Five Struggles of Being a Female Sports Fan

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Photo by the ABC.

Not only are female athletes and sports media professionals facing challenges – so too are female sports fans.

While women seem to be gaining momentum in the world of sport, there still seems to be a negative stigma surrounding their sporting legitimacy. Conversations around the sport industry generally tend to centre around men one way or another. And it isn’t any different for fans, as unfortunately for females there isn’t a level playing field when it comes to being a supporter.

Even in today’s modern society, watching sports is still widely considered a ‘male-only’ activity. Men play sport, men commentate sport and men watch the games. Sports is a man’s thing, right?

The common misconception is that passionate and dedicated fans are the men in the crowd, but truth is us devoted female fans very much exist. Here is a list of some common phrases I’ve heard and experienced being a female sports fan over the years.

“You’re not a real fan.”

More often than not, being female is automatically associated with lacking true passion for sport. Research has shown that male sport fans perceive females as being less dedicated and serious about sport. Being a woman means people will ask you how long you’ve been a fan, why you’re a fan and may even test you with questions to prove your fandom. The matter is, female fans are constantly struggling to be taken serious by their so called ‘more committed’ male counterparts.

“You’re a girl, what do you know about sport?”

Not only are we questioned about our passion, but women are also apparently less informed about the game. We are often having to prove ourselves to be ‘true sports fans’, as people continue to test women on their sporting knowledge. It sucks that somehow your gender can determine your level of knowledge regarding the world of sport.

Photo by PerthNow.

“It’s so uncommon for a girl to like sports.”

Contrary to the belief that sport is a ‘man’s interest’, women make up a large and significant number of sport fans. In fact, one third of Australian women support an AFL club and these figures have grown every year. It’s not uncommon at all as there is a good portion of women who genuinely enjoy watching sports. The UK initiative, This Fan Girl is a positive example demonstrating the breadth of women sporting fans. This Fan Girl is devoted to the female fans who support their football clubs week after week. The campaign aims to fight the stigma that females are not a legitimate part of the sports fandom. 

“It’s so cool that you’re a girl and you’re into sports.”

Strangely, when women and girls are accepted as sporting fans, they are commonly seen as more likeable by males. So what that I like sport? Why is it so surprising that as a woman I watch and discuss sports as much as men do? Liking sport shouldn’t be considered something that sets you apart – it should just be that you like sport … and that’s it.

“You’re not following sport because you actually like it.”

I’ve been told my enthusiasm for sport is just in the hope of attracting guys or making me more desirable. Much of this is due to the media and the ways in which they portray females as being fans. Go to Google and do a simple search and it’s frustrating to see that close to half of the results are centred around physical appearance. Even more recently, these stereotypes continued to persist throughout this year’s World Cup, where media stories revolved around the sexualised images of women.Being a female fan often comes with some sort of negative response or comment when I express my love for sport. Ultimately, we just aren’t taken seriously as fans. While things may be getting better for us, we still have a long way to go to make females feel at home in the sports industry – both on and off the field. 

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