March 9, 2012

What you think you see isn't always the reality of a situation

Oh, Sports Illustrated...where do I even begin?

I'm actually not insulted by this photo gallery of female hockey fans. I'm not even insulted by their use of the term “puck bunny” – as derogatory is it is. What makes me sad about this is the shear ignorance of the term's use.

I've come across male hockey fans who have used the term “puck bunny”, believing it to be an innocent phrase. Only to have women angrily tell him that it's so not. So, I'm sure that this was the case with Sports Illustrated's misguided attempt at honoring the female hockey fan, such as it was.

Let me state this right up front for everybody, so we're all on the same page. The term “puck bunny” is the worst possible way to describe any true female hockey fan. It is the ultimate insult. At no point should anyone use this to describe knowledgeable and intelligent female hockey fans.

A “puck bunny” is a woman who is just out to get a hockey player – she doesn't care about the sport, she doesn't care about the team, and she doesn't care about anything but herself. You can typically spot this type of woman by the amount of leg and/or cleavage that she displays, the amount of makeup that she wears, and how overly styled her hair is. And the fact that if she's not sitting behind the benches or the penalty boxes, then she's often as close to the glass as possible so that the players will notice her.

She will not be wearing face or body paint, a jersey or team merchandise of any type, or carrying around any kind of sign. The true puck bunny is a professional, and tries to look like the kind of girl she thinks a player would date – or marry. But in the end, she is neither dating nor marriage material.

A puck bunny is the groupie of the hockey world, and no self-respecting woman wants to be known as a groupie.

So, obviously, the person who published this Sports Illustrated photo album was very much unaware of what they were doing. Likely, they weren't even a hockey fan. So, in that respect, I can almost excuse them for doing it.

It's hard enough to be a sports fan and a woman at the same time, let alone a blogger and a former athlete. The biggest reason that I broadcast the fact that I used to play hockey is because I don't want people to think I'm into the sport just for the guys. Because I'm not – I'm into the sport because I like the sport.

Otherwise, I wouldn't be blogging about it. And helping run and blog about a sport is a full-time job all on its own. One that I don't get paid for, but it still takes up a whole lot of my free time. If I were into hockey just for the players, that's an awful lot of work to do when I can just drive up to Arlington and hang out at the Washington Capitals' practice rink.

But because of this perception about women and sports, I've been very careful in my use of my access to the team. I can do player interviews, get into locker rooms, chat up team employees and players, if I so chose. But I don't – very intentionally, in most cases.

And maybe that puts my blog at a disadvantage, I don't know. But I try to be careful with how I represent Raw Charge, simply because I am a woman in a man's sports world. And it's because of people like this, who intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate this idea that women are just into sports to meet the athletes, that inhibits what I choose to do and not do.

Actually, it's inhibited what I've done around hockey players for a long, long time. It's why I actively try to avoid them, when at all possible. If they go out of their way for me, that's one thing. But I do not want to be labeled a puck bunny by going out of my way for them publicly, so I just keep my distance. Once a woman has that label smacked on her – whether it's true or not – there's no turning back.

And now, the blogging thing is even more reason to be careful. Hockey is a small community, and it's very easy for rumors to get around. The last thing I need is to have the team I write about think I'm anything more than just a blogger. I might as well stop writing about the Tampa Bay Lightning, if they ever did.

Maybe going out of my way to not do interviews is a bit much, but part of that is also due to the fact that I just suck at doing the spontaneous interview. I'm a conversationalist, not an interrogator. As well as the fact that I think these guys get hassled enough with that sort of thing, so it's hard for me to even ask. People deserve their privacy, you know?

It's all so complicated, and it's all because many people see more to things than there really are.

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