(photo: Blackhawks.com)

fan-based campaign to make a more female-friendly atmosphere at Blackhawks games has made some progress. But it’s only a crawl toward welcoming women into the wonderful world of sports.

First thing’s first, the Blackhawks’ CEO John McDonough announced Aug. 13th that they’ll be more femme-focused this upcoming season, doing away with talented organist Frank Pellico’s rendition of “The Stripper” played only when a woman shoots the puck during intermission.

“We have to listen,” McDonough told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We have to be aware. We have to react when appropriate — not overreact, but react. We take all of this very seriously. We have had to take a look at every single element, every aspect of our operation, our hockey business from A to Z. I certainly have read the stories, and I understand the sensitive nature of all of that.”

“The Stripper,”  (David Rose, instrumental) is a tune hockey fans will probably recognize from Ned Braden’s striptease scene here:

Slap Shot is hilarious. It’s a hockey lover’s comedic film gem. It’s also 37 years old and Rated R for sex, nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol/drugs/smoking, and frightening or intense scenes. So, save for a few key moments, it isn’t 100 percent family-friendly.

That aside, the song wouldn’t be as big of a problem if it were played for all of the intermission’s Shoot-the-Puck participants. Instead, it has always been played for the woman, which doesn’t stick to Slap Shot, and doesn’t leave female fans feeling like they’re in on the joke.

Thus began the #BanTheStripper media campaign (not calling the participant a stripper, calling for a song-change) and the following response from the Blackhawks organization.

“I think you’ve heard the last of Frank Pellico playing ‘The Stripper,'” McDonough said.

That was a small part of three goals pushed by fans, though. Some have more likelihood for change than others.

The Blackhawks haven’t mentioned changing the uniforms of their Bud Light Ice Crew, which is another request and hot-button issue in arenas. (Personally, I’m comfortable with whatever the crew is comfortable wearing.)

It seems the Carolina Hurricanes are taking a position to make male and female fans happy, at least when ice cleanup occurs. They’ve recruited a male and female crew and plan to have a pants and jacket uniform for members.

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I’m ecstatic organizations are listening to women.

“As our franchise’s fan base has exploded, we’re hearing and we’re witnessing and we have to evolve with all of that, and we have to change and we have to address it,” McDonough said of the Blackhawks considering changes. “We hear the feedback. We respect it. We’re distilling it right now.

“We want to be respectful to everybody.”

That attitude isn’t passed on to their fans, though. Just check the comment sections from media posts regarding the “The Stripper” change, which range from calling the girls championing progress ugly and jealous to far worse.

A Tangled (World Wide) Web

I wrote for a short time for another blog. It wasn’t a good fit for me, though I did meet some other great writers.

What troubled me during that time was a post in one of our brainstorming forums was about etiquette in the locker room. Only, it wasn’t directed at all of the writers. It specifically addressed the female bloggers, as if they’d all suddenly become “fan-girls” and wouldn’t be able to conduct themselves around professional athletes. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they had a problem with a female writer in the past; but again, the proper recourse would be setting standards for all writers.

We’re not on the set of “Anchorman.” Female reporters have carried their notebooks and recorders into male-dominated fields for quite some time now. I, myself, have spent plenty of time at crime scenes, court rooms, and government offices. They aren’t always welcoming and comfortable places for women, but we’re there doing our jobs–jobs we’re qualified for. There’s no need for condescension.

As a Blackhawks fan, I’m part of a rapidly-growing fan base. My gripe here is more in the range of no longer getting cheap seats and less with broken axles on a bandwagon. I like my parades with millions of people and lots of confetti.

However, much bandwagon complaining revolves around a “Two Cups, No Girls!” mentality. “This is sports! We like our women dumb and scantily-clad!” (That’s the unofficial motto I picture, only with more spelling errors.)

A recent blog allegedly embracing the bandwagon still managed to roll its eyes at female fans.

Sorry, folks, but the wagon has seen a lady boom–with 38 percent of its base lacking the Y-chromosome, according to Crains Chicago Business.

It’s not just Chicago, though. Take a spin on Barstool and try not to be sickened. They’re notorious for being offensive–and not all that accurate, but that’s another story.

When some fans fought the San Jose Sharks’ idea to update an Ice Crew, complete with sexy “Ice Girls,” Barstool chose the lovely headline below.

BARSTOOL

Their material is nothing, if not consistent. Googling “Barstool” and “Fatties” showed a number of name-calling results for posts when writers would be bent-out-of-shape that anyone might fight their potential for eye-candy. (Barstool, bar-tools, let me do you a favor. Female fans are here to stay; writing like this–you just look like your keyboards are mightier than your, ahem, swords.)

Fantasy Sports and Video Games

ESPN recently launched espnW, with a “mission to serve women as fans and athletes.”

