Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Calling over on "The Barbie Army"

A while ago now, I was given the link to a post by King Cricket. I decided to do a bit of Googling to see if I could find the original article/press release from Viagogo. I don't think I managed to, but I found this one and, as a female cricket fan, was overwhelmed by not only the sheer ignorance, but the perpetual stereotyping of women as types who are easily influenced by celebrities and their inane fancies, care what the players look like or are glory hunters.

Cheers. Clearly we know nothing about the history of the game, clearly we have not experienced England's pain in the past and clearly we're not there because we love this fantastic sport. We obviously don't have a thirst and a knowledge for it that can only be quenched by parting with our hard earned cash, battling the public transport system of the nation and making our way to far flung corners of the country to watch some beautiful cover drives or a masterclass of swing bowling.

I like cricket. Actually no, I don't like it. I absolutely bloody love it. I love the competitiveness, the skills involved, how it's not just about physical strength. I absolutely love the statistics and I love the analysis. I'm regularly found on Cricinfo's statsguru in the small hours of the morning, comparing Ravi Bopara's averages against the various Test nations he's played against. I love the Hawkeye, pitch maps, beehives, wagon wheels. I love the jargon. I love the people I meet, the people it attracts to the ground (where else would you get a load of people dressed as bananas being chased by a guy dressed as a gorilla?), the intricate conversations you can have, discussing things from someone's weakness outside the off stump to why Essex have had a rubbish season and I love that something can bring so many people together in a shared passion.

So, what kind of message do outlandish public statements like the one from Viagogo send? The amount of ticket sales amongst women has increased. Brilliant! Let's question our customers motives. Do they have a press release for the different age brackets? Young people like sport too, why aren't they being "congratulated"? Why not the kids?

Yes, I'm happy to admit that the current England team are an aesthetically pleasing bunch. But so what I think so-and-so's attractive? For me, and the many other female cricket fans that I know, the sport always comes first. Oh, so-and-so's at fine leg? Brilliant, I can shout at him to stop bowling so short or applaud him for a cracking delivery to break a crucial partnership. I don't care that Liz Hurley is dating Shane "I look like I belong in Madame Tussauds" Warne. I remember Warne because of his bowling and when he managed to take out his own stumps with his foot at Edgbaston in 2005. 

I'm not the only female cricket fan out there (and if you're really that interested my cricket introduction is here) and in curiosity, and because I wanted other people's opinions, I decided to ask other female cricket fans I know why they love cricket. Here are some of the responses: 

I've played since I was six, and then my dad got me really into watching the games and I gradually became more and more obsessed - definitely watch for the cricket, but it helps that the England team are all so damn cute together! ... I probably watch it for pretty much the same reason as any guy would, which is because I love the game and find it fascinating to watch. 

I'm a bit of a sucker for history, and cricket's history is ridiculously posh and colonial and upper class and amazing. The Gentlemen and Players, North v South, Anybody's XI v Someone Else's XI. It's a nice throwback to the era of high society and stiff upper lip Britishness when men were men and played cricket in top hats which would fall off and hit their wicket.
- Liz, a volunteer at Lord's and someone who I now regularly watch cricket with.

I like that it’s both a team and individual sport at the same time.
I love the way batsmen lean on their bats. I find fast bowling beautiful and will watch it in slo mo for hours if possible. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat.
I like the fact that it’s a psychological battle just as well as a physical one.
I love that there is a break for tea.
I love that there is a way to measure and count and average pretty much everything, yet some of the most important factors are still a flip of a coin and the weather.
I also like it because in my country it’s an unknown sport and so among my friends it’s in a way mine.
itallstartedokay, a cricket fan from the Czech Republic.

In the early 90s, I hated cricket. In my opinion, it took too long, and (more importantly) the Ashes used to steal my father away from me…it irritated me that he would rather sit and watch some weird moustached man (Graham Gooch) instead of playing Scrabble with me. Hmph. 
Fast forward to January 1996. I was in hospital, and utterly bored in my room. As luck would have it, the TV in the room would only show one channel - the same channel that was showing Sri Lanka’s infamous tour of Australia. I had two choices: try and follow the cricket, or die of boredom. And so I followed. I listened to the commentary, and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. I filled in the gaps by quizzing my father during visiting hours. And then I was discharged, just in time for the World Cup (which Sri Lanka won). The rest, as they say, is history.
Being my silly American self, I had never heard of cricket until right before the 2010-2011 Ashes series (and, yes, I do feel really self conscious about how long I’ve liked it compared to everyone who has followed it for ages). I have always been up for trying and learning new things and I was just curious about how the game was played. I read everything I could online and watched a billion video clips until I understood what was going on. ... I don’t know how I made my way through life without it before now!
- Emma, a cricket fan from Atlanta.  

When I was little we used to go to the local ground by my Grandma’s house to watch the matches. As a family, we watched a lot of the cricket on Sky, from the county Twenty20 matches to the Ashes series and various England tests, complete with graphics of ducks stomping off screen when a batter got out for 0.
- Amy, someone else who I now regularly watch cricket with.

