I think, at the root of this whole “women aren’t real sports fans” debate is the idea that it isn’t acceptable for women to sexualize men even though, for centuries, women have been reduced to objects.
Too often women are written off as only enjoying a sport for the eyecandy. First of all, during a hockey game, there is no eyecandy - literally every inch of the players’ bodies are covered. Honestly, the players look like block rectangles with legs and a helmet. Wow, so hot. Also - female and male hockey players are indistinguishable in pads but for the occasional ponytail. There really isn’t anything sexually appealing about a hockey game to a heterosexual woman - other than the hockey porn, of course. We don’t sit on the edges of our seats through 60+ minutes of play to ogle the players. We do it because we love the game - for the excitement, the thrill, the beauty of it.
But even if a woman is in it for the eyecandy, for the ass and abs, she has every right to be a fan of the sport for that reason, among others. Turn on your TV and watch a few commercials. What do you see? Women in tight, short skirts. Women with plunging necklines. Women engaging in blatantly sexual acts until they themselves are the product, not the things they’re selling. Are men sexualized in the same way? Very rarely. The vast majority of society sees no problem in the sexualization of women because “it’s the way things have always been.” While that is, in of itself, deeply problematic, it’s a phenomena in our society that we can’t deny.
So why is it, that the moment men are sexualized, there is this outcry, this dismissal of the women doing the sexualization? People don’t point fingers at men at Lingerie Football League games and say, “You’re not a true football fan!” Men who go to Powderpuff Football Games just to leer at the women aren’t crucified. Male fans of beach volleyball aren’t called into question. Why? Because that has become the status quo, because somehow, in some deeply twisted way, men are permitted to see women as sexual objects, but women aren’t allowed the same right.
What, a woman who can appreciate the physical attributes of an athlete isn’t a “true sports fan?” That woman can’t know the game inside out, can’t play it better than you, can’t crunch numbers and spit out facts? Women are smart, women are strong, and women are also sexual beings. We can find athletes sexy if we want to. We have every right to sexualize men as long as they continue to sexualize us. And if that doesn’t make men lesser people, then why is it grounds to dismiss a female fan?
At the root of this debate is an issue of inequality, of the repression of female sexuality. And in order to solve a problem, you must always start at the root.