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One! Two! Three Strikes, You’re Outdating Yourselves With Your Views on Women and Sports!

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!’

Crickets.

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.

By Caitlin

25 years old. Proud Michigander. Lover of Scandinavia, feminism, the Detroit Tigers, and perusing unaffordable real estate.

Du har. Du vil. Du burde.

17 replies on “One! Two! Three Strikes, You’re Outdating Yourselves With Your Views on Women and Sports!”

Great article!  I’ve loved basketball since high school and watch the Tar Heels during March Madness, even though they break my heart sometimes.  I can’t tell you the number of men I’ve explained the game to!  And some of the most exciting tennis in the past decade has been played by WOMEN.

Having had careers in mostly male-dominated fields, I also developed the willful ignorance look that says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  Shuts them up right away.

I’d vote for you!

I hate pink jerseys.  There, I said it.

Unless the team colors actually ARE pink, the jerseys shouldn’t be either.  If you want to wear pink, get a tshirt or a sweatshirt or a hat or a tanktop or whatever.  If you’re wearing a jersey, wear a jersey.

Sorry, pet peeve of mine.  I love pink. But not in a jersey.

 

/rant over

Um, I just got back from a honeymoon at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. You would NOT BELIEVE the number of people we met who said things like, ‘Oh wow, that’s so nice of you, to say yes to a rugby honeymoon!’ or ‘Your husband must be so happy!’ IT WAS MY IDEA, MORONS. It was the only way Mr Rah could convince me to say yes to the whole damn wedding in the first place!

I am not a dilettante. I am not trying to impress boys with my knowledge. I haven’t played the game myself – though I could have, because there’s no reason women can’t play rugby – but I’ve been watching it for a decade and I know my stuff. Do not test me, because I WILL subject you to a half-hour diatribe about what every single northern hemisphere side could and should be doing right now (I’ll admit, my southern hemi knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch), and that’s before I launch into a speech about my club team.

Regarding the jersey issue: pink jerseys aren’t really a thing here thank god (unless you’re a fan of Stade Francais, who play in pink). Instead, our problem is just getting women’s jerseys in the first place. I hunted all over NZ for an All Blacks jersey in a women’s size and couldn’t find one anywhere, which is bizarre in a country so universally obsessed with rugby. Here, I have to get my national and club jerseys online. They never even released an Ireland world cup jersey in women’s sizes as far as I could tell, and the club ones are really poorly cut (damn you, Leinster). Women aren’t just smaller men you know! We actually have differently-shaped bodies! And it’s not as if female rugby fans are that unusual. I just don’t understand why they’d willingly deprive themselves of tonnes of potential revenue.

The idea that I’m in possession of sports knowledge for the sole purpose of impressing men is beyond infuriating to me. I’ve had countless numbers of people (mostly people I’ve met once or something) let me know that my sports knowledge ‘must really impress guys!’ Yep. That’s what I’m in it for.

And I LOVE that your honeymoon was the Rugby World Cup. That is badass. I’ll be real – if I can be proposed to at a baseball game, have my bachelorette party at a baseball game, and enjoy my honeymoon at a World Series, I’ll be one happy woman.

I also find your point of excluding revenue interesting. I think it’s a valuable point to be made – when you exclude women from enjoying and partaking in sports as men do, you’re excluding an entire set of the population that could contribute to ticket sales, merchandise sales, ratings, etc. Include us, fellas of mainstream media – WE WANT TO HELP YOU.

The patronizing attitude that comes across whenever women are genuinely interested in traditionally male pursuits (sports, video games, cars, whatever) is enough to discourage one from actively participating. And I wonder if, on some level, that’s intentional. If the clubhouse is unwelcoming, maybe the girls will leave. And that sucks.

And “pink it and shrink it” sucks, too. How about “proportion it appropriately and maintain the integrity of the brand/team”? So. Annoying.

“And I wonder if, on some level, that’s intentional. If the clubhouse is unwelcoming, maybe the girls will leave.”

You’ve hit the nail on the head, I think. So many times while watching sports with men, I’ve been made fun of, etc. for maybe knowing a certain fact or being ‘too into’ the game (which…what does that even mean? God) and I have no doubt, when really thinking about it, that there has to be some sort of thinking that ‘Hey, maybe if we bug her enough, she’ll leave us alone to do our thing.”

Sorry, guys. I’m not going anywhere.

I don’t really care for sports, but I have had this experience with the other “boy” things I like, like video games, comic books and power tools.  I have developed an attitude of willful ignorance when males want to act like it’s a big deal – as in “You like WHAT?” “Yeah (maintain eye contact and act as if nothing strange is going on).”  I figure if I keep acting like it’s the most natural thing in the world, eventually they will question their assumptions.  I’m not going to argue my right to like something, I’m going to like what I like and the naysayers can suck it.

