A recent publication from the Chicago division of ESPN revealed a story about a 31-year old female who was able to receive more than 900 online signatures to petition against the Blackhawks franchise treating their female and male fans unequally.
Marissa Miller, a Chicago native, started the petition after some of her experiences while attending Blackhawks home games left her feeling uncomfortable as a female fan. There were 3 main areas of trouble for her: the use of the song “The Stripper” during the “Shoot the Puck” contest that takes place during the second intermission where an attractive female fan is chosen to go on the ice; the revealing outfits that the Blackhawks ice crew girls wear and the lack of female moderators at Blackhawks events and conventions. (Read the entire article here.)
Though I’ve never been to a Blackhawks game, I have been to countless NHL games, and as a fellow female fan I’d have to disagree with Marissa Miller on all the “issues” she raised. I will not discount her opinion and I do feel badly that she has to feel uncomfortable at her favorite team’s home games, but I suppose I am lucky enough to completely enjoy mine due to my differing outlook.
In one of the last scenes of the movie Slapshot, Ned Braden jumps off the bench during a line brawl on the ice to start skating around and removing most of his equipment (and anything else he’s wearing). This sends the female fans at the game wild, and causes quite the ruckus. During this scene, “The Stripper” is playing in the background. This is an iconic moment that most hockey fans can recall as being hilarious, fun and extremely entertaining.
If this song were suggestive, then I could truly see the issue with it being played during a female-only contest on display during the games, due to the parallels people would draw to when it was played during the movie. However, there are no words in “The Stripper”- it’s completely instrumental, leaving its window for interpretation wide open.
Yes, the iconic stripping scene from the movie used the song, but without any words, it’s hardly a suggestive tune. Also, anyone who hasn’t seen the movie would have no idea about the songs usage in the past. I think too much attention has been drawn to the previous context of the song instead of enjoying the lighthearted even as a whole, which is probably where Marissa’s issue with it was. Either way, the song was successfully banned due to her petition, and I happen to disagree with that movement.
Marissa Miller also mentioned how the women who are always picked to take part in this contest are “attractive” or “skinny.” In addition, she felt that the Blackhawks ice crew girls’ outfits are too revealing. Both of these statements got me heated (and made me very sure in my opinion of ice girls in the NHL in general), so here it goes:
Let us be honest here- hockey is a male-dominated “industry.” The sport is played and officiated and run by men.
Yes, fans are both genders, but I would definitely classify hockey as a masculine entity. To convey my point, let’s imagine something female-dominated where fans attend an event, such as a Lady GaGa concert. Yes, both men and women can equally attend a concert like this, but again, I would surely classify Lady GaGa as a feminine entity. (Note- just because you’re female doesn’t mean you have to like Lady Gaga, and similarly if you’re male it doesn’t mean that you have to like hockey.I’m merely making comparisons here, okay?
Anyway, if any male fans were pulled on stage to somehow be featured during the concert, or if backup male dancers were part of the show, the entertainment value for the audience would be at its highest if this male were fit and/or attractive. Personally, I have been to a Lady GaGa concert, in which attractive men were featured in the performance, and the girls in the audience went NUTS. There were also no complaints from any audience members that I met. These men that were featured were very scantily-clad and again, I’m assuming this is due to the intention of reaching the show’s highest entertainment potential.
To me, ice girls and the reaction they draw from fans are no different. Crews that maintain the ice are necessary during the course of any NHL game, so why not increase the game’s “entertainment value” by having beautiful women do the job? The NHL, NBA and NFL all use women of this characterization for this same reason. These girls set goals and go through rigorous audition processes to get these jobs and it’s really an honor if they’re awarded a spot, similar to being chosen to be a cheerleader on a famous National Football League team.
Most professional ice girls have life-long passions in figure skating, hockey, and/or dance, so to find a paying, high-profile job getting to do what they love leaves me truly envious of these women; not many people can say that their passion and their career fall hand-in-hand, and on such a big “stage,” no less. As a female hockey fan (and dancer), it’s admirable to see women confident enough in the bodies they’ve worked extremely hard for to wear what they wear during games and look great doing it.
I’ve heard from many female fans who feel as though these are girls are being “exploited” or that they’re being seen as “objects” or that they seem “unintelligent.” If they were being exploited, no one would be auditioning. These girls know what they are signing up for when they begin their audition process. In terms of being seen as “objects,” I think it’s more important to draw attention to those who are viewing them as such.
Everyone knows what female bodies look like, but if anyone views these women as “objects,” then I think the only fault here is at the hand of those making that assessment. Lastly, the intelligence level of these women has nothing to do with their job as ice girls. We meet those on all different levels of intellect every day. How we pass judgment on that matter is a testament to our own character, and definitely not that of the subject’s.
For devils advocate’s sake, let’s just say there was an “unintelligent” ice girl. In no way should this negative connotation be catalyst for an entire female stereotype, since I believe that that’s what female fans are concerned about there. Lest we forget, it’s just a hockey game after all. Everything about the experience of attending a game is all in good fun. However, if the ice girls do offend you, the good news is that you get to go home and continue living YOUR life without ever having to worry about being one!
When forming an opinion about ice girls in the NHL, it’s really important to flip the gender roles and think about the situation vice versa. In fact, I know plenty of women who only attend NHL games because they think the players are attractive! Since ice crews during games are a necessity anyway, I really believe that the way ice girls exist now are completely acceptable.
In fact, if the New York Rangers had some attentive ice girls, perhaps some games during their playoff run would have ended a bit quicker in favor of the LA Kings. Sorry, just had to be said.
Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings, they have a great ice crew that consists of both attractive men AND attractive women!
I wonder what Marissa Miller would think about that…