Sports stereotypes perpetuate sexism

On Friday night Safeco Field was peppered with Mariners knit beanies. The beanies were part of a promotion called “Guys’ Night Out.” When I first read about the promotion, I figured only men could buy the tickets to get the beanie. I was offended by my favorite sports team. It wasn’t fair that only men could get this free gift.

However, before the game started, I made my way to the section where the beanies were being given out and I saw a woman walk through the line and collect a beanie. I stopped the woman and asked how she got the beanie, and she said women could have also purchased the special ticket and gotten the beanie!

The weird thing is that the Mariners website says, “Spend a Friday night with the guys at Safeco Field. Get a ticket, first drink and special giveaway [the beanie] for $25 (Main Level) … the perfect price for the perfect night out for any guy.” This clearly makes the promotion sound like it was a special thing just for men. This advertising is directed at men and unfairly and falsely excludes women.

I’ve been a Mariners fan since the beginning of the 2001 season. I remember cheering when we set a record with 116 regular-season wins. I remember the “EEEEED-GAAAAAAR” chants. And through all the horrible management and promising players who have failed, I remained a fan. I saw Griffey retire, and I already have my tickets for Lou Piniella’s Mariners Hall of Fame induction. So to have been led to believe that I was excluded from a promotion solely based on my gender made me livid and ashamed to call myself a supporter of this organization.

What makes this worse is that the special promotion for women is called “Girls’ Night Out.” It’s as if we’re children. I’m 21. I’m not a girl. There are already promotions for children like “Run Around the Bases” or “Little League Day.”

Furthermore, what was the special giveaway for Girls’ Night Out? A feather boa. So while women could have potentially received a beanie on Guys’ Night Out, is it really likely that a man (or anyone who would want anything practical) would buy a ticket to receive a feather boa? Probably not. These giveaways are beyond discriminatory. A beanie is gender neutral; men and women are both sporting them these days. But a boa is something that is stereotypically feminine.

These unfair and sexist promotions are just one example of the gender prejudices that are all too present in sports. For example, while there have been more women sports reporters as of late, they’re all traditionally beautiful women. Beauty seems to be a requirement in order for women to get any attention or even a chance at respect in the sports world. Whereas all men have to do is be knowledgeable about sports, probably have formally played a sport and be a “man’s man.”

Like the sexist promotions and the requirements of women in sports, one of the worst prejudices about women and sports is the everyday assumption that women aren’t interested in sports and don’t want to talk about sports. And perhaps the worst thing about this is that I participate in discriminating against my fellow women.

So many times have men looked at me in astonishment when I know more about baseball than they do, when I know more about the Seahawks than they do, when I know more about the NBA than they do. And as frustrating as it is that they assume I wouldn’t know anything about sports, I do the same thing. I don’t think I’ve ever asked a woman what the score of the game is or what time the Mariners play. I assume that I am the only woman who knows anything about sports and is as passionate as I am.

I am sorry for that.

Instead of being a victim of the prejudice and being sucked into it, I should be treating every person as someone who may or may not be passionate about sports. I shouldn’t assume that men are knowledgeable about sports and women aren’t. But I do assume. I think most of us do. And that’s not O.K. We can’t assume that an individual is a stereotype. No one is a stereotype — we are our own person with our own interests. And yes, those interests might not be always expected.

I’ve been on the side of being underestimated and overlooked, and I’ve also participated in subjecting my fellow women to the same treatment. Changing my mindset won’t be easy, but at least I acknowledge it’s wrong. But acknowledging a prejudice isn’t enough. We need to remember that every person is a unique individual, not a perpetuation of an outdated stereotype.

The next Guys’ Night Out giveaway is a red party cup, and the next Women’s Night Out giveaway is a clutch purse. The Mariners have great promotions like “Family Night” and “Mariners Reusable Grocery Bag Day.” The gendered giveaways are only further promoting stereotypical gender roles. They can stop now.

Copy editor Kelly Pantoleon is a senior creative writing major. 

This article was posted in the section Opinion.
Kelly Pantoleon

Copy Editor Kelly Pantoleon is a senior creative writing major.