“Women fans only talk about looks.”
“Don’t be such a cleat chaser!”
“So you like baseball because of some guy, right?”
“You just think that/like that player/like that team because he/they are cute!”
Over the weekend I found myself, yet again, in the middle of having to defend the honor of female baseball fans against claims that we only want to talk about looks and derail the conversation to go to superficial places, only this time I was given the oh-so-fun challenge of doing so to another woman. Yep, this was not an unfortunately clueless male this time but in fact multiple women who were quick to throw our entire gender under the proverbial bus.
I sat there somewhat dumbfounded for a few minutes as I tried to process just where this type of “eat your own young” behavior could come from. Most of the female fans I’ve become friends with over the years have had to fight that sort of crap from men often enough, why would someone who has had to contradict that attitude then perpetuate the same kind of misogyny that makes everyone look bad (and, for the record, isn’t representative of the majority of fans of whatever gender, in my experience)? The more I thought about it, the more I kept coming back to one thing — that maybe one way to not get accused of being one of “those” female fans is to engage in the rhetorical equivalent of jumping up and down and yelling about how much all the other fans aren’t cool. Sort of a “no no no, don’t look over here, look over THERE!”, social media misdirection move. And well, I suppose I can see it. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, and all that.
But really? The kind of fans of whatever gender who would engage in making blanket statements about other groups of fans are precisely the ones that I’m disinclined to pay much heed. If I just wanted to be liked or blindly listened to in the baseball community, I’ve figured out ways I could do it. I could pull out every straw man and argumentative fallacy I could find and do a constant song and dance of “East Coast bias”, “traditional metrics suck”, “listen to the narrative”, “SABR geeks live in their mothers’ basements”, “Red Sox don’t want it”, and “Yankees buy championships” and probably have exponentially more Twitter followers and be at least marginally tumblr famous if I wanted to. But it would require pandering of the most gross and unappealing nature and alienating the fans and analysts whose opinions I respect and whose friendship I value.
What is probably the most unsettling part of this whole conversation, and something I’ve seen repeatedly in various forms, is this idea of there being some “right” way to love the game and, even more, that the stereotypically female ways of enjoying the game are stupid, immature, wrong, bad, etc. I admit, there are styles, for lack of a better word, of fandom that I find annoying as all hell. I have a very hard time respecting cleat chasers and squealing fangirls because, frankly, I think it does a disservice to the game, but I’ve also come to the realization that it’s not my place to tell those people they’re bad fans or that they should just shut up. It’s my place to choose to back away from those people before I lose my temper and go hang out in my little corner of the baseball world where I can be simultaneously discussing the variety of possibly illegal things I would do to Matt Holliday’s arms and the logic, wisdom and long-term cost-benefit analysis of the Colby Rasmus trade.
I admit to having struggled with this at times, because I do want to be respected and liked in the community I find myself surrounded by, and there are times when I would probably have not even wanted to admit in the relative internet privacy of my own blog that both conversations occurred. But those things are both parts of how I enjoy the game, and to have anyone imply that I’m somehow not as good a fan as I could be because I spent five minutes being shallow in the midst of actual analysis is offensive and, frankly, short sighted. To anyone who would judge me or anyone else for it I say “your loss” and to anyone who says that all female fans are one way or another, well, I say expand your horizons and feel free to come hang out with me and mine. We’ll show you a good time, I promise, even if we disagree.