For two years, I’ve been looking for a Toronto Blue Jays shirt. I don’t need anything fancy: Just a tank top with the logo on it, something in breathable fabric because I sweat like an elderly rugby player when I’m in the sun, and preferably something that fits me.
And yet, for two years and over the 25 or 30 games I’ve seen, I can’t find it. I can find shirts in sheer fabric, shirts with bedazzled logos or cutesy sayings, and a plethora of things in pink which, by the by, is not the team’s colour.
To be fair, there are a few average-looking sports apparel options on Major League Baseball’s website. There are also a few shirts that look like they were dipped in sequins and piled high behind the candelabra. They say things like “TAKE ME HOME” or “BATTER UP” or “Let’s kiss for the KISS CAM!” which is an actual nightmare I have every season.
Ha ha, get it? They are about DOING IT. (Sex. Doing sex.)
Victoria’s Secret, the culprit behind most of the more egregious MLB apparel available—emblazoned with the logo of its PINK collection, no less, because whee, girls!—has since removed its baseball apparel from its website. This is presumably because the season is winding down, but I like to think it’s because they are very, very embarrassed.
Football season is nigh, so PINK’s NFL selection is now available. A cursory glance suggests that its football apparel is far kinder than its MLB shirts, but there are still a few poop-gems. One standout: “I’ll be your halftime show,” which is a very cool thing with a great message that I can vividly imagine the Pussycat Dolls saying. I don’t have a ton of well-defined clothing standards, but I generally have a rule that I do not wear anything I think the Pussycat Dolls would say.
And what is that supposed to mean, anyway? Am I supposed to dance and lip-sync? Do I have to whip out my pierced nipple and its decorative shield? Oh god, does Madonna have to be there, grinding her ancient pelvis all over the place, her bones pulverizing themselves into a grey dust? I don’t want to vacuum that. Please don’t make me vacuum that.
There are real, live people making these editorial decisions on what to sell to female sports fans. Designers, and some marketers perhaps, making PowerPoint presentations about what slogans might sell best.
“What if,” a man in an ill-fitting suit says, “we just take a normal tank top, but write ‘BATTER UP PARTY DOWN’ on it?”
There’s a still silence as all attendees focus on their colleague. And then: loud, raucous laughter. Success! Another winner! The champagne comes out, glasses clink, and the brainstorming session really kicks into gear. “How about a shirt that just says, ‘I Don’t Even Know What This Game Is Called, I’m Busy Texting’ or ‘Dugout Posse’ or ‘Please Put a Penis In My Eye Socket’?”
The sports apparel coming from Victoria’s Secret and MLB reminds me of the T-shirts I used to beg my mom to buy me when I was in the sixth grade. They said things like, “If it weren’t for boys, I wouldn’t even go to school.” I begged my mom to get one for me. Thankfully, she refused, realizing that it a) was tacky and b) would have made me look like an idiot. It’s bad enough when sports coverage and other fans condescend to female viewers; our T-shirts don’t need to do it, too.
Even the UFC’s women’s collection is somehow far less insulting, and this is a sports organization that employs what are called “Octagon Girls.” First of all, it’s Octagon Women. Secondly, it’s my dream job. Dana White: give me a call. What I lack in traditional good looks, I make up for in punching ability and an unquenchable bloodlust.
But that’s the cycle, isn’t it? Women aren’t taken seriously as sports fans, in part because some of us wear ludicrous outfits that have more to do with things that can be done to and at our vaginas than the game itself, and we wear these outfits in the first place because we don’t have a lot of options when it comes to official gear. Women have a hard enough time proving to men that we can like a sport without being the girlfriend of a fan or a player. I’m also pretty sure that if a man wore a shirt that said, “Stealing Bases With the Blue Jays,” he’d be laughed straight out of the stadium, and rightfully so.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look cute, but there’s everything wrong with playing dumb. I suspect there are plenty of women who like football without feeling like they have to degrade themselves by wearing a shirt asking others to “Tailgate with me.” Is it really that hard to just make a cotton shirt with the logo on it, cut to fit a woman’s shape? Does it really need any extra flair, sparkles or lace or tassels or a little pouch for pressed powder foundation?
But hey, it’s not all bad. Sure, the PINK collection may infantilize and objectify us, make us feel like lesser fans undeserving of real clothing, and never let us forget that sports, at the end of the day, are really just for men and men alone … but it did get us a picture of bipedal burst-blood-vessel Brett Lawrie holding a tiny, pink bejeweled bat in his massive, Andre the Giant hands. Batter up, indeed, you smoldering anger-baby.