Pretty in pink – Understanding the “girl jersey”

*Note – cross posted on The Rabbit Hole

Okay, per a request from my friend and fellow blogger Mr. Mark Norman, I have been asked to write a post on the infamous pink jersey/”girl jersey”. It is a topic that divides sports fans like Moses divided the sea. I will try to explain my stance from both a personal and a sociological perspective.

Personally, I hate pink jerseys – simple as that. I hate the colour pink.  Correction, I hate what the colour pink stands for.  It’s not like the colour itself is physically painful for me to look at or wear, but the characteristics ascribed to the colour pink are, shall we say, problematic for the feminist movement.  Let’s be honest, gangs don’t wear pink for a reason.  Pink is equated with femininity and fragility.  Pink is a women’s colour and women love pink is how the assumed relationship goes. It starts from birth, girls stuff is pink, boys stuff is blue and from a very young age I was able to identify that what pink represents is not me. As a female athlete we have enough to contend with, we have enough to prove and throwing pink hockey gloves or jerseys on top of being a female athlete just seems like one more hoop to jump through in the circus that is women’s sports.

On the business side, pink equipment and “girl jerseys” are merely a ploy to make money.  Men’s jerseys are not form fitting and women usually get lost in them, so let’s make one that’s more appealing to the lady folk and make some extra money.  Sociologically, I have realized that my hatred of pink is a limiting perspective that hinders the feminist movement more than it helps.  My hating pink jerseys or “girl jerseys” and the women that wear them only reproduces the socially constructed meaning of “pink”.  In my mind, when I see a woman wearing pink hockey gloves, pink boxing gloves, or a “girl jersey” I think “well she is obviously not very good” or “she obviously isn’t a ‘real’ fan”.  I have also reasoned that I would be okay with it if Hayley Wickenheiser wore pink gloves because she’s an elite athlete who would kick your ass in pink.  Thus, in my narrow construction I thought that novice women who wear pink reproduce the stereotype and elite women who wear pink challenge the stereotype.  Then it dawned on me that my line of thinking played in perfectly with what all the marketing gurus wanted – pink = traditional notion of women.  The notion where being a woman is equated with being weak, feminine, not athletic and not competitive.  I was the one reproducing the stereotype when in reality a woman should not need to prove her worth in order to wear pink. A woman should not have to wear black gloves to be taken seriously.

A second sociological point to note is that the creation of the “girl jersey” is deemed an unauthentic version of the real NHL jersey.  It’s not the official jersey that the players wear – end of story.  Fans want to wear what the players wear but the players are all men and until recently, it was assumed that all fans were men.  So now we have a clash of women wanting to enter a “man’s world”, a world that was created for and by men.  By this logic, perhaps the “girl jersey” is a small step towards accepting women into the male institution of sports.  The only problem is that while this move trumpets a growth in market share and an evolution in sports, it also whispers “you still don’t belong here”.  It is another example of how women are an after thought in the world of sports. It’s the same but different. Men’s jerseys and equipment continue as the norm and women’s jerseys and equipment remain the aberration.

To conclude, I should say that I do wear pink…clothing that is, not equipment and not jerseys. I probably will never be able to bring myself to wear pink hockey gloves or anything of the kind; but with that said, I now try to check my attitude towards those who choose to wear pink gloves or “girl jerseys”.  Frankly the fact that women are playing hockey and watching hockey or whatever sport it may be is great.  Certainly, there is a lot of work to be done to continue gaining acceptance in the man cave that is sports, but women must stop getting in the way of other women.  I’ve been in the locker rooms where we talk behind the backs of the girls who wear pink gloves. I’ve had the conversations during the game or at the bar about how stupid “girl jerseys” are but this doesn’t really get us anywhere. There are enough hurdles in our way ladies, we don’t need to trip each other up. We have made the greatest inroads with regard to gender relations when we have fought as a collective. Let not the pink jersey divide and conquer.

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7 thoughts on “Pretty in pink – Understanding the “girl jersey”

  1. Enjoyed this post. This year my 7 year old son is playing rep hockey, my 4 year old daughter opted to play ringette for the first time and my youngest (2) is just getting on her skates. I’m learning a lot (quickly) about how the sports/gender intersect is shaping my children’s identity. While I’m not a pink person myself- my 4 year old is. She’s also fearless, loves to break a sweat, loves to compete and is tough as nails on the ice. It’s easy to create divisions (hockey is better than ringette, pink gear pigeonholes women,etc.) and lose sight of what, as a mom, I’m most excited about hockey/ringette providing- healthy active living, personal character, teamwork and fun. Thanks for the “check your attitude” reminder about not majoring on the minors but as women working together to bring the deeper changes we need in the sports we love! Will be following!

  2. Thanks for reading and glad to hear that your 4 yr.old is tearing it up on the ice! Funny how traditional norms say that femininity and strength/athleticism cannot coexist, when in fact your daughter proves that these are not naturally created distinctions. It all really comes down to identity – If you are this then I must be that. If you’re not that then what am I. You said it, it’s really about having fun and living in your truth regardless of what colour your jersey is.

  3. I’m a dad who initially followed the stereotypes of blue=boys, pink=girls. I’ve found over the last dozen years that it’s not about the color of the gloves, the helmet or the jersey. It’s all about celebrating our girls as smart, strong, confident, athletic, beautiful individuals with the ability and capacity to be anything or anyone they want to be. For my daughter that doesn’t play hockey, she finds her pink jersey prettier than the NHL version. She’s all about being pretty and soft and being delicate. My daughter that actually plays hockey is all about being pretty, and soft and delicate, too… except on the ice. With blades on her feet and a stick in her hands, she’s about scoring goals and breaking a sweat. Back in the locker room, she’s singing Taylor Swift songs. Both of my girls just want to know they’re loved, appreciated, and valued as individuals.

  4. Pingback: Does Pink Belong in Women’s Hockey? « Women's Hockey World

  5. Pingback: IIHF’s “Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend”: A Chance to Reflect on Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Hockey Culture | Hockey in Society

  6. Pingback: Do Nothing B#TCHE$: UBC Women’s Hockey and the policing of femininity by female athletes | Hockey in Society

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