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Girl Talk on the Gridiron: Do Women Need Pro Sports to Be Pink-Washed to Enjoy Them?

Posted May 24 2012 12:40am

When you put Barbie in a foosball table it just looks like they’re ready for their kickline…

While the Men WatchThe feminist in me really wants to hate this. But unfortunately I can’t hear her over the sound of my own laughter.

Before your mind (or Google) goes places your boss would not approve of, WTMW is an online show and blog described by creators Lena and Jules, saying :

“As two women married to sports fanatics, there was really no escaping hockey on TV – especially during playoffs.  As our men were glued to the game, we were on the phone talking to each other about what we saw on the ice in a way that was completely different than what our guys or the real announcers were saying.  Why were the players getting a seat and a drink in the penalty box if it’s supposed to be a punishment?  And how exactly did that coach pick out a brown suit and tie combo four sizes too big?

After rigging up an audio stream from our living rooms, we started broadcasting our “girl talk” version of commentary on all the finer points of hockey, football, baseball, basketball and yes – even golf.”

My first reaction to hearing about a show that is based around the horrible stereotype that we womenfolk are too silly to wrap our wee brains around complex manly sports was to remember my scorn over that horribly pathetic “first pitch” (read: bounce, bounce, roll) thrown by Mariah Carey whilst bobbling in 6-inch heels . Not a proud moment for womankind. Or humankind. Of course lots of women not only enjoy watching sports but they also play them and are great at analyzing them! Why do we need a “girl talk” version of sportscasting? certainly found it abhorrent , saying “How are we still stuck on the notion that when it comes to watching sports, women are clueless idiot children? This is insulting to not only women who genuinely care about the game, but to all the female sportscasters who have had to work twice as hard as their male peers to get half as much credit.”

Then I listened to the show. It’s hilarious. And it also really hit home. (Oooh – see that? I made a sports analogy right there!) I’m the girl who had row 12 tickets to one of the final playoff games between the Jazz and the Bulls in 199… whatever. See? I cared so little about that game I can’t even remember what year it was even though it was one of the biggest rivalries in basketball. My girlfriends and I chatted about if the cheerleaders spray-glued their uniforms to their boobs (likely), if the guys in front of us were hot (yes), and if we could rap all the lyrics to “Informer” by Snow (gratefully no since when I just Googled the lyrics I discovered the line “Where them whipped down me pants and looked up me bottom” – who let me listen to that?! Still though, it’s catchy. A licki boom boom down!). Do you see where this is going? I don’t even remember who won… probably because we left during half time to go get Chinese food.

I am the stereotype. 

I lost no love for sports as a teen and it didn’t change when I became an adult. Just recently a friend asked me if I’d enrolled my boys in hockey – this is Minnesota, land of 10,000 concussions after all – and was taken aback by my bewildered response: “Why would I do that? I spent nine months growing those brains and I’m certainly not paying for the privilege of watching them get bashed in with a stick.” (I signed those kids up for show choir, by golly. Don’t you know that math and music are synaptically linked?) You may also recall that I didn’t learn the basic rules of basketball until about six months ago, could not now tell you how many people are on a soccer team and only know that lacrosse is the sport with the sticks because someone once used one to lock me in a bathroom. And the worst moment? Gym Buddy Allison and I couldn’t do the “baseball drill” in P90X because we couldn’t figure out which leg to step forward with to pantomime throwing an imaginary ball! And yet I can balance on one foot for seven minutes while simultaneously painting my toenails and blow drying my hair.

I’m embarrassed to be me right now. All that stands between me and Mariah Carey’s throw-like-a-girl moment is that I’m not famous enough for anyone to ask me to throw a first pitch for anything. And also, she can sing.

As a health and fitness writer I’ve come to realize all the amazing things about sports in general and girls in sports in particular. They build confidence! They encourage a positive body image, camaraderie, teamwork! They hone agility and endurance! They’re fantastic exercise (Gym Buddy Krista introduced me to the puketasticness of a “full court press” on Tuesday)! And, stop the press, they can even be really fun.

All of this girl-sport stuff has been colliding in my head recently as I have the (amazing) opportunity to interview and do a workout with the Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders, play my first game of rugby with an international competitor and interview/workout with the co-captain of the Minnesota Valkyries… our state lingerie football team. Honestly I’m not sure what to think about all this. I’m pretty sure the cheerleaders are going to kick my butt with their athleticism (while looking adorable – did you know they MUST wear red lipstick and tights during every workout?!). I’m more than a little nervous about rugby (I like my kneecaps where they are). And playing a “man’s sport” in lingerie?! Yet when I asked her about it, she said it was empowering. And hey, at least she knows the rules to football which is way more than I can say – the only football game I ever attended in college I read a book the whole time and made my husband swear to never take me in public again.

And if I’m being completely honest I’d read the book again. I want to love sports. But in reality I always wondered the same thing about the penalty box as Lena and Jules. If that were me, I’d purposely body check someone just so I could spend the rest of the game safely in that little box, wondering if I could make a magic eye puzzle out of the ref’s jersey. (Although, if it really were me someone would probably lock me in with their hockey stick. Sigh.)

Do I hate watching sports because I’ve been conditioned to by society or because I legitimately just don’t want to spend my time that way? What kind of woman are you when it comes to sports? What do you think of this show – funny or infantalizing? Are cheerleaders athletes? Is lingerie just a quirky sartorial choice, a subversive political statement or the epitome of catering to the male gaze?

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