fitness · Guest Post

What’s in a (Women’s Team) Name?

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Recently I saw the everydayfeminism.com cartoon, How Society Polices Women’s Clothing (No Matter What We Wear), in which illustrated female figures engaging in various life activities (i.e. working-with-clipboard, relaxing-with-guitar, clubbing-with-clutch purse) are each critiqued for what clothing is worn. I had noticed, however, that none of the women were depicted wearing sports clothing.

This is not to say that women’s athletic apparel escapes cultural policing. For instance, women’s clothing for tennis and beach volleyball seem increasingly revealing and sexy, while already revealing women’s clothing has become athletic apparel, such as in the lingerie football league. In the 21st century, women athletes (particularly those who have achieved celebrity status) are tasked with demonstrating excellence in both athletic performance and sexual attractiveness.

In direct contrast, my current rec league soccer team jersey is far from sexy, especially after I have totally soaked it in the heat of an outdoor summer game. My jersey has white accents, but is mostly Wizard-of-Oz-Emerald-City green. On the jersey is printed the league’s insignia and the number 12 (not even my favourite number). Its style is almost totally generic. Aside from my rainbow socks and matching headband, I’m sure I must blend in almost entirely with the grassy green soccer pitch.

But I have come to identify profoundly with my jersey. On Sunday nights, number 12 green is me. An hour before game time you will find me frantically looking for my jersey like it’s a (well-hidden) treasure. When I arrive at the field, my heart begins to race when I see my Emerald City green-wearing teammates already warming up on the sidelines. (There’s no place like home!)

My only other soccer jersey (purple, number 18) is equally un-sexy with me in it, but on this jersey our fun and slightly sexy team name is on the front of it: “Chicks with Kicks.” My green team name, by the way, is “Femmes of Fury.” So while as sports clothing my jerseys aren’t explicitly gendered or sexualized, the team names still manage to adhere to the formula of suggesting both (aggressive) athletic performance and (sexy, objectified) femininity.

In fact, there are websites dedicated to listing such team names for women. On one site, top-rated women’s team names include the “Pink Fluffy Monsters” and the “Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.” Cute, right? But the performance-attractiveness formula emerges again, suggesting that women must be rough-aggressive and passive-feminine. Of course, this is not the case for every women’s sports team. Samantha has reflected in another FIAFI post on soccer team names bearing gender neutrality in favour of referencing activities like drinking and middle-age onset.

I tend to regard my team names and sports apparel as emblematic of 21st century mainstream feminism: the “radical” feminist power of our all-women team uniform, a liberal “girls are as tough as boys” attitude, and 3rd wave “fierce-but-still-fashionable” accessorizing (i.e. the afore-mentioned colourful socks and headbands) that expresses our individuality amidst our uniform-ity.

It’s not that I dislike “Femmes of Fury” and “Chicks with Kicks,” per se. But do I wonder about how these team names risk re-inscribing feminine-otherness, even as they invoke girl-power assertiveness. Do men feel the need to ensure their sports team names follow such a similarly gendered formula?

My questions for FIAFI readers: What do your team jerseys look like, and your team names sound like, and what do they mean to you? Do these “fearless feminine” team names still suggest that feminine attractiveness still matters as much as athletic performance? How might such team names resonate (or not) with non-cisgender or gender-queer players?

8 thoughts on “What’s in a (Women’s Team) Name?

  1. I’m a lazy, unathletic, out-of-shape, woman in my sixties! However, I live delusionally through your blog (which I love!). However, being the mom of a daughter who has played sports AND competed in championship Irish Dancing, I found the post intriguing. Her uniforms in sports were purely unsexy–unless you consider those little field hockey skirts sexy…but she would go from a loose-fitting t-shirt and perhaps, polyester softball knickers into an expensive Irish Dance dress, wig, makeup..the whole kit and caboodle. You know what??? That dancing, kept her in prime shape! between the heavy jigs and hard shoes and lighter dances in ghillies, her body was incredibly strong and muscular. The stamina needed was incredibly..AND, she learned the value of poise, confidence and discipline. To me, it was her best sport—she looked feminine and “girly” but not sexy. Personally, I’m old school. I think the “tone” set by “sexy” workout and athletic clothing is a kind of -ugh, I can’t say this without sounding like a prude–but trust me, I’m no prude. OK–the “sexy” workout clothing (and volleyball uniforms) feed into what kind of looks men want. How can a woman be comfortable with those tight tops that push the titties up as far as her neck or squish them?? I want my girls to be as comfy as me. I’ll take looser than tighter! As far as names of teams go, I like the irony–like “Softballers” for a soft ball team–whether woman or men or mixed genders. ….so many names to have fun with. Right??? Or–“Mixed Nuts” for a mixed gender sports team that likes to have a good time……….

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    1. I had one daughter that was an Irish Dancer (and now a niece) and they were both in incredible shape. I was always amazed at the way they dressed though. Each year it seems it got more and more over the top. My other daughter was a swimmer who had to come to terms with her broad shoulders and swimmer body. When she wasn’t in the pool she lived in sweats and it was the rare occasion that she ever dressed up.

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      1. That’s a fascinating point! This blog post is concerned only with the gendered approach to team named and sports clothing, but you’ve mentioned the way in which the sports *themselves* can change body types, and sometimes against stereotypical norms. I hope that your daughter’s dress is simply a reflection of her preference to be comfortable, not as an ongoing concern with her shape. I admire swimmers!

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    2. You raise a good point! It’s true that just because certain sports apparel and/or teams are gendered doesn’t mean that the athletes fail to get a good work out! It’s also true that certain sports may require fitted clothing for increased speed or for safety.

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  2. I also play on a rec soccer team, over-35. Most of the teams in our league have very neutral, unsexy names. My team is called the Dynamos (others I’ve played with include the Hurricanes, Banshees, United). You could scarcely find a less sexy uniform than my orange and white one.
    A team in another league has the very unfortunate name “Hooters”. I cringe saying it. I like the more neutral names. Our league changed its name from ‘Ladies 7-aside’ to ‘Women’s 7-aside’.
    Women’s soccer is not a sport that tends towards cutesy/sexy names, at least in my neck of the woods, thankfully.

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    1. Yes, you raise good points that the frequency of gendered naming may depend on the sport, the age of the athletes, and the places where one plays. I don’t think I would feel comfortable playing on a team called Hooters. Unless it was something to do with owls??!!

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  3. If there is a spectrum of femme to butch, I’m somewhere on the butch side of center, but frankly I don’t like either label, but not quite as much as I dislike “girly” clothing. I wouldn’t want to play for either of your team names because I don’t identify with their implications.

    My team sport is softball, and I play in a co-ed league. We used to change names every season, but have stuck with Hail Mary for the past few years. That name was chosen when our manager filed the paperwork and paid the fees without having even half a team committed to the season a few years ago. We got it together, though we spent a lot of time hunting for substitutes when roster members couldn’t play or were injured. It’s an apt name without being gendered per se. Plus, since it’s generally a football term, we get a little humor in there.

    Maybe it’s because I play in a co-ed league, but I haven’t noticed any gendered team names. Mostly they are puns or softball/baseball terms or company sponsors.

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    1. Thanks for your honest response! I plan to to be more vocal about encouraging a gender-neutral name for our future women’s teams to avoid precisely the lack of identification you describe. The team name Hail Mary makes me wonder whether there might be religious/faith-based connotations with which some players may be more or less comfortable.

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