Monthly Archives: November 2013

Feminist-Fandom

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?

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Three Little Birds

In 2004, I was in downtown Manhattan, on the couch in my friends apartment. I held the hand of the fellow Bostonian next to me and I cried.

In 2007, I was wrapped in a franchise fleece blanket, on the ceramic tile floor of the Costa Rican dorm room where I was working for the year and I cried.

In 2013, I was on my couch in Boston, watching my boyfriend jump up and down, while I held the dog and cried.

I get emotional about the Red Sox in general, and things are just heightened when it comes to the World Series—as evidenced above.

While the pattern is apparent, this year was different. I wasn’t just crying when they won. I was pretty much crying the whole season.

Nathan and I were at the first game back in Fenway after the week of April 15th. The video montage played and I cried. It got worse when Team Hoyt, the father-son duo who has been running the marathon since I can remember, came out to throw the first pitch. Before Papi cursed, he pointed to his chest and said, “This doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston,” bringing on more tears. And of course, when we won, I bawled.

I don’t claim to be the biggest Red Sox fan in the world, but I am part of the Nation. I have been for many years now. It’s been hard to articulate exactly what made this season so special without harkening back to lots of clichés and oversentimental overtures, but there was a different feeling this year.

Although I sensed resistance from my leftist/non-sports loving friends as I posted an obscene amount of Red Sox-related items on Facebook, they all congratulated me after Game 6. My boyfriend moved from Dallas in March so this was his first season as a Bostonian—and he is the ultimate baseball fan, so it was quite a treat. I was able to go to SEVEN games this season, six of which were wins, including the epic Game 2 of the ALCS with the Papi grand slam and Officer Horgan moment of glory.

But what happened this year was more than a win, it was more than moments of glory and tragedy. It was a city, state, region, “Nation”, declaring unity and love for one another. Every time Shane Victorino got up to bat, I would cry. Because his walk up song, “Three Little Birds”, would be cut off before the last line of the chorus, but the fans would keep singing—and loudly.

“Because every little thing is gonna be allright.”

And it was more than enthusiasm and excitement for the game or for Shane. That sound, reverberating off of the Green Monster and hallowed halls of Fenway, was the sound of a group catharsis. A city soothing itself, affirming its resilience.

So every time I heard it, I would cry, and clasp my chest, and was reminded why this is the best damn city in the world.

Photos from the April 20th game at Fenway.

Photos from the April 20th game at Fenway.

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