Friday, January 25, 2013

Why do I have to be a female fan?

Oh hey guys, hockey is back. Well, NHL hockey, to be more specific. There was always hockey. But now the Sabres are back!

But right now we're not going to talk about the Sabres. We're going to talk about the Rangers and the nonsense that is being a "female hockey fan".

Here's the thing. I'm a female. I'm a hockey fan. But I never felt like I needed any "special" guides or cheat sheets to learn about hockey. Why should I, just cuz I happen to have a vagina and breasts? Does it somehow give me less ability to understand the game? Why is this always a discussion?

But somehow it is. There are books like "the girlfriend's guide to hockey" yes, it's real and yes, I read it. 
And today, the NY Rangers posted a link on twitter to "A Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers". You may read some commentary and screencaps of the article here-Because they took it down.

Now I don't object in any way to more ladies becoming hockey fans. I don't object to ANYONE becoming a hockey fan. Hockey is amazing and the more, the merrier, I say. However, why should ladies have specific guides? Why can't they just learn about the game like anyone else- by watching and reading and asking questions? Why must it be this big mysterious deal that their brother/boyfriend/guy friends all understand but they don't? That's ignorant and asinine. I don't know much about football- because I don't watch it. It doesn't interest me the way hockey does. If it did, I could very easily learn about the game. The same way I did with hockey.

Maybe I'm just defensive. I'm clearly not the target demographic for this "guide". But, as I discussed with a friend on twitter today- if it was just a "beginner's guide to the Rangers", that would be completely fine. The suggestions aren't even terrible. She says to ask questions (just not in the middle of a play), watch replays, take a peek at the roster to familiarize yourself, get to know Henrik Lundqvist.

What she doesn't offer are any actual practical ways to start to learn about hockey: watch the players, not the puck at first (it's easier that way), learn what icing and offsides are (the more confusing rules of hockey) and then ask any questions you want. Odds are if the person you're watching with is a hardcore fan, he or she will be more than willing to gab about their team. (I know I am.)

That's the bottom line. No cutesy shopping ("News of the NHL lockout's end caused as much excitement in the male world as a 70 percent off sale does in a woman's.") Come the fuck on. There are plenty of women who were THRILLED that the lockout is over.

... or television show references. ("If you're completely oblivious to what the end of the lockout means, think of it as the premiere of the newest season of "Girls" being delayed by months, and then suddenly, it's announced that it will be coming back but with a lot fewer episodes to make up for lost time.) I mean really? Can't you just get that 48 games in 99 days is going to be exciting? Is that too hard to understand?

No obvious comments about what to do if you don't like the game. ("If you feel too forced and uninterested, at least know the Rangers' schedule so you can schedule a girl's night for those times. ") Duh. If you need to be told when to take some time to be with your friends, then you have your priorities out of whack anyway.

What is all boils down to is why people (men or women) seem to think that women need special guides to learn about sports. (maybe this happens in other sports, I don't know because I don't follow other sports. It happens all the time in hockey and it's infuriating.) When can we just be "fans" and share the game between "fans"? Until that day, I will continue to speak out about such publications (especially when they are endorsed by NHL teams) and be frustrated. I'm not really a feminist, and I don't really feel oppressed, but just don't get why there isn't fan equality here.

I managed to learn about hockey without the benefit of a "Girl's Guide", or even a brother, boyfriend, guy friend or any sort of family member/friend influence. And there wasn't internet or a pro team within 4 hours of my home. So how did I possibly do it? (as a mere girl?) Simple. I watched the game. I read magazines. I found some friends who liked hockey and talked about it with them. I read books. I bought hockey cards. I educated myself about the game and in so doing discovered just how amazing it is. And I have dragged many a friend- male and female- to hockey games with me over the years, with a few simple instructions: 
1. If you get confused about where the puck is, look at where the players are and where they are going.
2. Explanation of icing and offsides.
3. Feel free to ask any questions (at any point!) and I will answer any that I can.
4. Have fun.

I like my guide better. And it's not gender specific.

And I think that's all I have to say on the subject. (for now.)


Austin said...

Love this! And I still don't completely understand offsides, but I try my best to explain the game to anyone I'm watching with who isn't as familiar with the sport as I am!

Erin said...

I'm super excited the lockout is over, and I have no idea what this "Girls" show is that they are talking about.

I fell in love with hockey the first time we played in gym class. I watched the games on TV and read books and DDN articles about the Bombers and Ice Bandits. I did a research report about the Miracle on Ice team in High school (back before the internet even!). Which was funny because it was supposed to be about an event that happened the year I was born. I wasn't born in 1980. but I just loved hockey so much.

Anyway, I agree it is offensive to assume that girls are only interested in sports if their boyfriend is and that they need a special guide to learn about the game. Women are astronauts and surgeons, I think we can learn the rules of a game. Have they ever watched the Olympics? Women play sports too. I would have thought in the year 2013, with women like Erin Andrews, Pam Oliver and Sherry Ross proving themselves in sports broadcasting that this wouldn't even be an issue.

Unknown said...

At what did you realize that you wanted to devote your life to the sport?

And I absolutely agree with you. Female are also singled out like this in the world of video games and my wife can whoop on nearly every male I know. She's not a female gamer. She's a gamer.

And what is this "Girls" show? My wife doesn't know either. :)

S.A.M. said...

Erin, totally with ya!

"Unknown"- do I know you? Is this Tom? If not, hello!

I discovered hockey when I was 13 by watching the 1994 NHL all-star game. It was interesting and cool and so I started watching games on tv. Then I found some magazines to read about the current hockey players. Studied up on penalties and rosters and rules.

The next year I met some friends who liked hockey. We'd get a newspaper and read and talk about the night's games in 1st period algebra class. I went to some games.

Over the years I've been to many hockey games at many different levels. I've read countless articles and books about the game and players- current and older, to understand the history.

And yet I still read and hear about mass media constantly feeling the need to educate "female fans", not just all fans. It's getting old, and that is why I write about it.