Hey dude, get me a beer!

Why in sports, maybe it’s the women’s turn now

By Sara Leimbach, Columnist

MOUNT BERRY, Ga. – I can’t possibly be a “true” sports fan because I’m a girl, right?

Women are just as committed to sports fandom as the men, so what really gets me started is when I am asked the question, always by a male, of course, “Can you even name one player on the team?” I’ve even had a caveman tell me, “Girls only watch sports to stare at guys’ butts.”

First, we have better things to do. Second, why is he watching women’s gymnastics . . . really?

Allow me to turn the tables. Ask a male for stats for a female sport and you will get crickets. Of course, for men’s sports, male fans typically know the names and numbers of every player, their positions, the coach’s resume, even the mascot’s name. Now, there is nothing wrong with being nerdy, but the idea that the more you know, be it statistics or trivia, the better fan you are is a fiction. And it’s a game most women don’t find necessary to play.

Society tells the women that when there are sports on TV, and by default, “sports on TV” means men’s sports:

  • Make the food.
  • Bring the beer.
  • Don’t say a word.
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Saturday Night Live’s spoof of gendered fandom

These rules are instilled seemingly from birth; they are so commonly shared that Saturday Night Live could do a spoof of them as a Super Bowl commercial for Totino’s pizza rolls.

Do I need to even say that women shouldn’t have to confine themselves to the kitchen during a football game? Well, as Bob Dylan sings, “The Times, They are A-Changin’.” The women are beginning to fight for themselves.

Take the U.S. women’s national soccer or hockey teams fighting for fair pay as two examples. Consider NASCAR, a prototypical “masculine” sport for which nearly half the fans are women. This is huge for female fandom and, perhaps just as significantly, for advertisers. Who do most big advertisers want to reach? The person making household buying decisions. And who is that? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not a “he.”

The common cause of many of these gender-related problems and misconceptions is the fact that sports is perhaps the ultimate “good ole boys” club. Statistics gathered by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports show that university athletics departments are predominantly male (and predominantly white). A study by the University of Minnesota shows that about four out of every five coaching positions for both male and female sports are held by men, leaving little room for female coaches. Studies show also that in sports coverage, the percentage of female sport reporters has actually declined the last few years. It wasn’t that high to begin with.

Without women in decision-making positions, we can expect only slight improvements in opportunities for women in the sporting industry. This trickles down to women in fandom seen as somehow lesser, as well.

In short, if we are not respected in everyday life, we will not be respected as fans, and vice versa. The Totino’s spoof points to symptoms, not the problem.

So, women, stand your ground. Don’t be afraid to be whatever sort of fan you want to be. Maybe he can get the beer this time. Be loud. Proudly wear your team’s logo. Become a coach, reporter or, better yet, apply for the athletic director job and start the revolution.

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