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Commentary, Critical Media Analysis

‘No Good Russians & Dumb Puck Sluts’: Issues in Representation

*shakes my fist*

The tweet above was my first reaction to the news that Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were suspended for game 3 for a “team rule violation” that was reportedly closing down a bar in Scottsdale, AZ at 4 am. I was mad on behalf of those players and I was mad on my own behalf since I had written a post on the xenophobia informing the critiques of Radulov’s performance in a game where he was, apparently, hungover and tired.

Ultimately, the critique is still valid. I believe that the NBCSN rant was drenched in xenophobia and the blog post comments I posted indisputably were. Unfortunately, that point will be lost now as the unenlightened see confirmation of their worst beliefs about “Russians” (never mind the fact that AK46 is technically Belarusian.)

And again today, if you read the Puck Daddy comments or search through twitter, you’ll see that people are using this as an excuse to paint all Russians with the same brush. Never mind that when American Patrick Kane gets photographed shirtless in a Vancouver limo, or arrested after an altercation with a cabbie, or photographed in bed after a one night stand, nobody runs around assuming American Zach Parise does the same. Canadian boys Mike Richards & Jeff Carter get labelled as party boy bad seeds and are shipped away from Dry Island but nobody accuses Canadian Jonathan Toews of the same.

It’s difficult enough for North American guys like Kane, Richards and Carter to shake their individual reps (even when it’s clearly not impacting their on ice performance) but for Russian and Eastern European players it’s damn near impossible.

By the way, if you think I’m overstating this or there aren’t broader repercussions, look at  this report from Hockey Prospectus about 2012 draft prospect Alex Galchenyuk (born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin):

“The top three players in this draft are all Russian.” When I asked him if he meant Galchenyuk, seeing as he’s worn US colors in International play he responded, “He’s still a Russian to me.”

Mark Spector of SportsNet’s post, “Bad Image for Russians” plays the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” game even as he couches everything in hedges and rhetorical questions.

As I was thinking about all of this today, I realized it ties into something else that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as well, the extreme distaste that many female sports fans (myself included) have toward ‘puck bunnies’ or practices that are lumped in with the ‘puck bunny’ stereotype, like bringing dirty signs for player warmups or wearing Mrs. Hall & Mrs. Eberle shirts.

If we speak about these things we find distasteful, it unfortunately tends to come out as catty or bitchy (and, let’s face it, sometimes it is) and all we’re usually told is, ‘well she’s not hurting anybody so shut up.’

That’s both true and false.

If you think these tweets like this are an anomaly, you're either very naive or very deluded.

What I realized is that in the world of hockey fandom women are like Russians. We are a minority group that are battling everyday against the weight of oppressive and offensive stereotypes. A Canadian coasts on a few shifts and he’s ‘having an off night’. A Russian coasts and he’s ‘lazy and not living up to his potential.’ In hockey fandom misogynist insults are common and women are dumb puck bunnies until proven otherwise.

Somebody get this moron a dictionary.

It’s complete and utter unfair bullshit… but it’s reality.

That doesn’t mean we accept it, in fact it’s all the more reason to fight against them. But it also means that, again, as unfair as it is, there is a frustration at those who live up to the stereotypes (or at least appear to play into stereotypes even as a joke).

Hockey fandom includes a lot of amazing people of every age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. but, like society as a whole, it also includes racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, etc. and we all need to work together to change that.  Sometimes it feels like we are banging our heads against the wall, so when we lash out at players and fans who don’t behave as a ‘model minority’ it’s born out of frustration of dealing with injustice. Being a ‘model minority’ or ‘representing your identity group well’ is fraught with issues in and of itself, don’t get me wrong, but it’s often seen as a stepping stone along the way to acceptance.

And you have no idea how strange it is for me to be even *remotely* be advocating this. I’m the girl who read Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life in college and said “fuck traditional identity politics” and proceeded to write a master’s thesis on transgendered representations in film using radical queer theory. I still want to say ‘fuck traditional identity politics’ and hope someday soon we are long past them but in the 10+ years since I read that book I’ve seen how damn far we still have to go to get there. It doesn’t mean we stop fighting, it doesn’t mean we all do it the same way.


About Karen M

Recovering academic/pop culture junkie/crazed hockey fan.


24 thoughts on “‘No Good Russians & Dumb Puck Sluts’: Issues in Representation

  1. As I implied in the other post – just imagine how I feel as an 11-lettered Eastern European female hockey fan~ hahaha, yeah. Good job fighting the good fight, Andrei (the one I am the most annoyed with because he should’ve known better and should’ve said, maybe we should stop after one, Alex~!!), this is why Sergei is my favorite.

