amherst, including track captains, including one who once asked me when I was a freshman how drunk I was at a party and whether I would remember it if we had sex (I was stone cold sober and walked away). There is a sick culture among the male runners at Amherst, in which misogyny props up a lot of massive insecurity, and outright harassment is taken as a running joke. Women runners are expected to take this all as mild fun, when they are the brunt of rape and body-shaming jokes.

  6. I wonder what the team culture is like this year on the team. All of the emails came from 2015 and from some people who are no longer at Amherst. I wonder if any changes were made with new people in charge of the team and if the culture is starting to move towards respect this year. Maybe a possibility?

  7. As a Cross Country alum (94-98) I am completely and totally disgusted by these emails. None of this is ok – and even worse to call these comments an ‘exaggeration’. This affects all of us – not just those of you who are in school or who are on the cross country team. A big shame and I trust that Erik Nedeau, the head coach, who became coach when I was on the team, will root out any climate on the team that has implicitly allowed for this kind of behavior.

    1. First off “Knower of Truth”, very humble and totally showing that you’re willing to have honest dialog, but I’ll try. The ‘they do it too’ argument is derailing of the most basic kind. Just FYI, misandry isn’t a part of everyday culture the way misogyny is. However, if female players are also engaging in sexual objectification, racial commentary and other things found above, they should be held accountable as well. But that still means that the players above should be held accountable, not given a pass because someone else might have done it too.

    2. Well, there isn’t an entire system of oppression backing up a female athlete doing something “misandristic (sic)”. Quite the opposite actually. It is different and you know it.

      The fact that you used the term “misandristic” (hint: dat’s wrong, boi) shows how little you have thought about these issues.

  8. I’m a former Editor-in-Chief of the Indicator. I’m also partner to an alum who quit the cross-country team in 2010 because of its treatment of women. It was bad then as it is now, and was condoned at the time by Coach Ned. During her tenure, the team saw many talented people resign in response to its culture, and it appears little has changed. I’m proud of the Indicator for prompting a campus conversation about this.

  9. If these students are representative of the moral caliber of the young guys who are attending our colleges, then our future is in deep trouble.

  10. I was encouraging our son to participate in track &/or XC. Hopefully the current participants who participated & those who did not denounce this will be out of the team (it et: ALL). Perhaps then I’d be confident our son would be joining a civil team with a moral compass and a focus on the sport!

  11. As a captain of the 1977 Amherst men’s cross-country team, I am utterly embarrassed by the behavior of these young men. I don’t feel the need to exert myself analyzing this. It’s simple: you guys should be ashamed of yourselves. I was attending Amherst when the College decided to admit women. This kind of behavior was beyond anyone’s imagination when men like me celebrated this decision. I am sure that this news is rocking all of us who’ve been distance runners at Amherst going back decades. You so-called gents owe the entire institution an apology.

    Richard Morse ’78
    Amherst, MA

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