This whole series of blogs started with a conversation between Mimsie and myself. She had written a blog about fangirls, and her defence of them challenged me and forced me to view myself as a supporter in a new light. How was I seen? Could I fit the definition of a fangirl? How did the male Gooners I interact with perceive me? As I began trying to figure out answers to these questions I reached out to fellow female Gooners whom I respected and asked them to write about their thoughts and experiences. Mimsie as well wrote an excellent blog on her thoughts and experiences here, from which I will shamelessly quote as I attempt to explain my thoughts.
As I thought about my experiences as a fan, I discovered that it wasn’t about my gender, my preferred midfield, or how much I wanted Arsene as our coach that was important to me. What I wanted from interaction with fellow fans was a sense a community, a place to be heard, to listen, to be challenged and grow as a supporter.
I realized that I have never made my gender an issue. I had never thought of myself as being different to any relatively new Arsenal fan. I love our team with a passion and with every passing year, my knowledge grows. Last season when I had the incredible fortune of travelling to London and watching the season-changing 5-2 NLD, I didn’t view myself as a female surrounded by male supporters. I felt like I had come home. I wasn’t excluded; I was embraced, maybe a bit too roughly while being pounded on the back with excitement, but I wasn’t complaining.
As in the quote below I had viewed my fan experience as ordinary until I was reminded by others that I wasn’t:
“It’s an extraordinarily unordinary fan experience, as far as I’m concerned. Which is fine, seeing as I’m just another fan. Every so often, though, I’m reminded — by blog posts, tweets, off-hand remarks — that this isn’t exactly true. Every so often, you come across a comment that feels like a slap in the face. Because women don’t actually like sports, it’s assumed. Women only care about how hot the players are, not how well they play. Only men can really appreciate football. And therefore men are better fans.”
I mentioned in my introductory blog that recently had my first experience of being told I wasn’t a ‘good enough’ fan based on gender, and while it was shocking and hurtful, it did cause to me to grow as a fan. I hated being degraded, I hated the insinuation that I was stupid and most of all I hated feeling like an outsider when Arsenal has felt like home. The worst moment happened later. While I was sitting up at night stewing over how someone could pass such a judgement, I realized that I have been that person.
I am a hypocrite. I have judged other Gooners based on their opinions, I have called other female supporters fangirls, I have mocked and called into question the support of those who think Wenger should be replaced. I have made other Gooners feel the way a man made me feel and it’s not okay.
Once again Mimsie explains my thoughts better than I can:
“It’s ugly, this hierarchical code that expresses itself as the need to put down a fellow human being in order to feel our own self-worth. Either be the best, or at least make sure there is someone still lower than you on the ladder, and make it clear that you are superior to because of reasons x, y, and z.”
It’s sad that we’ve been conditioned to believe such a lie, because superiority is a double-edged sword. The constant drive to prove your worth means you are never actually sure that you’re worth anything at all. The name of this game is insecurity itself.”
Although I didn’t enjoy being judged and questioned based on a gender-biased view, it helped me to expose some of the flaws in my own self and because of that, I will transform what was meant to be a hurtful and belittling experience and change myself into a better woman, better person and better Gooner.
I may not agree with your opinions, I may not care for your personality, style of writing or tweets, but I will treat with you the respect that all fans deserve. When we met in a pub or hopefully someday at The Emirates again, if you are a Gooner you are welcome to sit with me.