Sunday, September 4, 2011

why "puck bunny" bothers me (and it should bother you too)


Puck bunny is the equivalent to hanging a sign on the door of your clubhouse that says “no girls allowed”.

It’s irritating when guys do it—it’s a dismissal, quite frankly, a flagrant writing off of an opinion based on it’s source. It’s implying that girls somehow can’t appreciate the sport on the same deep level that men do. This is a man’s game, and there’s no place for you posers, you hangers on, you women who seek shallow enjoyment out of it. It’s an instant shut down, it can turn someone off the sport instantly.

I’d argue it’s worse when we ladies toss it at each other.

It’s akin to girls calling other girls “sluts” or “whores”—not that I’m going to argue that puck bunny is on the same level as either of those words (or whatever your preferred epithet is—cunt, bitch, troll, wench, etc), but the meaning behind it is the same. The only purpose you can have in calling someone a puck bunny is to let them know that their opinion is necessarily worth less than yours. Why is their opinion worth less? Because they might find someone attractive. It’s the same shaming we see everywhere else, in every form of media—the minute a girl becomes sexual, she becomes worth less.

Before we get any further, I want to define “puck bunny” as I see it. A puck bunny is a girl who doesn’t watch the sport for the sport, but rather for the athletes involved. It’s almost like gold digger; they’re attracted to men because they play a sport, not because of the men themselves. Alternately, it’s a woman who knows a lot about hockey for the express purpose of attracting a boyfriend—she doesn’t enjoy the game itself, but she knows a lot of stats and that’s going to get her a date from the cute guy in the corner office if she talks about it loudly enough at the water cooler.

I see people throwing it at fans who are clearly new to the sport and even newer to the sport's fandom—they make a mistake about a stat or overestimate a player or have a kind of silly opinion, and they’re not uneducated or new, they’re a puck bunny, something to be reviled and horrified about. How dare they come in here, these sacred halls of Blogging and talk shit like they know anything? They’re only Carolina/Pittsburgh/Capitals/Canucks/Montreal fans because of Skinner/Crosby/Green/Bieska/Price!

Why are we considered so incapable of depth of feeling once we allow aesthetics to enter the equation and why aren’t men held up to the same standards? I’m not saying that All Men Are Shallow and that All Women Aren’t—there are definitely men who can appreciate a good looking sportswoman and also the skill behind what she does, just like there are women who really do only cheer for hockey players because they’re Jonathan Toews or Carey Price. That doesn’t matter—what matters is people taking that, applying it liberally to all female hockey fans.

I understand it even less when girls call themselves puck bunnies, in sort of the same way I don’t understand when people call themselves sluts or whores. Freedom to express your sexuality—yes, go for it. But calling yourself a whore in order to reclaim the word is kind of going about it the wrong way. You’re not an anything for liking sex however you like it—with one guy, with many guys, with girls, with toys, with whips and chains, whatever—you’re just a person. You might be trying to reclaim the word or something, but, dude, some words should be left to rot.

Girls are pitted against other girls. You can’t be girly and enjoy hockey. You have to be a tom boy—nail polish and hockey sticks don’t belong together. So if you’re traditionally feminine, you don’t get to like hockey for the sport itself; you like it because you see attractive athletes. Or you like it in a dumbed down kind of way, or you like it because your boyfriend makes you watch it. But maybe if you pose sexy in the bikini with your teams logo on it, and if you wear the pink jersey to every game, you can get a finger hold in the Good Old Boys club. Or alternately, you have to be a beer swilling, loud, rude, belching, lots-of-swear-words-you-just-learned-sometimes-in-french-too—you have to be an over the top caricature of a regular sports fan, because you have to prove yourself. Otherwise, you might be too delicate, too girly to enjoy a man’s sport with the men.

There’s no real in between—you’re either a Female Sports Fan, or you have to Be A Man. Personally, I like to make sure my nails match my team colours so when I’m flipping them off for taking a goddamn fucking stupid penalty, everyone knows which team I’m cheering for.
My current favourite player on my roster is Carey Price. Do I appreciate the fact that he’s good looking? Hell yes. I’m not going to complain about good looking people—sorry, have you seen my team? We’re the prettiest. But you know what I appreciate more? Dem stats. I appreciate the way he carries my team because apparently we’re fucking incapable of not killing our defensemen on the ice. He’s had to shoulder a goddamn burden. That’s not easy anywhere—for a goalie in Montreal, he might as well be Atlas.

One of my best friends is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan—diehard, quotes stats off the top of her head, knows all the names of all the players. And yet the first thing people ask her, when she says she’s a Penguins fan is “because of Crosby right? Lol” and they think they’re fucking hilarious every time, like this is some kind of legitimate chirp.

Why is that? If it was a guy, that wouldn’t be assumed. They might ask if he bandwagoned them after their Stanley Cup win, but they’re not going to ask if he appreciates the way the light hits Fleury’s mask sometimes or what the fuck ever. It’s insulting.

And you know what, even if she did notice the Penguins because of Crosby—so what? What’s the big fucking deal? That doesn’t make her any less of a fan now. At one point, each and every one of us has had to pick a team, and you’ve all done it for reasons that are just as stupid. Maybe you picked the closest one; maybe your Dad cheered for Montreal his whole life; maybe you went on a really bad date one time and the Sharks were playing the Predators and your stupid terrible date was cheering for the Sharks so you picked the Predators to spite him and you find out that they’ve got this guy called Shea Weber and he can shoot the puck through the net and woah goddamn you didn’t know that was possible, that’s kind of awesome, and it’s kind of stuck ever since. Maybe, one day, you noticed that there’s this Jeff Skinner kid that’s kind of cute and keeps popping up all over your dash, so you do a little investigating, and you find out he’s on a team called the Carolina Hurricanes, and hell, they’re all the way across the country from you, but you do a little reading and you decide you like the organization.
Not a single one of these reasons is any less valid than the others.

A fan is a fan is a fan. All of us were new once. Making the online conversation hostile is going to pretty much guarantee that a lot of new fans are going to be turned off by us before they even have a chance.

If you’re a girl who likes a sport, why do you have to be a puck bunny? Why can’t you be called what you are—a fan?

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