Face it; if you’re a woman who loves to talk sports at the water cooler, you may find that it’s often difficult to be viewed as a real fan. People often cling to binary in attempts to understand and assign roles. For this reason, I find it seems others have difficulty comprehending that some ladies at the game aren’t merely hitching a ride on the bandwagon.
Sexist notions about women not enjoying sports make publicly identifying as a fan an often uncomfortable space for women to navigate.
I’m in high school and a fervent hockey fan. A boy stops me in the hall at school and asks me to name every player on the Pittsburgh Penguins. I fumble over one defensemen’s name and am laughed at by an intimidating pack of grunting boys.
Many years later, I’m having a beer with coworkers. The TV is playing NBA highlights and my remarks about Stephen Curry and John Salmons garner immense surprise from the men at the table. They all commend me for my basketball player knowledge, failing to realize these comments would not have been spoken had I been a man.
Or there was just last month, when my feministidentified male friend condescendingly asked me to tell him the score of that evening’s playoff game. This came after I said the Blue Jays hat in my apartment was not simply a prop to allow me to appear trendy. I brushed it off and the score to prove myself, as women seem to be forced to do quite frequently.
Comments aimed to discredit women sports fans are often so subtle that the person who speaks them does not recognize the edge in their words. When faced with these microaggressions, I’ve found women seem to be the only ones present who are capable of understanding the magnitude of the irritation surrounding the interaction. To these men, I ask, why don’t you try on our shoes?
Transport yourself back to growing up and singing along to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song every Saturday evening. Envision yourself reaching those tiny limbs up to the sky during the same 7th inning at the Rogers Centre.
Now imagine if every time you encountered a new group of people to talk about the game with, there’s a good chance that you’ll be challenged. Each conversation serving as a timed test of your knowledge. Although you’re impassioned by the subject and know the answers, nobody appreciates a pop quiz.
Is the picture becoming clearer? This inherent sexism is ingrained in our society so deeply that even inclusive individuals can fail to recognize the contrast between how they respond to women versus men proclaiming an interest in sports.
So now that the winter seasons have begun, ladies would be wise to bundle up and prepare for the barrage of comments soon to be propelled their way faster than the shots at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
A different version of this article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 25, 2015.