For all the substantial progress of feminism, the larger culture is still awash in portrayals of women that hew closely to the long-standing stereotypes, that push us to think about ourselves in terms of our attractiveness, our sexual appeal, our fashion sense, our youth, etc etc. These issues intrude, one way or another, into almost every facet of life- into our work and the beers after, into our family life and our relationships, into our education. There is always someone critiquing our bodies or our style. There is always someone trying to sell us a miracle skin cream or a pair of shoes or fucking yogurt or whatever on the grounds that it will make us more acceptably and attractively feminine. Now, we’re adults and we can handle it, but sometimes, frankly, the cultural stereotypes of heteronormative femininity are a pain in the ass. Sometimes one gets pretty fucking tired of being appreciated, shamed, warned, and appealed to ‘as a woman’.
This is a fantastically written piece, and while it’s specifically about hockey and the CBC’s new (and shamefully sexist) “While the Men Watch” broadcasts, it sums up how I feel about things like Baseball Boyfriend and the Victoria’s Secret cross-branding with MLB to a tee. People like Greg Papa have jobs and get to make face noise at me on my television on the regular, but Jaymee Sire and Susan Slusser barely get any attention. I can buy this or this but not a shirt or jersey of any past Giants great in women’s sizes. Meanwhile I can take my pick of Bonds, Clark, Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Marichal, Snow, Kent, Aurilia (and probably more I’m forgetting) if I’m willing to buy a men’s size that will never quite fit the way I want to because hey, sorry, I do have tits and am not 6’ tall.
Let me be clear, I have no problem with women who like the VS gear or the other really notably girly stuff or generally want to be stereotypically feminine in their fandom. Femininity isn’t the problem. The problem is that the powers that be in major sports continually send the message that women are only allowed in the boys’ club if they either renounce their femininity entirely and always and only act like one of the guys (and correspondingly don’t expect to be acknowledged AS women and stay “cool” about any misogyny they find themselves surrounded by) or if they play by the accepted rules of femininity and look pretty and let the menfolk lead the way. Either way I, and so very many women besides me, choose, I can’t win.
(Side note that’s only marginally relevant to the above: I’ve worked in various forms of customer service and what’s called “customer loyalty” and “customer retention” in the business, and this is THE WORST business model. Of course you want to expand your market share, but it is categorically, statistically true that the best way to grow your bottom line and expand the reach of your brand is by RETAINING THE LOYAL CUSTOMERS YOU ALREADY HAVE. If you treat them well, they become free ambassadors of your brand and will bring in more new customers than even your best marketing campaigns. This is one of the core concepts that have made companies like Apple and Target so successful and is one of the foundations of Ron Johnson’s method as an executive. So not only is shit like this sexist, it’s not even good business!)