As for the pink jerseys, I wonder if it would be possible to start some sort of movement where women sports fans, and the men and women who support them, could spend all season walking into sports arena souvenir shops and saying “Is this all you have in women’s sizes?  Oh well, never mind,”  send e-mails to the online shops asking the same thing, and boycott the pink.  Maybe if enough people ask, over and over again, they will get the message.

I like what you said – ‘I’m not going to argue my right to like something.’ That’s perfect. I literally have nothing else to add because it’s just concise and great and neat. Thank you for that.

I REALLY like your suggestions regarding merchandise. I’ve never even thought of just going straight to the source and being like ‘You need to change your ways or sales will go down.’ I think I have some shops to contact…

Well said. I became a baseball fan years ago when I met my now-husband. Football was always on in my house when I was growing up, but Dad never really explained it to me because he didn’t think I’d be interested. Going to games and having someone actually explain a sport to me in a non-condescending way was awesome. Now guys always seem shocked that I’ve read Moneyball (when it came out, not just when the movie came out though I loved the movie). I can explain the infield fly rule and a lot of the esoteric statistics. And it’s so obnoxious that the entire industry seems to want to pretend that women aren’t sports fans. I’ve had pretty good luck finding non-pink Yankee’s t-shirts in women’s sizes, but pretty much only with Jeter or A-Rod’s name on them since they’re the “cute” Yankees. What really kills me are the kid’s clothes. I’ve had to get my daughter shirts from the boy’s section because the baby sizes are all pink. The baby Yankee cheerleader outfits kill me – there are no cheerleaders in baseball! Ugh.

I’m glad that you mentioned the ‘non-condescending’ aspect of explaining sports. I was lucky enough to grow up with a father and a brother who just loved sports, wanted me and my sister to love sports, and made sure we knew everything we could learn about sports so that we could talk about them later on (this especially comes from my brother – he will still give me massive amounts of facts about the tiniest details within a game). When I was starting to learn about soccer a few years ago, my male friends did a great job of explaining the sport to me in a way that wasn’t like ‘Jesus, why am I wasting my time with this chick?,’ which I really appreciated. And I try to be the same way when explaining sports to my female friends – I know that I might know more than them and that there are certain ways in which I can convey this knowledge that might come off as rude or patronizing.

And YES, the children’s clothing. I currently work as a preschool teacher and I always like seeing the differences in boys’ and girls’ clothing when it comes to sports teams. One boy came into school the other day with a shirt that just said ‘I ROAR for the Detroit Tigers!’ A girl came in the following day with a shirt that just said ‘Detroit Tiger Princess,’ which makes no sense in any context whatsoever. Like…what?

If you run on that platform, can I be your campaign manager? Because word word word to all of this. Not only pink–I don’t want flowers or pretty spirals or sparkles on my gear. The team colors and logo will do.

I am not the biggest sports fan in the world. Green Bay Packers Sundays are, however, a major part of my cultural heritage, and even casually watching while reading, I know a lot about football. I understand downs, penalties, offside kicks, and when it is better to go for a two-point conversion. And if I know a lot about the sport, how much more do ladies who truly love football know?

Re your #3: I will always remember Strug’s vault. And I wish even Olympics coverage had more of the under-recognized sports like fencing and rowing. Or weightlifting! Those ladies (and gents, too) are awesome.

 

You can totally be my campaign manager. Let’s chat soon about buttons, car flags, and other promotional merchandise.

I would love to go to a Packers game. That has not a lot to do with what you said, but…seriously. As my campaign manager, you can teach me about Lambeau and…you know. Packers things. :)

STRUG’S VAULT WAS RIDICULOUS. And yes, weightlifting would be awesome to watch. There was an episode of ‘True Life’ on recently charting a woman who was training to be an Olympic weightlifter and her training regimen was RIDICULOUS. It is absolutely incredible to see the work being put in by these athletes to attain these goals.

THANK YOU.  I’m not so crazy about football or baseball (although I definitely know at least as much as your average Chicagoan about the Bears and the Cubs, because I’m a rabid Chicago fan), but I’m a pretty big basketball and soccer fan, and sometimes I think I spend more time and thought on hockey than I do on my masters program.  But I get so sick of trying to explain that yes, I really do love hockey and am not saying it to impress some dude, no I shouldn’t have to name the entire Blackhawks roster to prove it (though I can), and no, it’s not because I think the players are like OMG so hot (although admittedly that Patrick Sharp is a hell of a looker.)

I just don’t understand why this concept is so hard for people sometimes.

THANK YOU for mentioning the ‘just because they’re hot’ argument. My sister recently got into a Facebook argument (the best kind!) with some guy about baseball because he was convinced that the only reason she liked her favorite member of the Detroit Tigers was because he’s good-looking.

Let it be known that no one should get into an argument with my sister on Facebook. She’ll tear you up.

Anyway, I love that that’s the assumption automatically made when a woman decides to be interested in a particular sport or athlete. It reeks of so much…grossness and heterosexism and stupidity.

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