I take issue with many aspects of athletics. The willingness to place athletes on pedestals and ignore that they often behave badly. The willingness to ignore crimes to protect reputations, and status, and funding. The willingness of academic institutions to channel dollars into sports programs while other programs are buried or simply cut. The willingness of professional sports organizations to continue to objectify females by the sexualization of their bodies for the viewing pleasure of certain fans, and for their total lack in addressing violence toward women by a number of their members…and leadership.
I grew up on football. In many ways it was a connection to my dad during the time that he was disconnected from me through his alcoholism. I’ll be honest. I grew to enjoy the competition between two teams. I liked being on the winning side when the 4th quarter ended. I liked feeling the emotional connection as our ‘favorite’ teams were triumphant.
I was never very coordinated, never very good at sports. I was one of those who tended to be picked near the end during team sports in PE. Sports helped me to come out of my introverted self during junior high school. I joined the Pep Club, what many might better know as a Spirit Team, or a Booster group. We had uniforms. We went to games and chanted and cheered right along with the cheer squad. We were loud. We performed at pep assemblies, and during spirit weeks and at homecoming. I continued this role during high school as well. I would have been a miserable failure as a member of a team. I wasn’t pretty enough, or popular enough to be on the cheer squad, but I found my niche and therefore another connection.
I’ve asked myself quite often, can you be a feminist and still have a desire to be involved as a fan of sports-specifically male sports, that are often associated with violence, marginalization, oppression, sexism, classism, racism, and misogyny.
Most of the time, my feminism directs me away from the association as a fan. I simply choose not to watch in what may be a misguided protest on my part…a one-feminist silent voice declaring that I will not patronize what you stand for.
Yet, this Sunday the Superbowl will be televised. I live in Washington State, home of the Seattle Seahawks. I was astounded last year when this team went to the Superbowl, and won. I actually wanted very badly to watch that game with my dad. Had he still been living, I bet that I would have invited him to hang out on my couch. I probably wouldn’t have shared that I was grateful for the memories that I hang onto centered on football…and him.
I plan to watch the game this Sunday. I plan to enjoy the competition. I know that, underlying all that is wrong with this entire ideal, I will still feel the tug of memory, the link to good memory. In this case, my feminism is a choice to feel, to remember, and to be a part of something now that defined me then. After all, that person grew into the me who is writing this post and to ignore her, or deny her, denies how I became the woman I am today.