And since females make up a majority of the cricket watching public, which is the point of this post, I also wanted to know of any experiences that other women had had at cricket matches, no matter what the level. Here are a couple of responses:
It’s true that I usually get more derisive remarks because I’m a girl who likes cricket, rather than a girl who likes cricket but when someone does mock my love of the game, what usually works best for me is smile and let them know I probably know more about cricket then they do. ... Like this one guy at a local match. He’d just been bowled for 8 and wasn’t particularly happy about it. We started chatting and he tried to impress me by explaining the rules. Right. Still trying to be nice, I asked him who his favourite player was. He just laughed and replied that I don’t know any Indian players anyway. I assured him I do and he asked me to name three, with that condescending smile. Eventually he told me his favourite was Sehwag and he would like to play like him. He left after I smiled my best innocent smile and asked him if he’d been following the Eng v Ind Test series.
- itallstartedokay. 
I got really rather cross with a Middlesex member in the MCC Library the other week when I was sat with my digital radio listening to TMS from The Oval. It was loud and clear for the library to hear and most of the gentlemen in there would come and talk to me about what was going on, or show me passages from books they were reading which would interest me. This one man came over, looked at me, noticed I was female and said (in a rather patronising voice) "So you like cricket do you?" to which my response was naturally a yes. "...oh", he replied, shot me a look and walked off.
 - Liz.

The experiences I've had at cricket matches, as a woman sat on my own, are generally positive. I've had the odd look and the occasional "not many women like cricket" comments, but generally, nobody even gives you a second glance. Back in April, I befriended some of the Essex members as they were having a discussion about young Reece Topley. I, having a local newspaper that loves having people with potential from Suffolk, knew a little bit about him, so was able to tell these elderly folks some facts and statistics. They labelled me "better than Playfair" and asked me if I would come along more often. I then spent much of the afternoon discussing cricket, university and English Literature.

However, I've had some moments that have made me feel a bit awkward. I've been cornered on a train before after it became obvious I'd spent my afternoon at a cricket match. The moment you say you like sport, you suddenly discover that you can either be questioned endlessly in order to "prove" your love of the various games you follow, or that you suddenly become an object of desire, there to receive awful attempts at being wooed rather than be treated as someone who is just there to watch cricket. Engage me in a conversation about cricket and I'll talk for hours and end up boring you. Try and engage me in a conversation about my marital status and I'll just stare at you until you shut up.

As for the label of "The Barbie Army"? Was this press release accompanied by the infernal Here Come the Girls? The term "Barbie" evokes all kinds of connotations which to me feel mostly negative. It's also a nickname for Stuart Broad, but we won't go there. You may get ladies dressed up in nice outfits and looking stylish (I just rock up in a pair of jeans/shorts and whatever shirt's clean), but at heart, they're spending their time doing exactly what a bloke who rocks up in a suit is doing.

I accept that some women are there because they do love this game because they have a crush on the players. Requesting marriage, telling someone they can "bowl this maiden over" and they have "six appeal" are all things that I've seen at cricket matches. Whenever a player gets a century, they usually flick the camera over to the area in which the family are sat in so you can see what their wife/girlfriend thinks of it. But what's not to say that these people are just as passionate about the game of cricket? Rather than make ridiculous assumptions involving the celebrity culture about why more women are going to cricket, why not actually think that women like cricket for the same reason as men, that we are just as passionate about the actual game? Because, as you can see, this is almost certainly the case.


  1. I loved reading this, thanks! I'm a female cricket fan, and a massive rugby fan as well. I've had so many of these experiences, esp men trying to "prove" your love of the game. When it comes to rugby I find I actually know far more about the game than most blokes I meet who play and assume I only like it because of the men. Really it has to do with me having studied economics and being a little nerdy with stats and loving the game so much I tend to bore people into a stupor if anyone gets me started on it. The thing that infuriates me is the attitude when you are in a group of men having a conversation about a sport and their attitude is patronising or downright insulting when you air an opinion or make an argument. I will know for a fact that are guys in the group who are far less knowledgable about the sport than me but because they have a penis the other blokes will take their POV over mine. Blood boiling. You really do have to be twice as knowledgable as a man in order to be taken seriously as a woman in the world of sport.
    As for people seeing you as an object of desire because you like and know about sport, I'm rather jealous! Lol I'd like nothing better than a gentleman friend I could go on a date to a match with and talk endlessly about facts and stats and the best/worst/favourite we've ever seen, but in my exp. guys find it really intimidating and hate that there's a girl who can show them up. Not going to make me change though ;)
    Really enjoyed reading the post, I can totally identify with so many of the things people have said. We might have got the vote but some things never change hey! And I'll personally just ignore the more ignorant of both sexes of the species and carry on my path towards being a sports statistician because hey, the boys playing it may be pretty, but if gorillas could play it as well and as brilliantly, I'd watch that too.
    (And sometimes, they do).

  2. Very nice piece &i can totally agree with you.People need to accept that females do love cricket & its not because of handsome looking players in the middle.Ok..loads of people follow ODI and T20 now a days and i get those looks when i skipped a movie date with friends with to watch Dravid defend india's pride (what so ever was left) in the disastrous tour of England 2011. But if you like cricket then you know that Test is the best!!And today,while watching Rahul Dravid announcing his retirement on live television,someone questioned me, Why u take all this things so seriously and personally..yes,I take it personally. Because i love this sport,i dont play but i love everything about it.And it hurts when you fav cricketer retires after 16 yrs of fab international career..but still dere are males who dont ques a female cricket fan adn share those lil lil interesting updates with you..i interact with people on social networking sites..where cricket is the only common things between us...i fin watching replays of good old matches between two good sides better then watching daily soaps on tv...I am from India..a cricket crazy country but here also female fans are questioned..but still there are loads of girls out there who can talk about line & length of a ball..pitch conditions n ol..

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