Why Can’t Women Be Passionate Sports Fans?

Katie LaPotin, Smart Girl Politics, March 6, 2013

Anyone who has ever met me (or checked out my Twitter feed at @krlapotin) knows that I am a passionate sports fan. Maybe a little too passionate

Yet, when I moved to Washington, D.C. seven and a half years ago to attend college, I quickly learned that if you were a woman you weren’t allowed to apply two labels to yourself: (a) you are conservative and (b) you are a die-hard sports fan.

You would think that, in today’s era of political correctness, it wouldn’t be taboo to be an outspoken female sports fan. But apparently it still is, despite the fact that women now make up 44 percent of football fans, 45 percent of baseball fans and 36 percent of professional men’s basketball fansaccording to research conducted by the NFL, MLB and NBA respectively.

One of the reasons that women aren’t always accepted as sports fans is because most professional sports are still played by men. Women have never played in any of the nation’s top four sports leagues – the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA – and women’s leagues such as the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League have never caught on with the American public the way their male counterparts have.

Most tellingly, Augusta National, the nation’s most prestigious golf course, only allowed its first female members last year.

Women aren’t encouraged to be Danica Patrick or Michelle Wie, both of whom were the first women ever to compete in NASCAR and the PGA, respectively. Instead, they’re often urged to consider sports filled with other women, like figure skating or gymnastics. And by the same token, they’re not supposed to become diehard sports fans either.

Being a passionate sports fan seemed completely natural to me, considering I grew up in a family – and a town – where family holidays were planned around major sporting events and the TV was left on during Sunday dinners to listen to the end of the Eagles game. So it was disconcerting at first when I moved to D.C. and people began to give me odd looks for my sports fandom, and to this day it still makes me happy when I come home and women throughout town are wearing sports gear out in public.

That doesn’t mean times aren’t a-changing. Last year, Emily Anderson and Andrei S. Markovits wrote “Sportista: Female Fandom in the United States,” a book discussing how women are becoming more passionate and knowledgeable about professional sports, even if they are still largely unaccepted as sports fans by men. And in 2010, ESPN introduced espnW, a website tailored to the female sports fan aged 18-34.

My passion for sports was passed on to me by my parents and my grandparents. I can only hope that if I am lucky enough to have a daughter that she can grow up to be a proud Philadelphia sports fan – and doesn’t have to explain or apologize for loving sports so much!

Katie LaPotin is a political strategist and writer with an extensive background in political campaigning. She has worked on and managed several campaigns at all different levels, most recently serving as the Communications Director for a top-tier Congressional race in Virginia during the 2012 cycle. Katie has also worked at both a Republican polling firm and a conservative public relations firm. Katie has a Bachelor’s Degree from American University and a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics. You can follow Katie on Twitter at @krlapotin.
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