Where Are All the Fans? Differences Between Men's and Women's Basketball | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Where Are All the Fans? Differences Between Men's and Women's Basketball

Last Wednesday, December 7th, I attended a Pitt Women's Basketball Game at Peterson Events Center. They were playing Georgetown University in their ninth game of the season. When I first walked into the Pete I didn't know where to go or even if I had to buy tickets, seeing as I have never been to a Pitt basketball game before. And there wasn't a huge group of people I could follow into the stadium either. However, I eventually found my way and chose a random spot to sit in that lined up with center court. I was expecting the stadium to be pretty empty, and it was. However, more fans arrived as Kesha's song "Blow" erupted through the stadium. The room got dark and a spotlight scanned the room. The announcer's voice was loud as the Pitt team came out one-by-one while the spotlight was still going, the music was still blaring and the cheerleaders and dance team were trying to get everyone excited. It seemed like a normal start to the game, except that the cheerleaders were louder than the fans in the stadium. When the game started, my attempt to count everyone in the stadium (except for the band) got me to 250 people--more then I thought were there. But 250 doesn't feel like a lot in a stadium that can house 12,508 people. As I looked around, there seemed to be a surprising amount of families with young children, only a couple groups of only men or male students and some couples and individuals that were there alone. There was a large concentration of women in the front middle section who were announced as the Hoopla group and they were thanked for attending tonight's game. Hoopla is a networking opportunity for women, and one of its aims is to support women's basketball. The Hoopla group were very enthusiastic throughout the whole game, some even had pom-poms with them. They made up a large portion of the audience and without them, the fans would have been extremely scattered and the stadium would have felt virtually empty. The pep band was the biggest concentration of students in the room, and they were the only ones yelling with Georgetown has the ball, something that the entire Oakland Zoo probably does at men's basketball games. As the game went on, more and more people walked in, although a lot left after half time. Despite what seemed like a small attendance, the crowd cheered loudly when Pitt scored and got more enthusiastic as the game progressed. 

  Although I have never been to a Pitt men's basketball game, I know it is nothing like this. From videos I have seen and things I have heard from peers, the stadium is filled, or at least the student sections is, with cheering fans in their Oakland Zoo t-shirts. This difference between men's and women's basketball does not only exist at Pitt and does not only exist within basketball. It seems that people are more interested in men's sports in general, but why? Maybe it's because men's sports are more aggressive and intense. Maybe it's because the majority of sports fans are men. Whatever the reason, this disparity exists. 

  Throughout the years, women have made huge strides and accomplishments in the area of sports, in the face of gender discrimination. The discrimination has existed for a long time, for example in 1896, Baron Pierre de Coubertin who was the founder of modern Olympics said: "Not matter how toughened a sportswoman be be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks" (qtd in Women 2000 and Beyond). In the article "Difference Between Men's & Women's Basketball," written by Steve Silverman, he points out that men's college and professional basketball has been a U.S. mainstream sport since the 1940s, whereas women's college and professional basketball did not get popular until the 1980s, even though women had been playing for just as long as men. Ignoring the question of why men's basketball got popular before women's, it makes more sense that there are more fans at men's basketball games because it was more popular than women's for over forty years. Men's basketball may also be more popular because of the way the game is played. Silverman says that a women's basketball game is "old-school," based around well-thought-out plays and execution, whereas men's basketball is more of a face-paced game where "men are much more likely to run up and down the court and look for a fast-break opportunity." This fast-paced nature of a men's basketball game may be another factor as to why it draws more fans then women's basketball. 

  Audre Lorde says in her essay "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" that women need to nurture each other through interdependency. Maybe women need to put aside our differences of whether or not we play sports or even like sports to go support our fellow women in their sport endeavors, instead of blaming men for being more interested in sports played by men then they are in sports played by women. How far women have come in the realm of sports is a huge accomplishment, and one that women involved in sports everywhere should be proud of. Even though the difference between fans at men's and women's game is somewhat ridiculous, women sports players just need to focus on their progress--the fans will hopefully come later. 


Below are some pictures I took at the game:

View of the Hoopla group below:

Works Cited

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Its Optional Protocol: Handbook for Parliamentarians. [Geneva, Switzerland]: Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2003. Print.

Lorde, Audre. "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House." 110-13. Print.

Silverman, Steve. "Difference Between Men's & Women's Basketball | Livestrong.com." LIVESTRONG.COM - Lose Weight & Get Fit with Diet, Nutrition & Fitness Tools. 13 May 2010. Web. Dec. 2011. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/122406- difference-between-mens-womens/>.



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