“So, is one of them your boyfriend or husband?”
Take a hint, guys: this is not the way to begin a conversation with the girl you see sitting in the stands. When the gentleman who posed this question found out that I wasn’t there to see my boyfriend or husband play—let alone to try and snag one—he swiftly switched the subject to the dedication and loyalty of the Mariners fan base.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t the first frustrating conversation of my morning. Earlier in the day, another stranger asked me why I was going to watch the Mariners. Before I could reply, the answer dawned on him. “Oh, I know why you’re going. You just like watching the players. I get it.”
You can stick “Are you dating the players?” right up there with “Are you pregnant?” on the list of questions you should never ask women. It’s not just the insulting assumption that a woman must be romantically involved with a player to enjoy baseball, but the idea that she needs to explain why she’s a fan before she can fully be accepted into the inner sanctum of the Male Sports World.
Over the past two years of my baseball fandom, I’ve witnessed many instances of discrimination against female fans and writers. Most recently, it appeared in the form of an article from SeedSpitters, titled “Baseball knowledge and an appreciation for significant others.” In it, the author applauds women for “hopping on the Giants bandwagon on behalf of their men,” and confidently proclaims that while “men constantly yearn for baseball knowledge,” most women do not.
Never mind that he is oblivious to the 47% of female fans in MLB. Never mind that talented women writers make consistently brilliant contributions to sports sites like SB Nation, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Never mind that the possession or lack of certain body parts doesn’t have any bearing on a person’s ability to enjoy, understand, or analyze baseball.
What makes me most upset, whether a so-called sportswriter is rejoicing in his girlfriend’s “attempt to understand baseball” or another fan is questioning my relationship status, is that instances like this place us back on defense. In order to be taken seriously as fans, we have to repeatedly prove our knowledge of the game and our loyalty to a team.
Even if our dedication appears sincere, the assumption remains that our love for baseball must stem from a desire to please our boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers, or male friends. More often than not, we actually have to say the words, “No, I’m not dating a player. No, I don’t watch baseball because the players are cute.”
For the men who profess to be delighted by this sudden and strange influx of women in the sports world, here’s a novel idea: try talking to me about the game instead of gaping at the fact that I’m sitting next to you in the stands. Until then, asking me which player I find the most attractive will get you nowhere.