I feel too old to call myself a girl. Sometime in my 20s I made a deliberate decision to stop doing that, mental adjustment complete. But “girl” is better in a title: as a concept, it is less imposing than “woman.”
Several times on the message board, and twice now on Twitter, I’ve been mistaken for a guy. I don’t know how often it has occurred really. I’m fairly certain the mistake is mostly made by men. Women tend not to assume that other hockey fans are male, or female. Maybe I’m being biased, or maybe women are more careful about revealing assumptions.
At first, I was surprised to discover people thought I was a guy. It isn’t a mistake anyone has ever made f2f. It doesn’t offend me to be mistaken for a man. I’m used to being an oddball- I am a Nor Cal hockey fan. But I don’t see any logic behind the error.
I think petshark is a pretty girly name for a man. Men don’t usually refer to themselves as pets.
On the message board, it was a comment about the Tigger Team that made someone finally ask me if I was female. On Twitter, I don’t know what it would take to tag myself as female. I suppose detailed musings about the particular physical attributes of hockey players might do it, but that would not, in a logical universe, preclude my being a male.
Do I do anything else online that I think of as “feminine”? Maybe. I obsess about injuries. But when I discuss injuries and hazards of the game, I default to the logical, practical, PR, even monetary advantages of safety. I guess I forget to say “Hey, don’t hit my boys in their pretty faces! Poor sweeties:(” The way I see it, that aspect of injuries is so obvious that if anyone cared, the problem would have been solved. So I try to address the problem in a way that TPTB might appreciate.
Am I not feminine enough in my comments about a game? I try to express my enthusiasm and appreciation for the sport. Perhaps a proper female is supposed to say things like “I wouldn’t mind straying into Timmy’s crease. He can knock me on my ass any day.”
Yeah, I don’t say stuff like that on Twitter. And I only typed them here for the sake of illustration. I officially deny ever really thinking anything of the sort. Men really don’t need to know why I could watch Michael Leighton play all day, win or lose.
When I refer to Patrick Marleau or Jeff Carter as beautiful, it is always in way that might be mistaken for a reasonable appreciation of their performance. It isn’t that I’m male or blind, it’s just that I’m a little reserved that way. Also, I don’t get how it isn’t creepy to go anonymously slobbering over anyone, even if men do, as some tell me, quite enjoy that sort of thing.
Besides, verbally drool over someone and no one will be able to listen to anything else you have to say. It’s distracting.
I know I don’t really sound like a guy. To say I do is ridiculous. It’s just that sports are mostly discussed by men, mostly followed by men. It isn’t merely residual sexism to assign a default gender of “male” to a hockey fan, it’s just playing the odds.
Yet it is sexist, of course. Not the vicious “we think women are stupid and shouldn’t leave the house or speak or wear shoes” kind of sexism. It’s just a too-comfortable expectation that everyone is male, and that females will politely identify themselves before they walk into the mens room.
I have to ask myself if I make these assumptions. I think I am pretty good at knowing who is male and who is female, even if people do not attach a first name or a picture to their online identity. Maybe I am way off base in my guesses. There are several people on the message board that I’m not sure about. I remember I’m not sure about them, at all times. I do play the game, trying to figure it out, but I try very hard not to assume either way.
That’s a benefit of being outside the default gender class. You know there are probably others like you, so you are less likely to assume anything.
I had a psych professor in college who told a story about a student. She wasn’t able to tell if this student was male or female. She spent some time trying to guess, listening for hints, watching the student to see if their androgynous clothing might reveal a distinguishing protrusion. Eventually, since the prof’s specialty was gender issues, she decided that she had to let it go. The student had a name, the prof didn’t need to assign a pronoun. The student turned in assignments, took exams, got a grade. The prof never did know. She realized it absolutely didn’t matter. Unless you are trying to pick someone up and have sex with them, you really don’t need to know.
Oh, sure, you might want to know so you can avoid saying insulting things about that person’s gender class. But maybe what you should really do is just not say those things unless you are willing to have men and women hear them. It isn’t quite the same as asking yourself if you would say it in front of your mother, but that’s a good start.