The Failure of Sexism

9 May

Migrated from ESPN.com blog February 2, 2011

Originally published May 9, 2008

In three separate conversations on ESPN today, I saw the following comments:

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, lady. Why don’t you go do some laundry or something?”

“lol you know what the (team) and women have in common? The only thing they’re good for is laying on their backs and taking it.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you a girl or something?”

While none of these comments were aimed in my direction, I found myself suddenly very cautious of making any statements in conversations that might give a clue as to my gender(People rarely click on my profile). After awhile, I felt drained, almost like I was walking on eggshells and took a break to have some lunch. I got to thinking and this is what transpired…

It’s hard not to respond to those comments. I tried doing that on another message board I used to frequent and it just brought the ridicule onto me. Suddenly from all sides I was being quizzed on statistics, players, how long I had been a fan, if I actually owned a jersey that was my team’s colors (rather than the powder pink teams so often make now), if I played fantasy football or just had my boyfriend draft my team, etc…

I called it “The Curse of the Female Fan.” We’re seemingly always forced to double and triple prove our allegiances and sports knowledge before we’re taken seriously. As an experiment one year, I joined two random fantasy football leagues. In one, the participants knew I was female, and in the other, I remained anonymous. To be honest with you, I didn’t really think it would make a difference. I thought maybe I was just being a little paranoid. Then the draft came…

“Is your boyfriend helping you make your picks?”

“Hey, sweetie, 30 seconds, make a pick!”

“Ha ha, girls can’t make hard decisions. It’s cute.”

Now, my male friends in the real world have never treated me like this. I think internet anonymity had a lot to do with how crass this group of people was, but at the same time, they almost always used my gender as an insult. In the other league, I was most certainly taunted during the draft, but it was things like:

“LOL Brian Westbrook?? Accident-prone!”

“Make your pick. We haven’t got all day.”

I did fairly well in both leagues, but only in the one where I named my gender did people try to get me to do unbelievably stupid trades. We’re talking, “Hey, I’ll give you Chris Chambers for Peyton Manning.” Yeah. That bad.

As discouraging as the experience was, it made me see that to be taken seriously, I would have to really know my stuff.

And you know what? I’m not bitter about that. It’s made me a better fan. It’s forced me to do my reading and my research before I make any statements. Feeling like I had something to prove made me learn more about sports than I ever thought I’d be able to. So, thank you to the sexist fantasy football team members, wherever you may be. Your insults backfired.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy about the sexism I see in ESPN conversations from time to time. But what those people don’t realize is that they’re simply making themselves look unintelligent and unable to form a coherent argument. If someone can’t argue sports without mocking gender, then they probably don’t know enough about the topic to make an argument in the first place.

So what if I have to know a little extra? Maybe it’s not such a curse after all…

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