As we celebrate the Capitals' 40th anniversary, let's take a moment to...
Female Fans – the Invisible Majority. Also, Cookies!
If I mention the words “Cookie Exchange” and “female fans” some stereotypes probably come to mind. One of the most visually striking is the pink, stylized (and sparkly) jerseys. After all, women who watch hockey are obviously all about the gender-norm, right? Wrong.
Jeans and jerseys were the order of the day, and sensibly so. But of the fifty women who RSVP’d for today’s Scarlet Caps event, there was not a single pink jersey in the bunch. Perrault, Green, and our illustrious leader were all represented in the sea of red.
To clarify, I’m a strong believer in choice. Some women have a taste for pink, and there’s an argument to be made for the fact that buying any jersey is a reflection of one’s engagement as a fan – $65 for a clearance jersey isn’t nothing, and tack on another $30-50 for customization. Personally, I don’t think lavender Hockey Fight’s Cancer jerseys are any more offending to the eyes than their camouflage counterparts.
There’s also an argument to be made for appealing to the segments of the female fanbase who are heavily into gender-norming: they’re not already spending money on the team, so it makes sense to attempt to court them. New market share is golden in the advertising business.
My point in all of this is that pink jerseys (and stylized women’s wear in general) are eye-catching at the best of times, and memorable in part due to their active deviation from the accepted norms of the fanbase. With the tendency to take the visible examples of a population – in this case, female fans – and apply judgment to the whole group, it leads to some unflattering assumptions in a hurry. A couple of weeks ago, Ms. Conduct published a post about taking the Pink Out of the Rink, talking about some of the negative connotations and stereotypes that can come from being a female fan. For a prime example of those stereotypes, all one needs to do is look at a DC Sports Dudes post from last April, which stated that only 0.01% of female fans were “good” fans.
Gender-targeted marketing has the unfortunate effect of reinforcing those stereotypes, especially when it combines with events that tie into functions that our culture historically associates with women (cooking, for example). When I mentioned to a friend on my women’s team that I was going to the cookie exchange, she scoffed and made a dismissive comment about the fact that this was above and beyond the general tendency of Scarlet Caps to market to girly-girls. Now, it should be noted that she’s a veteran of the Caps marketing system, having been to Hockey ‘N Heels, and her assurances were the reason I made the decision to attend last year.
I have to admit, I was wary of the fans I’d find at the event today. Despite my tendency to rail about competency of the average female fan, “bring baked goods and drink mimosas while watching practice” has a bit of a socialite ring to it, and we all have our prejudices. But as stated above, the crowd who turned out to watch the boys goof around on the ice today were members of the 90-95% invisible majority of female fans. The ones who wear home jerseys and shoulder their way through the crowds at the Verizon Center like the seasoned pros that they are, and who can discuss ELCs and waivers as casually as the weather.
In the end, the appeal and value of Scarlet Caps for most of us isn’t that it’s “Hockey from a Woman’s Perspective.” It’s that their gatherings are places where female fans don’t have to worry about being judged as female first, fan second.
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