For as long as I can remember, sports have been a part of my life. Whether I have been watching them, participating in them, or just arguing with my friends about them, sports are something I consider a constant source of comfort and entertainment. With that being said, I find the ways in which many of my favorite sports are presented to women extremely disheartening. While watching a Monday Night Football game last year, I remember a commentator pointing out a penalty that had just occurred, then following up his analysis with “˜And ladies, you can ask your husbands a little more about what I just said if you don’t get it!’ This comment was followed by laughter, then a comment from the other announcer saying “˜Yeah, that’ll help “˜em!’
I have never been more annoyed in my life than I was by that comment. Well, that’s not entirely true ““ I was more annoyed by the aforementioned penalty because oh, yes, I understood it well enough to know that it was going to cost my team 15 yards.
Anyway, I have a few suggestions as to how the most popular sports can make me not so infuriated while watching them. Just a few pointers, everyone ““ let’s take a look.
1. NOT ALL WOMEN’S JERSEYS NEED TO BE PINK. If I were a politician, this one point would be my platform. I have a few favorite teams ““ the Detroit Tigers, the New England Patriots, Arsenal F.C., University of Michigan ““ and it seems that whenever I would like to purchase a jersey for a particular club AND would like it in a women’s size, said jersey must always be pink. It’s not even that I hate the color pink ““ I don’t, it’s a decent color, and I’m sure it’s lovely once you really sit down and get to know it ““ but I really dislike the assumption that if a woman would like to support her team by wearing its apparel, she also wants to look as “˜feminine’ as possible. Very rarely is one able to find a women’s sized jersey in the actual colors of the team, which is why I own two football jerseys in men’s sizes (read: my jerseys can technically double as nightgowns because they are so long). Like, I look great in navy blue, maize, silver, red, orange ““ let me wear these colors! Let me shine!
2. Hey. Yeah, you, the overpaid (99% male) announcers? Don’t patronize women with your constant assumption that they do not understand sports. You may think you are being funny and harmless, but it is actually extremely alienating to watch a broadcast, be fully aware of what is going on within that broadcast, then hear a comment that makes you feel as though you DON’T know what is going on. When I heard the husbands comment I mentioned above, I actually called my brother to confirm my thinking on the penalty that had been mentioned. For a split second, I felt as though I did not know what was happening which sounds silly, I know, but”¦I like knowing what’s up. Simple as.
3. There are women’s sports going on at this very moment. Yes, that’s right! Women don’t just come out of the woodwork to participate in the Olympics every few years ““ they are constantly competing! Some of the best athletes on this planet are women, yet a majority of the population has no clue who they are because they are not performing on the national and international stages that they so rightfully deserve. The first female athletes I remember really admiring were the gymnasts of the 1996 Summer Olympics. I participated in gymnastics at the time and looked up to every single member of the national team, but absolutely adored Dominique Moceanu. I remember thinking “˜Why have I never heard of her before?!’ I found her to be so fascinating and she was, at my tender age of 8, one of the first female athletes I really looked up to. After the Olympics, I became obsessed with finding out as much as I could about her and, if asked right now, could probably give you a few fun facts that I learned back then. (Note: 1996 was also the year that Kerri Strug absolutely crushed it in her final vault with a sprained ankle. Yes. A sprained ankle. When I played softball, I would whine when it got too hot and my sliding shorts stuck to my thighs. Strug was not messing around.) Why can’t more of the Strugs and Moceanus of the world be recognized on a regular basis? Let’s work on that!
4. Can we as a society stop acting like it is so incredibly bizarre and crazy that women watch, participate in, understand, know about, and ENJOY sports? Can we just stop that? I cannot begin to count the number of men I have encountered who have responded to my saying that I enjoy sports with a comment along the lines of “˜Wow, a chick who likes sports ““ that’s new!’ I Googled “˜women in sports’ while writing this article and came across a result titled simply “˜Surprise! Women like sports, too!’ The absolute shock with which we as a society treat this piece of information is borderline hilarious to me. I might as well be reading an article entitled “˜Surprise! Women don’t spend all of their time baking and cooking and doing the laundry!’ At this point, I’m laughing to keep from crying.
For me, watching sports is almost therapeutic. At the risk of sounding like I am overstating the importance of it, not much gives me the joy that sitting down and watching a game does. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am not the only woman in this world who feels this way. To feel so alienated by a community that I truly love so much is a hard thing to swallow at times ““ my experience watching sports would be made so much better if I were not constantly made to feel as though my participation were an isolated, bizarre act.