Under the mantra “one letter says a lot,” the site says espnW.com is providing  “an engaging environment that offers total access to female athletes and the sports they play, takes fans inside the biggest events, and shares a unique point of view on the sports stories that matter most to women.”

Their unique view on Fantasy Football, however, was using engagement (and other relationship statuses) to be engaging. Prime picks are “marriage material,” and less reliable players are “one-night stands.”

Just under “marriage material,” is “boyfriend material,” which comes with the explanation, “shows flashes of being elite, but no ring yet,” and includes players’ looks as part of their sell.

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I’m all for cute puns. But, again with the condescension–I think a woman could handle basic Fantasy Football terminology. They’ve since added an editor’s note that they won’t be using their marriage material wording in the future.

Then there’s EA Sports’ NHL 15 video game. Considering how many of us women participated in the voting campaigns for their cover athlete, you’d think we’d garner a little respect. But, instead, women are fodder for selfies, not knowing what offsides is and hoping to catch a hottie player in the background.

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It makes me miss Blades of Steel.

Speaking of video games, since my expertise is limited to the aforementioned Nintendo classics, GongShow’s Saucer King on my phone and the occasional over-competitive Wii Tennis spree, I’ll mention someone more knowledgeable about the topic.

Anita Sarkeesian, a Canadian-American media critic and gaming blogger, who authors the video series Tropes vs. Women and video blog “Feminist Frequency” is an expert on how women are treated in gaming–often as sexy backdrops or objects to do awful things to.

Sarkeesian and her family were violently, disturbingly threatened and forced to leave their homes.

 

Fans, a band of brothers?

Being a female sports fan, we’re often damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

To really “be a fan,” we should know everything about the team and be prepared to recite stats, but only when asked. Tell someone you’re a Blackhawks fan and be prepared to be asked to spell “Hjalmarsson” or list players signed prior to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. For the love of all that is sacred on the ice, do not say “Patrick Sharp.” Yes, he has great stats, but he also has great hair, so you’ll be a Puck Bunny, or worse.

On the other hand, we should also sit there and look pretty.

Last season, I was stuck behind a group of men who seemingly were only at the game to drink beer and heckle Blues fans (don’t get me wrong, we all want to heckle Blues fans *wink*) at GAME SIX in the playoffs.

You know what I wanted to do at that game? I wanted to watch every single moment. I didn’t want to blink. It was my first in-person playoff game. I timed any restroom breaks so I wouldn’t miss a single play.

At one point, the officials signaled the delayed call of a penalty. We had the puck, so goaltender Corey Crawford skated to the bench for the man-advantage. The fans in front of me started screaming at Corey now, saying how dumb he was, etc. So, I leaned forward and quietly explained that once the other team touches the puck, the play is dead, so with Crawford skating off, we could throw another guy on the ice and try to score.

You’d have thought I said something foul about their mother.

Too sensitive?

Am I too sensitive? Are we all too sensitive? Maybe.

Years ago, when I played high school softball and we had to build our own fence and care for our own field while the boys got pristine facilities, I accepted that men’s athletics brought in more money and deserved better fields. When we bought our own tennis uniforms, I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t understand Title IX enough then to be frustrated like I am now when I see a major sports brand like Warrior mock it.

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But now, I’m an adult. I understand that I’m paying just as much as the guy next to me for my cable bills, my hockey sweaters that don’t come in as many players’ names (or shirts that simply cost more), and my seats in the arena. I want to enjoy the experience, too. The NHL can do things to improve that experience, according to a poll done by The Hockey News. I can be offended and not go to the game I love. Or, I can educate and try appeal for changes in areas that don’t impact the sanctity of the game.

Even if none of that mattered, a lot does matter about making women feel safe and welcome. Take a look at the comments of some of the news stories or blogs about any of the topics above. Try not to be offended. Take a look at the #yesallwomen campaign without your defensive cap on and see what life’s really like in our skirts, skinny jeans, and yes, uniforms.

We, as a society, are better than a lot of this. And awareness for sports organizations, brands, fellow fans, and role models (like those on the ice, who, not surprisingly, have done a pretty good job here while the worlds around them slip and slide) are just as good of a place to start as any.

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Great article.

    Just a quick question, could you expand on this? “The Blackhawks haven’t mentioned changing the uniforms of their Bud Light Ice Crew, which is another request and hot-button issue in arenas. (Personally, I’m comfortable with whatever the crew is comfortable wearing.)”

    As a Sharks fan, had to spend a lot of time thinking about the Ice Girl issue over the summer, and I guess the stance I ended up with is that the uniforms should be able to be chosen by the person. Doesn’t make sense to have the guys required to wear a a full long-sleeved uniform while the girls were required to have a midriff….but, if the Sharks gave the Ice Crew a variety of uniform options and the females chose to wear the more revealing ones, that’d seem OK to me.

  2. @John — the Blackhawks’ Ice Crew is now wearing black uniforms — form fitting pants and jackets. They’re still very flattering while also practical.

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