This week, we have assembled an all-star team of football fans (all of whom happen to be women). Friends of the show, Kris Townsend, Alex Patafio, and Stephanie Rountree, join host Gina Caison and co-producer Kelly Vines to have a conversation about what it’s like to be a woman who loves football in the South.
Our conversation covers topics big and small: our childhood connection to the sport, our experiences with other fans, prescribed roles for women on game day, toxic masculinity, mansplaining, and regional performance. While it may seem like just a game, our discussion demonstrates the complex issues associated with our favorite fall pastime.
We begin by talking about our relationship to football growing up and our current allegiances. Kelly—currently a Georgia Tech fan getting her Ph.D. at LSU—grew up listening to UGA games with her grandfather. Stephanie’s father was in sports licensing when she was a child, and they rooted for the Florida Gators at home. She became a competitive cheerleader and learned more about the game, then eventually attended Florida State who she now supports. Kris’s parents met at Florida State and visited the school frequently during Kris’s childhood. Competing in track led her to UGA, though she originally wanted to attend FSU. She now roots primarily for Florida State, but also for UGA and other teams in the SEC. Alex grew up a Penn State fan and developing a love for football in middle and high school, she became a cheerleader. Gina came to love football through her mother, an NC State season ticket holder. She learned about the sport by going to NC State games with her family before becoming a majorette in high school.
While discussing our biographical information, we also talk about some of the issues we’ve had attending games. Kris and Kelly mention some negative experiences with other fans. Gina also brings up her experience after one particularly heartbreaking Auburn game against Alabama, which was mentioned in Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, and suggests that perhaps we can all get too caught up in our fan allegiances.
After the halftime break, we discuss some issues female football fans face in the South. Gina laments that she cannot watch football in a bar without men looking at her like she’s a dog riding a bicycle. Kris offers her own experience to contrast with Gina’s; as someone who appears more androgynous, she can blend in and enjoy the game without necessarily being subjected to the "male gaze." Alex connects the difficulties of being a woman who is interested in football to the more traditional views of a “woman’s place” in southern culture.
Then we turn our attention to some of the more serious events covered by the media, including the Penn State and Jameis Winston scandals. These news stories prompt us to question whether or not team allegiances enable us to defend inexcusable behavior so that we can continue to participate in an activity we enjoy. In response to Gina’s question if, as women, we could we move the needle from the inside, Alex describes her sister’s UGA tailgates. Exclusively attended by women, they’re a place of empowerment. She asserts that if women felt more empowered instead of anomalous, then maybe we could be more involved with the sport, working for the NCAA and calling games. Gina observes how women in football relates to larger concerns about gender performance, citing Erin Andrews and the burden female sportscasters feel to look a certain way. Despite their talent, female sportscasters are still relegated to the sidelines.
We then tackled our experiences with "mansplainers," and Gina questions why we still go to games after experiencing firsthand the problematic way in which women are treated. Panelists mention a few reasons: we love our respective teams, we feel that it provides us with an important connection to our history and others at the game with us, and it provides an important escape from the hamster wheel of work involved in everyday life. Stephanie also mentions the vicarious and visceral response fans have to the game. Football especially provides women with an amazing sublimation of anger. However, on the other hand, we all lament male announcers who talk about penetration and our several negative experiences with other fans. It then becomes difficult to separate the game from gender performance and interpolation.
Stephanie mentions how football is tied up in regional identification too. She notes that the SEC is held up as the seat of all brilliance in college football, despite being dethroned many times. She wonders if it isn’t part of the same southern myth assigning glory to the region based on perception rather than hard facts.
We close this week’s show with our predictions about who will win the National Championship and who we hope will not.
We would like to think our special guests this week, Stephanie Rountree, Kris Townsend, and Alex Patafio. We'd also like to thank Jen Welter for inspiring us all.