Monday, October 20, 2008

Female fandom: Women like the NFL?!?

I imagine this post could have future follow-ups: Female fandom II, III, etc. (All with a catchy post-colon phrase, of course.)
This post is about an article I came across earlier this month and nearly forgot about. It's all about female NFL fans. And it kind of reads like an older anthropological piece. You know the one in which the white guy goes looking for something unusual amongst the primitive. Because the whole angle is basically "women like football, and they really get into it. How 'interesting.'" And you know the tone "interesting" has here. It details the rituals female fans engage in from organizing parties to donning their favorite team's gear.
The article makes minor mention of the pinkification of fandom with lots of shirts, hats, etc. that resembles Pepto Bismal and produces the kind of effect that makes you want some--Pepto Bismal--not pink gear. Luckily a hardcore Steelers fan pipes up that pink has no place in her version of fandom. Nor do cheerleaders.
I was not surprised by the isn't-this-novel-and-interesting approach to the subject of female fans. I was kind of shocked to see the alleged increase in female fandom attributed to Title IX. Wait, the legislation that allowed more women to play sports has created more fans of men's professional sports?? Wouldn't one think that Title IX would have created more fans of women's sports? Men's sports have always been there--and women have always been fans. Check out some histories of the early days of intercollegiate football. Plus many of the women interviewed for the article who are of the pre-IX generation attributed their fandom to family influence, regardless of their own athletic participation in sports.
Generally this article contributes to the "wait, women like sports!?" attitude that has historically impeded participation. Glad these women feel free to express their fandom by joining clubs and wearing t-shirts--I think. Now I am waiting for the articles on whether female fandom is going to start to resemble some of the violent, masculinist aspects of historically male fandom. Here's hoping those pieces are a little more nuanced.

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