[Ed Note: In response to yesterday's post, I wanted to get a take from one of our readers who is much closer to this situation than I am. What follows is SlapshotGoal's take on the situation. Thanks so much to Michelle for this perspective. You can follow Michelle on Twitter @Slapshotg0al]
My first reaction when I read the facebook post that the Red Wings were starting an all-female fan club was "Oh no, are they serious? Why would they do this?" I had a flash back to the "While the Men Watch" tragedy, and I know I’m not the only one who did.
Before I delve any further into this topic I want to first make it clear that I in no way claim to represent the majority of female Hockey fans. I can only offer up my personal opinion based upon my experiences, observations, research and education.
I’ve read comments and postings other places where female Hockey fans are treated differently. They are told that they don’t know what they’re talking about or should go back to shopping/cooking/gossiping/insert gender stereotype here. In those circumstances I can maybe understand how they may look forward to having a place where they can feel safe and comfortable discussing and learning about hockey. A place where they don’t have to worry about male fans telling them they don’t know what they’re talking about or have no place because they’re women and couldn’t possibly understand or love the game like they (men) do. I can see how they might embrace a group of others who may have experienced similar things and can relate to each other.
There is a perceived stereotype associated with most groups with "women" or "female" in the title. Whether we realize it or not, we often assume that because something is for women specifically or exclusively that it’s somehow less legitimate or credible. I’m not saying anyone reading this would think this way because I’ve experienced the contrary, especially around here, but if the goal is to promote Hockey, equality and bring the sexes together for the good of the game and the fans, then isn’t this counterproductive? Isn’t this a slap in the face of all the female Hockey fans who have worked to show that we are just as capable, passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated as the male fan base? We have quite a few knowledgeable, respected female Hockey fans around, and the places I frequent (WiiM, TPL, Twitter, KK, NOHS) are very respectful and treat fans as fans; gender isn’t a factor and doesn’t make any difference. I love the phrase J.J. used in his post, "If you can cheer, you can cheer". If you’re a Hockey fan, then you can be a fan; that’s all that matters. Hockey brings us all together as fans and I see no reason to separate us. I wouldn’t expect to see an "All-male Hockey group" and I don’t understand why gender needs to have anything to do with being a Hockey fan.
The way they have thus far promoted the group sounds demeaning to female Hockey fans. I’m holding back full judgment until I know more, and I’m hoping the Wings organization responds to the requests for additional information and explanation; because I don’t want to think that the Wings organization would intentionally do anything to encourage or feed into the stereotype that women can’t be as knowledgeable, passionate, dedicated and pure in their love of Hockey.
Part of what makes this such a big issue is not that a group of women might get together or socialize because of Hockey, but that it is being put together and promoted by the Wings Organization itself. Let me see if I can clarify what I mean. A while back I was invited to join a small group of female Wings fans who created the group as a place for positive Hockey discussions, and I happily accepted the invitation. I already knew one of the members and that she was very knowledgeable and loved Hockey, and I was familiar with another and I respect both their opinions and knowledge. I didn’t join the group because they were women, but rather because I knew there would be positive, knowledgeable discussions about the Wings and Hockey in general. This is an example of a few people coming together (who just happen to be women) because of common interests; in this case the Red Wings. In my opinion that’s a very different situation than the Red Wings organization coming out with an all-female fan club. This implies (whether they intended it or not) that the focus is on the "female" portion of the group more than the "Red Wings and Hockey" portion. It also seems to imply (intentional or not) that Women are somehow not smart enough or "good" enough fans to be a part of the "regular" Hockey groups that may be predominantly men.
When I joined Winging it in Motown, it was the first time I had actively participated in online Hockey discussion and I admit I was unsure exactly what to expect. At first I didn’t want people to know I was a female fan because I didn’t want to have to deal with any ignorant/sexist people and it was easier if no one knew. I didn’t want my thoughts, opinions, observations or comments to be looked on as less valid or important than anyone else’s. It soon became obvious that my concern was completely unwarranted, and the group we have here is amazing in their acceptance. This is the kind of group that should be promoted, a place where Hockey fans come to talk, discuss, argue, learn, ask questions, and get knowledgeable honest answers without being insulted because they don’t know something (or are a woman).
My personal Hockey experiences have been greatly enhanced by surrounding myself with mixed Hockey company and I greatly enjoy the discussions, interactions, opinions and perspectives I get from such a diverse group of people. By discussing with, listening to and learning from fans of different genders, ages, nationalities, locations, vocations etc… I’ve learned a ton in my short Hockey career. I’ve been blessed with a great Hockey community who accepts me as a Hockey fan (and a new Hockey player), regardless of my gender, age or how relatively new I still am to the sport. I find it disheartening to think that there are fans out there who may not have the pleasure and enriching experience of all that they can learn and experience in the Hockey community because they may limit themselves or buy into the notion that a female fan is different than a male fan. I have no desire whatsoever to join their group, but I also don’t want to think less of anyone who does. My intent is not to pass judgment on anyone, or tell them the "right" way to be a fan; if I do that, I’m no better than discriminatory people who might drive some women to want a group such as this in the first place. I would however encourage any potential group members not to think of themselves as "female fans" but rather as Hockey fans.
I’m a Hockey fan and more importantly I’m a Red Wings fan; that’s all that matters.