The Truth About Being a Female Hockey Fan

To me personally, there is nothing like a hockey game. There is nothing like the combination of grace (skating) and aggression (checking, fighting, et cetera), the exhilaration of my favorite team scoring a goal, the joy of victory and the bliss of experiencing it all with fellow fans. The overwhelming majority of hockey fans I personally know are also women, which means we experience the sport through a slightly different lens. Sometimes it can be difficult to be a woman and enjoy the game because of the ways women are treated, pandered to or condescended to, and sometimes you might not hear much about that, so here are some truths about the actual experience of being a female hockey fan.

Female fans, just like male fans, often want to show their love for their favorite teams. I am happy that, in addition to shirts and jerseys made for men's sizes, there are some good-looking options that are built to better fit the different dimensions of women's bodies. However, there are also some varieties of merchandise that I think hinder the perception of women as serious fans.

For example, take this Los Angeles Kings "Champagne" jersey: adorned with sparkly studs at the neck and with the team logo in glittery purple on a black, white and champagne-colored shell, this doesn't look a thing like the actual Kings jersey or its women's version.

Similarly, the "Fair Isle" line of jerseys, introduced just in time for the holidays, looks nothing like the real thing the players wear. Compare the Chicago Blackhawks Fair Isle jersey with the premier home jersey. There are no lines of decoration that look more like they belong on the ugly sweaters your grandma keeps knitting you for Christmas. Women don't need these sorts of "special" jerseys with "feminine" touches on them and, frankly, many female fans don't want them and are insulted by them. Just give us the ones that look like the ones our favorite players wear on the ice.

Women often roll their eyes at the way we are portrayed in the ubiquitous ads that pad hockey games. Beer ads might be some of the most egregious examples of rigidly-defined "men act this way and women act this way" mores in American society. Most of them portray women as scantily-clad objects who exist merely for male pleasure and the goal of selling brewskis.

Or, ads go the other way and make territorial claims of how certain things are for men only, like Charles Barkley listing off all the "man food" he can still enjoy as a member of Weight Watchers for Men. He includes things like ribs, pizza and meatballs, things that many women also enjoy eating in spite of this stigma of them not being "for us." (Instead, we are only supposed to eat things like yogurt, salads and diet food.) Over time, these ads build up, whether consciously or not, to create an unhealthy ideal of what it means to be a man or a woman.

Speaking of what it means to be a woman, societal expectations of how women should behave contribute to the experience of being a female hockey fan. Though things are improving, many people still expect women to be quiet, docile creatures who do not use curse words or otherwise "chirp" and who certainly do not enjoy watching an intense, aggressive sport that includes fighting and physicality.

I absolutely refuse to fulfill this outmoded expectation of how women should behave! Who doesn't enjoy indulging in a little smack talk or cursing the existence of the referees when they make a bad call? Sometimes, there's this sort of primal satisfaction in watching guys check each other into the boards or take a fight down to the ice—it can provide a little relief from your own stresses without you hurting someone yourself.

Female fans also fight the perception of being less informed about the game based simply on our biology. Male arrogance of "oh, silly little girl, you don't know what you're talking about" is infuriating, insulting and incorrect, especially when many trustworthy and knowledgeable voices in the hockey world belong to women. (There need to be more women's voices in hockey, though, but honestly this rings true for basically any men's sport.) Many female fans can run circles around arrogant male fans with what they know about the sport they love.

In addition, female fans are often ridiculed if, heaven forbid, they also happen to find a player physically attractive in addition to talented. Nothing negative is said if a man thinks a famous woman is attractive and talented, but if women appreciate the total package, it's an abomination. Thing is, whatever individual people find attractive is an intensely personal, subjective business and does not deserve to be shamed. Making someone feel bad about something they cannot change does nothing constructive. Has anyone ever changed their mind about finding someone attractive based on someone childishly telling them "Ew, they're gross?" There's no point in it.

Being a sports fan is not like being in some sort of tree house with a "No Girls Allowed" sign on it. Women are passionate, devoted fans just like anyone else, and we want to be treated and respected just like anyone else. It's really as simple as that.

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Updated Monday, Feb 6, 2012