14 November 2018

Fans worldwide who tuned in to watch Baseball’s Astro vs. Red Sox playoff game last month would’ve witnessed the umpire make a controversial call by denying a home run due to the spectators interference with a players attempt to catch the ball. 

As expected, people formed strong opinions on the call, with some applauding the umpires decision and others being hugely displeased. Supermodel Kate Upton was one of those on the latter end of the spectrum that unfavoured the call, making it apparent with tweets directed at @MLB (Major League Baseball) which led to responses she didn’t anticipate. 

On top of being furious over the decision which she felt her team was robbed, Kate kept it 💯 by blasting those who criticised the authenticity of her opinion because of her gender, showing us a depiction of the sporting spectacle. In the tweet, Kate highlighted the familiarity in discourse used by her largely male critics with it commonly including words like “princess”, “honey” to address her or even going as far as to call her a “terrible “girl” sports fan”. 👎

The reality is, female fans have entered the traditionally male realm of sports fandom and continue to grow in numbers. Female fans are very often policed and nonetheless portrayed in gender stereotypical ways that work to secure men’s privileged position as authentic fans. 

Toffoletti’s work on femininity, sexuality and women’s sports fandom exposes this by underlining the thought that to be taken seriously as a female sports fan, women felt to de-emphasise their femininity and mimic men. In this context, their choice of using degrading “princess” remarks came from their judgement of her “dolled up” Supermodel profession, undermining the authenticity of her opinion. Even more so, they could not handle the fact that her opinion did not align with their own.

One twitter user commented: “This isn’t the venue to play the feminist card, sports fans are mindless, rude and blinded by fandom”, giving reason to Kate Upton’s critics but does that make it commonplace or in the slightest acceptable to attack and invalidate an opinion based on someone’s gender? 

The Feminization of Sports Fandom (2017) by Stacey Pope challenges the perception of female sports fans as inauthentic. In an in-depth study of football and rugby fans (two very male dominated sports) in Leicester, UK, it was found that sport plays a hugely important role in the lives and identity of those female fans. Pope was able to distinguish between two types of female fans; the highly committed ‘hot’ fans and causal ‘cool’ fans suggesting that women should be taken more seriously as ‘real’ sports fans. Though, one tweet on Twitter could send you back to a time where this was unimaginable. 😞

Female fans are paying attention to scores, statistics and rooting for their teams. We are knowledgable about the rules and we are being more analytical. We do have solid opinions on gameplay and still wear stilettos on the weekend.  👠

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