    Posted by batmaneatsbabie | May 1, 2012, 11:27 pm
  2. Don’t forget Tim Thomas and blowing off the President, or Byfuglien’s drunk boating or even the infamous Mike Commodore shirtless covered in money pic 🙂

    Personally, i think carter sucked this year, but i’m a blue jackets fan and took it personally lol.

    Otherwise, i agree. All the woman sports fans i know are awesome. The last argument i had with my gf she told me if i didn’t shut up she’d call out Ryan O’Reilly’s name in bed. Best comeback ever, i shut up. But especially with tweets like the ones you posted and te whole Joel Ward thing, this discrimination crap really needs to end.

    Posted by PoorCollegeGuy | May 1, 2012, 11:32 pm
    • “All the woman sports fans i know are awesome.”

      I think that’s part of the issue, a lot of guys don’t know women who are into sports so they make assumptions based on what they heard growing up and then if they see or hear women that fit a negative stereotype it acts as confirmation bias.

      Posted by Karen M | May 2, 2012, 4:48 pm
      • Can’t argue with that, it’s basically text book stereotyping. For punishment, send all of them to Columbus, OH for a single season of college football permitting them to only wear University of Michigan jerseys. Around here, the women will shank you with a high heel for that 😛

        Okay omit the smiley face, they really will kill a fool. lol.

        Posted by PoorCollegeGuy | May 2, 2012, 11:49 pm
  3. Excellent post. Well said and sadly true.

    Posted by John G. | May 2, 2012, 1:51 pm
  4. As a die hard FEMALE hockey fan I 100% agree with your article and would like to say thank you for speaking your mind! I know more about the sport than my husband and any other man in my family. My cousins husband is from Toronto we’re from Buffalo and when he became part of our family he realized just how much I do know about hockey and not just my team and he showed me respect for it which amazed me. Men seem to think that us ladies that are into hockey are more into whats in between the players legs or how they look than the actual game itself which is sad because guess what boys? Your missing out on some intelligent conversation with the opposite sex about sports we know a lot more than you think we do. My team isn’t in the playoffs and I still watch and read every bit of hockey news I can get my hands on Puck Bunnies do not do that. Go Sabres! next year :o( P.S. You would think most men would find women fandom a turn on considering it would be 1 less thing to get yelled at for because she’d be yelling at the TV along with the boys

    Posted by April | May 2, 2012, 2:36 pm
    • The hockey blogging community is awesome and they are, for the most part, pretty open and accepting everyone. I’ve ‘met’ so many amazing people on blogs and on twitter. 🙂

      Posted by Karen M | May 2, 2012, 5:45 pm
  5. Nice post! I am in 100% agreement with you.. I’m both a female hockey fan and Russian so I know how frustrating it can be argue with narrow-minded people and having to defend your gender and your nationality.

    Posted by talkhockeytome | May 2, 2012, 2:53 pm
    • I’m (unfortunately) not surprised that there there hockey fans who hold these prejudices because I’ve seen ‘fans’ be racist and sexist and homophobic too often, but the way that some people in the media seem to be espousing these narratives uncritically is truly appalling. A few of their peers have called them out, but there hasn’t been enough of that in my opinion.

      Posted by Karen M | May 2, 2012, 6:13 pm
  6. That NBC critique of Radulov was not “xenophobia”. It was criticism of one of the laziest efforts i’ve seen in NHL hockey, let alone playoff hockey. The criticism was completely justified as Radulov’s coasting was absolutely pathetic. I don’t know what kind of understanding you have of the game, or strong 2 way positional play to be specific, but what Radulov demonstrated was the furthest thing from that one could possibly witness. And the fact that they brought up the KHL was not an condemnation of Russian players……since many KHL players are NOT Russian. If anything it was a statement highlighting the difference between the 2 leagues. And any hockey man with any experience coaching/scouting in both leagues would tell you the same.

    Posted by eyeh8goodell | May 2, 2012, 3:23 pm
    • Radulov was terrible in that game (though I thought Legwand was terrible too, just in different ways). They didn’t just mention the KHL or talk about actual differences, they just disparaged it. While many of the players in the KHL aren’t Russian, it is a Russian league in the same way that the NHL is a North American League.

      Even if you don’t agree that the initial critique was xenophobic, the response by some fans and media members has absolutely crossed that line.

