Sports. The pinnacle of human abilities and resistance. Throughout history, its significance and fame has transformed society in ways of it becoming an integral aspect of our lives. Sports is a healthy hobby; a patriotic identity; a peaceable diplomatic channel; and a riveting form of entertainment.
To describe the sports fans of today in one word seems too exacting for many. If you ‘dedicated’ popped into your mind, you are one of the rare ones; for the manifestation of their dedication is related differently, underpinned by their gender. The descriptions of women fans are soaked in the potion of misogyny. Women have always joined the spectacle of sports, enjoying the live thrill of bellowing voices drowned out by each other at the stadium, or gripping onto the edges of the couch, watching their favourite players’ wins and losses. However, women fans are not viewed with the same respect as their male counterparts by the media, the fans, and in part by the sports management themselves.
The most glaring difference in the treatment of men and women fans lies in the labelling of their dedication. Male fans are depicted as ‘passionate’ for their role in hurling verbal abuses against opponents or players whose game strategy was subpar, and in breaking into violence and destruction to channel their anger and disappointment of the results. The narration of women is starkly contrasting. They are represented as ‘crazy’ or ‘obsessive’ for expressing their love for the players and teams in the form of photocards and TikTok edits, and infantilized as being unknowledgeable or dim-witted to comprehend the ‘complexity’ of the sport. These precarious stereotypes consequentially subject women fans to derogatory comments and online harassments stemming from the above preconceptions. As a spectator in the stands/stadiums, women constantly face microaggressions, or even sexual harassment. During such incidents, they are compelled to stay silent in fear of exacerbating the situation with aggressors who are charged with adrenaline. Men fans are equally notorious for their defences in favour of players accused or charged with sexual assaults. These hostile circumstances discourage women fans from relishing the experience of sports.
The loyalty towards a certain team/player by women fans never fails to come under dubiety. It is undermined by notions of pinning women’s enjoyment to the physical appearances of the players. This is a common ‘rebuttal’ against women fans of Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc, as well as supporters of different football teams during the 2022 World Cup where women were assumed to be supporting the likes of Brazil and England from their infatuations with Neymar Jr. or Jude Bellingham.
The expectation for women to ‘prove’ their genuine interest in sports in nothing short of another illustration of sexism rampant in everyday society, particularly because male fans are never exposed to similar kinds of scrutiny. Men are never asked to prove their love for the sport by reiterating the history of the sport or team, or by naming the birthplace of their favourite player, or stating the number of wins of a team/player; Their interest is undisputed, and convinced to be authentic purely on the basis of their gender, and their ostensible blood to be keen on sports.
The domination of male fans buttressed by the popularity of male sports have engendered the idea of sports as an activity ‘exclusively for men’. They engage in gatekeeping by excluding women in the field, demanding for them to ‘stay in their lane’ outside of sports. Women are rare at all levels of sports. From fans, pundits and reporters, to players and management, this deficit becomes increasingly isolating for women, evoking the need to work twice as hard just to prove themselves worthy of being acknowledged. This underrepresentation in sports sketches a fallacious belief of women’s disinterest in sports, despite the deliberate marginalization. The women who do work in the field are doubted and questioned for their expertise, and women sports welcome scarce viewers.
These misogynistic attitudes against women fans are an extension of what women in sports undergo. We witness everyday sexism against the most decorated women players in the form of demeaning comments, belittling ‘jokes’, and diminishing their accomplishments to their physical appearances or personal lives. Previously, the US women's football team was mocked after winning the World Cup while the men’s team failed to qualify in the top 16; and women motorsports drivers are ridiculed on their ability to drive when aiming entries into Formula 1.
Regrettably, the sports managements are no better than the male fans in not behaving vilely misogynistic. This year, the Spanish Football Federation was castigated for the actions of their chief Luis Rubiales at the women’s World Cup when he kissed the champions without consent, and later justified it. The evidence of thriving misogyny is superfluous at all levels of sports. After all, if they cannot protect the players, why would they ever try to defend the fans.
Women should not be placed under trial for any of their interests, or be expected to break glass ceilings in every field to be visible. Their level of knowledge may vary and the sports’ popularity may have piqued their enthusiasm. But whatever their reasons are, the fact remains that they are indulging in sports they consider themselves to be a fan of – and they are one valid as any other. Surviving Sports as a Woman Fan Surviving Sports as a Woman Fan