Lu: A Damning Double Standard

by Jessica Lu | 10/1/14 6:37pm

As an Asian woman standing at a diminutive 5 feet 3 inches, no man seems to take me seriously when I tell him that I’m a hockey fan.

The reaction is almost always the same: surprise followed by scornful disbelief and condescending questions. “Yeah? Name five guys on your team.”

Honey, I can name my roster and yours.

Sometimes openly hostile, sometimes patronizing, these men share a deeply ingrained notion — as a woman, there’s no way I’m a “real” sports fan.

Many men seem to believe that women can only enjoy sports on a superficial level, that our only possible motivation is the eye candy. Apparently all we care about is the enticing visual of a man in uniform, a motivation that is somehow something to condemn.

Even moving past the blatant sexism of such skepticism, the argument is baseless — there really isn’t all that much that’s sexually appealing about a hockey game to me (a heterosexual woman). But even if a woman is in it only for the eye candy, for the ass and abs, it should be of no concern to anyone else.

The thing is, it’s not uncommon for men to openly sexualize women. It’s rarely questioned. While this is a huge problem — women are human beings, not objects — an issue we rarely consider is the lack of reciprocity. If men sexualize women and police their sexuality, women should not be demonized or ridiculed for doing the same to men.

That insidious idea — a double standard indicative of a massive power imbalance between males and non-males — is at the root of this whole “women aren’t real sports fans” debate. It somehow simply isn’t acceptable for women to sexualize men the way men have sexualized women.

When a woman sexualizes a man, she is slapped with dirty labels and called shallow, a slut. When a man does the same — or worse — to a woman, many people write it off and say he is just “being a dude.”

Turn on your TV and watch a few commercials. What do you see? Women in tight, short skirts. Women with plunging necklines. Women engaging in blatantly sexual acts until they themselves are the product, not the things they’re selling.

Are men sexualized in the same way? Very rarely, because the sexualization of men is something we seem to find patently ridiculous. BuzzFeed posted a video this March demonstrating just how silly it seems to have men portrayed in advertising the way that women are. Yet the phenomenon persists and likely will continue because of a simple advertising truth: sexualizing women sells. Problematic or not, it’s an undeniable truth.

People don’t point fingers at men at Lingerie Football League games and say, “You’re not a true football fan!” Men aren’t crucified for going to powderpuff football games just to leer at the female players. Male fans of women’s beach volleyball aren’t called into question. Why is it different for women?

What, a woman who can appreciate the physical attributes of an athlete isn’t a “true sports fan”? A woman can’t know the game inside out, can’t play it better than you, can’t crunch numbers and spit out facts? Women are smart, women are strong — and women are also sexual beings. We can find athletes sexy if we want to. Putting aside issues of objectification, there shouldn’t be a double standard for the way women look at men.

But honestly, at the end of the day, I wish I wasn’t sitting here writing this column. I wish I didn’t have to worry about getting slapped with labels. I wish that others would see me for what I am — just a girl and her hockey game.