A new game plan: Let women enjoy sports

A student urges her peers to fight back against misogyny in the field of sports and foster a more welcoming environment where all people can embrace their interests.


As a born and bred Philadelphia Eagles fan, Kaylee Tener knows the game of football — but that doesn’t stop the men around her from questioning her legitimacy as a sports fan.

“I’ll hang out with a lot of guys when I’m watching [football] and it’s a lot of like, something will happen on the TV and they’ll turn to me and be like, ‘Oh, well, that’s what this was,’” said Tener, a freshman health professions major. “I’ve been watching since I was in second grade. I know what a turnover is, thank you.”

Although men typically dominate the football sphere, female viewership, particularly among young women, has risen tremendously throughout the 2023-24 season, a bump largely attributed to Taylor Swift’s September emergence at Kansas City Chiefs games. During Swift’s second NFL appearance, 2 million more female viewers watched compared to the previous three games, NBC reported

Swift’s presence and the rise in female viewership have also led to an increase in sexism and misogyny on social media, with many male NFL fans angered by coverage of Swift and the influx of women football fans in their space. Viral online posts disapproved of women who were only watching football because they were fans of the singer-songwriter, and Swift herself was accused of affecting the Chiefs’ performance. Social media posts compared Swift to Yoko Ono and blamed her for distracting her boyfriend Travis Kelce, causing his performance to suffer on the field.

Women deserve more respect as sports fans, and while it may be a divisive field right now, they should continue to participate in football fanship despite the sexist opinions of others. Temple students are undoubtedly a massive part of sports culture as residents of Philadelphia, and women must be included and equally valued in that realm regardless of how they became fans.

Women have progressively broken into exclusively male fields throughout history, like politics, business and STEM, but the sports sphere is seemingly behind the curve in embracing all genders with open arms. 

Progress has been made, but sports are still an unwelcoming environment that discourages women and non-binary people from participating and attending, said Elizabeth Taylor, an assistant sports and recreation management professor.

“Still a lot of the perception, especially if we’re talking about men’s sports and men’s professional sports, is that sport is a space for men, and that is in terms of athletes, coaching and administrative opportunities, fandom, all of that sort of thing,” Taylor said.

As more women push into the field of sports fanship, some men may feel threatened or unhappy with the cultural change shifting. However, they should be mindful of the way their reaction can impact those surrounding them. Taylor Swift likely won’t see or hear their comments, but the women in their real lives will.

“I think the implications are a lot closer to home, in the way that the girls and women in their lives perceive the comments that are being made,” Elizabeth Taylor said. 

Women who experience sex discrimination, like being insulted, were three times more likely to report clinical depression and more likely to develop poorer mental health and life satisfaction, according to a September 2019 study by the University College of London. 

Hearing these negative and misogynistic tropes can be incredibly damaging for women. Letting everyone enjoy sports and pushing for a more diverse and inclusive environment can have tremendous benefits for both sports ratings, sales and followers, as well as individual well-being. 

All people, not just men, should have the opportunity to enjoy sports culture and reap the social and mental advantages it provides. 

Being a sports fan can support a healthier and happier brain, according to Psychology Today. Learning the rules and intricacies of a sport improves overall brain health and cognitive functioning, as well as enhances mood and self-image, improves feelings of loneliness and fosters a sense of belonging. 

Women in sports fandoms are often confronted with men doubting they understand the rules or what is happening during games, which further perpetuates misogyny and can prevent women from exploring their interests.

“It’s okay to not know everything as a woman going into this male-dominated space, and there is the expectation that if you’re going to claim that you like this thing that men like, then you have to know everything,” Tener said.

There shouldn’t be expectations for women to know everything when that same restriction isn’t in place for men who are casual viewers. Whether they’ve been watching sports since childhood or recently piqued an interest in football because of Taylor Swift, female students should continue to embrace what they like and not feel discouraged by the stereotypes placed on them.

Madison Trout runs track at Temple and believes society as a whole needs to be more open to inclusion and equality for female athletes and sports fans. 

“I think it just starts with giving us more resources, making us feel more supported, giving us a voice to get out there and also inspire other young girls too, so they can feel like they have a place in sports,” said Trout, a sophomore advertising major. 

Creating a safer and more welcoming environment for women and girls who watch and play sports is the first step in improving visibility, challenging gender stereotypes and empowering all people to pursue their passions and try new things.

Women deserve equal recognition in the realm of sports and all students have the responsibility to challenge stigma and fight for a more diverse environment where all individuals are safe and supported on and off the field.

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