Opinion

Girls Like Sport Like Boys Do, Nothing New

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“Girls who love baseball are rare. Wife ’em up.”
These were the words emblazoned on a shirt. Words which summarize the perpetual stereotypes surrounding female sports fans.
Women only like sport to seek validation from men.
Women don’t really like sport at all.
Women don’t understand sport.
Women that like sport aren’t feminine.

All of this makes the genuine female sports fan a rarity. Shockingly, women can actually like things without having a motive to do so. And we can understand typically masculine things and not be lying about. Women have just as much right to the whole sporting world as men do (and to be respected within it).

It can be difficult to find your place in sport as a female fan. Women’s sport is not only considered to be of less value than men’s sport but women’s talent is also not seriously. Within the male sporting world, the treatment of women is less than desirable and the worst insult fans can throw at a player is that he “plays like a girl”.

Sport is often not a safe place for women to be spectators either. Men are often dismissive of you and question why you’re there. Your knowledge is tested to see if you’re a ‘real’ fan. Something that doesn’t happen to men because it’s considered ‘normal’ to be a male sports fan. In fact, for men it’s weird if you don’t like sport – your mates just might say that you’re a bit of a girl! But using the analogy of equating abilities to a girl is insulting because the underlying assumption is if you’re not male – the default – then you aren’t any good.

So, if you’re not a man, you can’t play sport, you can’t understand sport and you certainly can’t be a sports fan. But what if you do claim to be a fan of sport and you also happen to be a woman? The argument goes like this: women like sport so that men will like them. This relies on the idea that women can’t do anything without it being about getting male validation.

Young women have and will experience this throughout school. They’re either trying to impress the boys, rendering their interest to be fake, or they’re ‘one of the boys’. Because there’s no possible way women can be an actual real life female sports fan without being masculine and fitting into typically male ideals.

When I tell people that I’m an obsessive AFL fan I am subjected to a string of questions testing whether I actually know anything about the sport I claim to love.
Do you know who the leading goal kicker is?
Do you know this really obscure stat?
Do you know who coached this team in this year?
Who won this medal in this year?
Can you name every player that has ever played?
No. Then you don’t really like sport.

The belief that women can’t have athletic ability plays right into this idea that women can’t really like sport. As if you need to be able to play the sport to enjoy it. As if all men who watch sport are as talented as the men they worship. It’s women who are questioned unreasonably over their opinions and told that they must not actually understand the sport because they don’t agree with men’s opinions.

Talented women are infiltrating sport – a traditionally masculine space, and this fills men with fear. This fear leads to disrespect and suspicion. That’s why our more successful women’s sporting teams earn less money and respect than their male counterparts.

At every level of sport, from fan to athlete, if you’re female you will not be taken seriously unless you fit into the masculine mould that sport is created on. Women are forced to work harder to prove themselves to be as capable as male athletes. It’s the same for female fans – we have to work harder to prove ourselves as ‘real’ fans, capable of understanding our sport of choice as much as men.

So men, before you wife the woman who enjoys baseball, maybe you should consider that women, and their interests exist outside of you.

About the author

Imogen Dunlevie

Imogen's interests include, but are not limited to, feminism, evolution, Canberra and Nick Kyrgios. Find her raucously supporting women and Sydney Swans on her twitter @ImogenDunlevie.

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