      Posted by Karen M | May 2, 2012, 6:59 pm
  7. I’m from overseas and I’m not 100% sure what ‘puck bunny’ is supposed to entail, but I think the assumption that women only like sports because of the hot guys seems to be universal. I found it particularly ridiculous when I was at a hockey game last week and a guy suggested I was just there for the guys – really, if I was into sports to check out guys, I’d be at the football game 500 metres down the road where they were running around in singlets and the shortest shorts in the world, not watching a bunch of guys covered head to toe in padding. And even if I did like the eye candy, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the sport as well! While watching the Washington Caps playoff run I’ve been thinking and talking about Ovechkin’s gameplay while simultaneously observing that Brandon Holtby is a babe.

    Posted by Meg | May 2, 2012, 3:46 pm
    • Good to meet another overseas fan (we have a few on staff). I’m hoping that as women start feeling more comfortable being outspoken as fans that the acceptance will grow. The online hockey community is a very accepting place for the most part.

      And eye candy is definitely a secondary perk 😉

      Posted by Karen M | May 2, 2012, 6:18 pm
  8. I was with you until you started slamming the “puck bunny” fan. Why should there be a “right way” to be a fan if you’re a woman? How is shaming women for being overtly sexual even remotely feminist? Why are women wearing “Mrs. Eberle” jerseys, or girls holding signs asking Tyler Seguin to prom being bad fans? Can’t they host hockey knowledge and sexual attraction in their minds at the same time? Men get to ogle “Ice Girls” in spandex outfits at hockey games without being accused of being lesser fans, so why is sexually objectifying the men playing the game taboo?

    I’ve been following hockey my whole life, thanks to a mother who loves the sport, and I find the casual misogyny of hockey fandom beyond wearying. I appreciate you and other bloggers trying to bring it to light, but I think that shaming “puck bunnies” is counterproductive. It’s as valid a form of fanhood (Is that a word? It should be.) as any other. It’s not any worse than the common male fan who’s a team fan, rather than a hockey fan. Slamming these female fans for coloring their hockey interest with something overtly feminine is just another form of patriarchy. It says, “Do it like a man, or GTFO.”

    Posted by Ridley (@_Ridley_) | May 2, 2012, 4:13 pm
    • I think the post was just pointing out that not every female hockey fan should automatically be associated with liking the sport just for the guys. There are tons of female hockey fans who are more knowledgeable about the sport than guys and a lot don’t get the credit they deserve because they are stereotyped as a “puck bunny”. Not saying that you can’t embrace it if you are a puck bunny, just that that shouldn’t be the go-to assumption for girls.

      Posted by talkhockeytome | May 2, 2012, 4:19 pm
    • Thanks for commenting. I actually agree with you, shaming women for sexuality is the worst kind of bullshit and 100% a extension of patriarchy. So I was trying to wrap my head around why the “puck bunny” phenomena was so grating to me. The best explanation I can figure is that sports & sports fandom is both patriarchy on steroids and anachronistic where women are in the minority as far as being fans and journalists. Women are still trying to just get their foot in the door to be accepted and, much like the second wave feminists of the 1970s, proving that ‘we’re just like you’ is our way in. It’s 100% unfair patriarchal bullshit and it’s antithetical to a lot of the broader feminist goals of third wave feminism.

      Does that make sense? Again, I’m not saying this is right or fair (because, frankly, it’s not) but it was more an effort to explain *why* some female fans get upset about this.

      Posted by Karen M | May 2, 2012, 4:41 pm
      • “Again, I’m not saying this is right or fair (because, frankly, it’s not) but it was more an effort to explain *why* some female fans get upset about this.”

        Okay, that makes sense. I certainly have used the term “pink hat” as a term of dismissal, until I thought about it a bit more and decided I was internalizing patriarchy (although I do judge those who wear the “blackout” jerseys, so I guess it’s complicated.)

        It’s just that as the years have passed, and the Bruins’ Ice Girls wear less and less, I’ve decided to view female fans objectifying the players as a fair trade. I’d like to see women just own it. Male fans don’t apologize for ogling the Ice Girls, so female fans should openly enjoy the view as well. I go to a Bruins game once a month w/ mom, follow college hockey and can talk shop with the rest of them, but I will freely admit that I admire the hell out of beauties like Henrik Lundqvist, Patrick Sharp and our own Andrew Ference (Tattoos *and* glasses? I swoon.)

        Also, I’m happy to see more women at hockey games, period. Those girls proposing to players today might be the diehard fans of tomorrow. Whatever gets them into rinks to fall in love with the best game on Earth works for me.

