Why can’t I just be a girl who likes sports?

So I’m flipping through the ads in my Sunday paper last weekend and this dropped into my lap:

That’s right – for $30, you too can hang dedazzled Packers licensed stilettos on your Christmas tree next year. AND you can sign up to receive “subsequent sets of three fashionable ornaments shipped to you at the same attractive price about every other month.”

Because you can’t just be a girl who’s a fan. You have to be a sparkly, stiletto-wearing, bedazzled fan.

This takes pink jerseys to a whole new level.

Why must women overtly express there female-itude whilst being sports fans? Why can’t they just be fans? Don’t the breasts go a pretty long way in pointing out your sex to those around you?

I’m so stabby I’m not even articulate and I’ve been sitting on this thing for almost a week. It’s so incredibly contrived and ridiculous that a woman would need to hang Packer-themed high heels on her Christmas tree. What’s wrong with regular Packer ornaments? Why must you not-just-feminize, but hyper-feminize your fandom?

Maybe I’ve gone off the deep end, but in talking about this with my boyfriend yesterday, I hypothesized that this is some sort of latent, ingrained, subconscious need by women to point out that they’re not butch lesbians, just because they like sports. It’s like a 180 swing to the polar opposite of the teasing that many of us have endured for being tomboys.

Because even today, apparently, the greater public needs to look for reasons and excuses as to why more and more women are watching the NFL. According to the New York Times, its because the NFL has become like a soap opera. “It’s the soap-opera aspect of the N.F.L. that makes it so broadly appealing.”

See, women watch crappy TV like Real Housewives and Jersey Shore and The Bachelor, and the NFL now has its own reality show “Hard Knocks” and Sunday Night Football has Bob Costas schilling story-lines, so now women can relate and understand and that’s why they’re watching.

Does anyone out there buy this crap? God forbid its just that women actually like football.

I’ll admit, I don’t know what it’s like not to watch football. I live and grew up in Wisconsin – we live and breath Packers football. My dad played Fantasy Football while I was still in diapers, pouring over Monday morning box scores to calculate points. We used to have two TVs in the living room on football Sundays. In 1989. I didn’t come to the game on my own – it was ingrained in me.

I understand not everyone has the game interwoven into their upbringing that way, but I still don’t think any of my fellow ladies plant themselves on the couch for 10 hours on Sunday because of Brett Favre’s indiscretions, as the column contends.

I can see that there are celebrity-obsessed, gossip-driven women that have become MORE interested in the NFL because of these stories – but those women are not watching three straight games on Sunday. Their attention span is lost sometime before that first half-time, is my guess. Because while the gossipy story-lines exist, they aren’t being furthered between the endzones on Sunday. Jon Gruden would have to be dropping juicy tidbits every first down to get a women with no interest in the game to stay tuned all day long, right?

Part of me can’t believe the NYT even ran that crap. You’ll notice there wasn’t really any factual evidence to back up the claims. There were no quotes from women saying that they were more interested in the NFL now because of its soap-opera-esque appeal. The writer is clearly a woman sports fan, so shame on her for once again making excuses and dumbing down sports so that we can “understand” why women would be interested.

But wait – that column is just the tip of the iceberg. Around this time last year, The Atlantic ran a series of “She Said, He Said” articles/columns from two of their writers that they say was meant to look at the challenges facing women sports fans. The initial piece, by the woman, Alyssa Rosenberg, really only scratches the surface and we can only hope she goes deeper

Because she has a really great line: “But it seems to me there’s something ugly in mainstream American sports and in mainstream American sports fandom, when one class of fans isn’t taken particularly seriously, and in the wrong situation can be seriously at risk.” The problem is, that’s the final line of that particular piece. Alyssa – you have a huge platform here. Please use it to the fullest.

Rosenberg mentions sexism, which is important when you get into the rebuttal piece.

Her co-worker, Hampton Stevens, gives his response from the male point of view and spends his first column telling women the things they shouldn’t do to upset men or to “fit in.” They include not telling men that the players are hot. See, this interjects sex in the conversation and that’s just a bad idea.

The large-breasted women dancing on the sidelines, or selling beer in commercials, or on the ads of every major sports blog – they don’t interject sex into sports.

Its women admiring Wes Welkers biceps that do it.

AND when we do that, we’re inviting the men in the room to think about us sexually. So by admiring a guy’s muscles, I’m apparently giving everyone permission to think of me naked. I’m not sure how Welker’s bicep somehow gave you permission to be a perv, but that’s one hell of a non-sequiter justification he’s got going there.

But the bigger problem here is Stevens giving women “rules” of how to behave. Because clearly the men aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s the women who need to change and conform. If we women sports fans do the things he lists, then we can gain acceptance. As though that should be my ultimate goal. You know, instead of men aspiring not to be sexist pigs.

But it’s probably too much to hope that Stevens gives us any insight or intelligent discourse, since he’s clearly not taking any of it seriously.

“Tease a woman about her new shoes, and no one knows what happens. That’s because no one has ever teased a woman about her shoes and lived to tell about it.”

How can we expect anything more from a guy who’s resorting to petty stereotypes and “jokes” in his initial piece? Stevens – you’re the problem. You’re the guy we all don’t want to deal with or talk to. You’re the guy who will get mean and pout when you try to force us to prove how much we know about sports and it turns out we know more than you.

Rosenberg points out the practice of men at Jets games harassing women in hopes the ladies will take their top off. Stevens’ reply to this is to say that football isn’t to blame, crowds and alcohol are. Of course Rosenberg wasn’t blaming football, she was blaming men. Stevens just decided to ignore that part.

Look, I know we’ve been ranty about this before and I know none of this is new information, but damn is it just so frustrating that we continue to fight this fight and when it finally does get talked about, it’s by guys like Stevens who not only don’t get it, but are part of the problem.



1 thought on “Why can’t I just be a girl who likes sports?

  1. “Tease a woman about her new shoes, and no one knows what happens. That’s because no one has ever teased a woman about her shoes and lived to tell about it.”

    Har. Har. Har.

    First of all, anyone with a name like Hampton is not to be taken seriously about anything. If you ask me, he is the one with the sexual identity crisis. What a sad, pathetic, confused little douchebag.

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