I was excited a couple of weeks ago to write about hockey again. After rummaging through the deepest and dustiest corners of my mind last semester while the lockout was going on, I could barely keep from shaking with anticipation as I realized each day brought me closer and closer to writing this, my opening Rhythm and Blueshirts column for the 2013 NHL season.
And then, the New York Rangers organization did just about the most disappointing, embarrassing, shameful, demeaning and sexist thing they could have done to their female fans. On the Blueshirts United blog, where fans are able to submit articles to be published by the organization, someone wrote a “Girl’s Guide To Watching The Rangers.”
If the title made you assume this “article” is sexist, further promotes gender stereotypes, validates the gender binary and had the ability to anger the female fan base, good. It would have been nice if the people running the Blueshirts United blog could have realized that too.
The article contained a series of steps instructing women on how to watch a hockey game. Instead of providing something that could have been useful to a first-time viewer (like what a 5-on-3 is and why the Rangers’ power play is so awful in the first place), all it said was that if you have questions, wait until the men in your life deem it alright for you to speak and defer to them with any questions you have. Don’t try and figure it out for yourself, just ask them when the whistle blows. That’s when the play stops. I’m not sure if all of you women first-timers knew that.
Mirna Mandil and the New York Rangers didn’t think you did. Who’s Mirna Mandil?
The woman who wrote the article. That’s right, this is the product of another woman.
Before anything else, I want to acknowledge that the Rangers’ female fan base did not stay silent. A lot of women bit right away and let the organization know that what it did was demeaning and alienating. I commend everyone who spoke up, because it was you who made those who were too ignorant to realize that what went up was problematic and, real talk, just about as sexist as you can get in sports.
Now let’s get to the fun part.
A lot of people came out and were vocal about their disgust with Mandil. There were tweets all over the Rangers Twitter tag about how problematic her article was. While I could go on and agree, I have to be honest, I just feel bad for her. How upsetting is it that there’s a woman in the 21st century today who believes she is inferior and incapable of understanding sports in contrast to men? As someone who didn’t grow up in an environment like that, I pity someone who did.
And while that may be what should have bothered me the most, it wasn’t. There were a few feminist reactions that started with women not just saying how disappointed they were, but how disrespected they felt given how long they’ve watched and how much time they have dedicated to this sport.
Validation isn’t something limited only to sports culture. It’s something women who coexist in male-dominated cultures have to deal with all the time. I’ve done that in this column in the past, and I shouldn’t have to. A female fan of a sport shouldn’t feel required to say how long she’s been a fan, who got her to be a fan and what continues to make her a fan today. She shouldn’t have to prove that she enjoys sports for her own sake, and it’s unfair and rude for people to asuume she only enjoys it for the sake of appeasing a man.
Because you can argue all you want, but that’s what it comes down to. Women who like sports are commodified and coveted by men, and often times, our culture encourages that. But, as a woman, you can’t just say you’re a fan, you have to prove you are as well. I can tell you right now that my brothers and my guy friends have never and will never have to go to the same extremes as the women in their lives do to pledge their allegiance.
New York has a huge fan base, and while women may not be the majority, they are a noticeable group and it’s a shame the organization we care so much about would demean our intelligence and devalue our commitment to a team we all love.
Really, I think it’s too late for them to make a serious apology. Female fans will remember this, but they’ll come back. Because we love this team unconditionally and we know that gender identity does not determine the love that grows for a team as special as the New York Rangers.