        Posted by Ridley (@_Ridley_) | May 2, 2012, 10:24 pm
        • Very well said. If this blog had a comment rec function I’d rec this 🙂

          Thank you for taking the time to comment so eloquently here. I hope between the two of us we’ve enlightened folks about the complexities and contradictions inherent in not just female sports fandom but feminism at large.

          Posted by Karen M | May 3, 2012, 10:26 am
  9. This reminded me of a weekend last year when I was visiting a friend at their family home. The dad and two “sons-in-law” were talking hockey and somehow the question of who was currently the best team came up. All three of them didn’t know and kept guessing back and forth a bit. I knew that it was the Flyers and after a moment I said so. While at least son-in-law 1 could hear me perfectly well, I was happily ignored. Dad went to look up the standing in the newspaper and son-in-law then (with a quick sideways glance at me and the most obnoxious know-it-all voice) said “Oh, it’s the Flyers.” How impressed the other two were with his knowledge…

    How lame and naive of me to actually think he would give me credit for that bit of information.

    I wish I had been bolder back then, more confident about the fact that I was a hockey fan and I actually knew stuff. Even if it’s just the standings.

    And looking at the other comments on this post, I think everyone, even other women, have to learn how to deal with female hockey fans in all their variations (except for the ones that wear more perfume than an elephant would need 😉 ) in a respectful way. In the end, we all love the same thing.

    Posted by Kathryn P | May 4, 2012, 3:44 pm
  10. I was always the sports girl, that girl the guys could count on to talk hoops, football, hockey, anything. I was that chick who could break down the spread offense, who would debate you on why the NY Knicks haven’t been relevant in 20 years, why hockey overtime is the greatest overtime ever. All my male friends loved me. And they were all bummed I when I got married to a fellow sports journalist.

    But all my life, I’ve dealt with people who can’t grasp the fact that not all girls aren’t in it to ogle the men. Yes, I like eye candy, but I’m not a dumb puck bunny, either. I understand sports on the level they are played. I made it a career to write about sports for 10 years. And still, some people refused to take me seriously. I had to fight to prove I knew what I was talking about, and dammit, I knew what I was talking about. It was frustrating. I always knew many people — both professionals and just plain old fans — were in my boat. And it would always frustrate me whenever stereotypes were thrown back in my face. I’m not a lesbian, I’m not homely, I’m not afraid of men. I just prefer they treat me decently and not walk around with their junk hanging out when I have to work in a locker room, fine thanks. It’s uncomfortable to be around that.

    So thank you, Karen, for writing this article. Some of us have a genuine love for the game — whatever game it is — and hey, we love to talk about it. We are not to be feared, or ridiculed. We want the same respect. And hey, some of us can drink some men under the table. *raises hand*

    P.S.: I’m all about eye candy. Hockey probably has the greatest amount of eye candy per capital of all professional sports. Just saying. 🙂

    Posted by jenn de la fuente (@jrosebud) | May 5, 2012, 3:51 am
  11. What I hate about the “puck bunny” stereotype is that buried in it is the assumption by the men that if you’re even vaguely aware of the players as good-looking males, you’re stupider than a bag of hammers. That’s really what it boils down to. That’s the problem with the stereotype — that male fans are so allergic to the idea that I can 1) think that Player X is hot, and also 2) know more abstruse details about my favorite team than any of them and strategize about the game to boot. If I say “Danny Briere is hot,” it seems on the way to male ears to morph into, “I am an idiot bimbo who barely knows enough to cheer when the guys in orange put the puck into the other net, giggledy-giggle, oopsie I broke a nail.”

    And naming this out loud isn’t the same as calling out women who are in it purely for the guys — it’s calling out the men who think that any sexual female is automatically useless above the neck. There’s a word for that: sexism, pure and simple, vile, and as old as the hills.

    Thinking that the men are hot IS perfectly okay, and there SHOULD be nothing at all wrong with it. Let’s face it, hockey players have pretty much the best figures of any professional athletes. I’m a Flyers fan, and they have been hiring hotties since the day they signed Bernie in 1967 back when he was a dead ringer for one of those beefy archangels on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

    But that doesn’t mean that appreciating the guys can’t be turned into a problem by male fans who are threatened by the idea of women watching a bunch of good-looking young guys working up a sweat, and who think that any woman with a sex drive is a piece of trash.

    I say the next time a guy accuses us of being worthless because one of us was foolish enough to say “Player X is hot,” we sneer at him and say, “You’re just in it for the broom bimbos, you don’t really know anything about the game,” and wait to see how long it takes for his eyeballs to explode …

    Posted by fireandair | May 24, 2012, 3:27 pm
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