It's a great time for women in sport. And by great I mean still horribly disrespected and woefully underpaid and given a tiny fraction of the media attention that men's sport receives but, you know. Marginally better than it used to be. So more accurately, it is an approaching-the-realm of OK time for women in sport. Hooray! Feminism has won! Everyone take 70% of a nap!
Serena is out there destroying tennis opponents by day and tearing up the dance floor at Beyoncé’s birthday by night. The Olympics offered us our regular reminder that female gymnasts are our closest approximation of actual superheroes. And last week’s nationally televised women's AFL game drew the highest ratings of any Saturday night AFL game this year, proving that women are a dominant force in the much coveted “people who'd rather stay in and watch telly on the weekend” demographic.
Despite these and many other significant women-in-sport victories, men still have a hard time believing women enjoy the athletic arts. Of course, not all women do enjoy them (just as #NotAllMen do). But a recent study suggests that between one third and half of all viewers of sport are women, with the number fluctuating depending on the sport involved. That's loads! And those figures are from 2015 so there's a strong chance the numbers have already risen. We’re in a post-Lemonade world. Anything is possible.
Yes, we lady types are capable of spending just as much of our emotional energy caring about the movement of a ball through space or a body through water as men do. I live in a female dominated household in London and during Wimbledon we had to set up two screens in our living room so we could watch the Euros at the same time. For in this, the year of our Lord Serena 2016, it is possible for women to be as stupidly obsessive as men. What a time to be alive and in possession of ESPN.
So men, if you're thinking of patronising women when discussing sport, might I suggest...don't? There's every chance that, in fact, a female fan will know more about the sport in question than you because we've had to become experts just to be taken even vaguely seriously by the lairy ladsy gatekeepers of fandom. The majority of conversations we have with men about sport become weird condescending trivia tests- ample knowledge and the ability to sigh into our beers are our best weapons.
I understand that this is a major shift in attitude for some dudes so I’m here to help ease your transition from Drooling Sport Bros to Dry-mouthed Sports Men. I hereby present:
The 2016 Guide To Chatting To Women About Sport Without Descending Into Condescending Douchebaggery
Don’t Say: “I bet you just watch (preferred sport) for the hot guys”. This is such a boring thing to say! For starters, not all women are sexually interested in men and not all sportspeople are men. And women have working internet connections. We don't need to watch sport to get off any more than dudes do. Also, some athletes are hot and that's fine but it's not, like, their most important attribute. If you think it is, might a posit that YOU are not a good sport fan?
Instead Say: “How do you like your team’s chances this year?”
Don't Say: “Did your boyfriend/Dad/brother/uncle/third cousin/miscellaneous male relative or friend or acquaintance make you support that team?” This is never asked in a manner which implies the guy wants to hear a charming story about you eating your first footy pie as a toddler while bonding with your dad. It is asked in a manner which implies your tiny woman brain is incapable of developing interests independent of the men in your life.
Instead Say: “You guys are having a tough injury run this season” because every fan thinks their team is cursed and this leaves the floor open for whinging.
Don't Say: “Let me explain X rule”. We know the rule. Zip your damn pants up.
Instead Say: “Is it my round? Even if it's not I'll shout you a drink as a small but meaningful protest against the pay gap.”
Don't Say: “OK but be honest. You mainly watch sport to impress men right?” What's weird about this question is that the guys asking it don't seem impressed so if that was our strategy, we’d be failing miserably. What's also weird is that men think everything we do is geared towards impressing them when so few of them are worth impressing in the first place.
Instead Say: “David Pocock seems like a good bloke.”
Don’t Say: “You'd rather be shopping though ay.” I can actually browse ASOS on my phone at half time, so this isn't an either/or scenario. It is OK to like dresses and AFL and to read a book then enjoy some basketball and to cry watching Carol then scream your damn lungs out at an Arsenal Ladies game (R.I.P our season though). Give it a go.
Instead Say: “May I borrow your Carol DVD? I have some quiet reflection to do.”
This guide is by no means exhaustive but should help you through most casual sport chats. And when in doubt, try this fun “talking to female sport fans” hack: treat them like people. Even if they support Collingwood.