As the Red Sox went along, up and up the ladder to win the World Series, I noticed some posts from my leftist friends living in Boston. They were commenting on the perceived chauvinism of sports fans, mostly drunk men on the Green Line, who had rubbed them the wrong way.
It got me to thinking about my firm feminism ideals and my Sox fandom—are the two things directly contradictory? Is there something about being a sports fan that makes me less of an activist for justice?
In short, the answer is no. My love of sports and my desire to dismantle systems of oppression do not have to be dichotomous.
As I do for many things, I asked my good friend Jennie to share her thoughts. Jennie is one of my feminist role models, and a huge Chicago Bulls fan. She brought up a few points that have resonated with me strongly:
As a girl, I was encouraged to PLAY sports, but not watch sports… why is that? Something about playing sports as something you work hard at, but watching sports as being about really understanding the game? Also, as a girl, sports were something I did to “better myself” i.e. put on a college application, but not something that was just supposed to be fun, the way it is for boys.
Now, I was not necessarily encouraged to play sports as a kid, or encouraged to watch them either. Sports have always been part of the fabric of my hometown, but it was never emphasized in my home. It also didn’t seem like something I had to do in order to be accepted by my peers, let alone society.
I started to watch baseball in high school, and then when I moved to New York with more regularity. It was among Yankees fans that I learned to be a loud, obnoxious Sox fan. I gave no thought to my gender as I did this, because it was something that I saw in Boston. But what I did start to notice was I would be out at bars, hooting and hollering, and people (often women on their phones sitting at tables with men who were watching the game) would look at me with disdain or judgment. Jennie had some illuminating insights on that as well:
The act of showing sports fandom = inherently unfeminine – yelling, being angry, taking up a lot of space with your yelling. It’s been really difficult for me to navigate that as a woman, to feel like my “emoting” over sports doesn’t come as naturally as it does to men who feel comfortable shouting at TVs in private homes and also in public bars. How many times have I been in sports bars and been the ONLY woman in the room? It’s a really difficult space to be part of.
It’s not quite as challenging being a feminist-fan in the post-season, because goodness knows there are bandwagon jumpers everywhere. But there is something very counterintuitive about being “ladylike” and being a vocal sports fan.
I like baseball…and sports in general. I like feminism. And the two don’t have to be so directly in conflict, unless we keep making them so. Being a loud sports fan isn’t unladylike, it’s fandom. And who cares about ladylike anyway?