Because I was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, and because the woo-woo liberal arts college I attended didn’t have a football team, the Oregon Ducks are my preferred college football team. But at their game against the University of Washington Huskies on Saturday night, I was pretty embarrassed by my fellow sports fan, when this sign was shown for a split-second on national TV.
Ha! Get it!? Washington sucks because their fans are fat. Har har!
Sigh. It’s time to talk about body-snarking, objectification, and sexism in sports. Again.
I’ve gone to bat for football before on this site for multiple reasons, including the fact that college ball drums up a lot of money for women’s sports, thanks to Title IX, and that, you know, I love it. And as a female football fan, I’ve seen more than my share of problematic behavior from fans (usually drunk ones), much of which I’ve waved off, both out of love of the game, and out of pure exhaustion with being an unhappy harpy about everything.
This, though, is different. This sign took thought. This sign required a grown man to sit down with a marker and do some serious coloring. This sign also demonstrates a deep current of objectification of and disrespect for the female body. Because–and here’s the biggest bummer about it–a lot of guys thought it was super-funny. Because at the end of the day, male sports fans still think sexist humor and fat-shaming is hilarious.
This photo was posted to Facebook by a friend of mine who is also a moderator for the college football subreddit where it was initially shared. Several people (mostly women, included myself) commented that it was sad or disappointing. But at least one man noted that he thought it was funny. So did the people on Reddit. So did the user who uploaded it, because he seemed pretty proud. ESPN didn’t seem to think so, because they cut away quickly. Either that, or they just didn’t want to deal with any backlash.
Feminists get finger-wagged for being humorless a lot–I’m sure I will for writing about this particular sign–but it’s mostly, I think, because we don’t think having female bodies be the go-to for laughs is very fair or cool. Especially in a sport where women are only permitted to participate through a past-time that could easily be viewed as the acme of female objectification.
Is the sign itself a little clever for using a play-on words? Of course. Does that negate the fact that its sole purpose is to body-snark an entire state of women? No. No, it does not. It also doesn’t negate the fact that sexism and body-bashing as a method of humor run deep in our culture, in sports and, especially, in football.
The misogyny in sports can be seen in every beer commercial that targets their demographic, which has been researched by advertisers and shown to work. It’s evident in the way women who enjoy spots get talked down to, explained to, and, of course, hit on at every possible turn. It’s obvious in the lack of coverage and general disregard for women’s sports. It’s demonstrated time and time again by the basic assumption that women hate sports, men love them, and that that’s just the Venus and Mars difference in all of us and it’s it funny? So let’s all go make sandwiches for the boys and gossip our way through Super Bowl Sunday!
It’s so pervasive, at this point, that it’s just accepted. Commercials are sexist (and, often, homophobic, but that’s a story for another time). Fans are drunk jerks to female attendees. Women just talk over games, they don’t watch them. And women who do watch sports or play them are automatically deemed fat lesbians with nothing to offer the world other than to be the butt of jokes. And, when you need an easy quip, either equate a team or player to a female or some kind of female-attributed behavior or appearance, or say something derogatory toward females that are somehow related to the team or player in question.
The real problem, though, isn’t that female sports fans aren’t complaining enough. We are. The problem is that male sports fans keep buying the beer, hitting on the women, likening women to weakness, and making (and laughing at) signs like this.
Image via Reddit