Historically, sport fandom and spectating have tended to be more common among males than females. However, recent trends indicate that women are showing a greater interest in these activities (Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001). Researchers Dietz-Uhler, Harrick, End, and Jacquemotte (2000) have reported that there is now roughly an equal amount of males and females who consider themselves to be sport fans (based on raw numbers of persons in their sample). However, Dietz-Uhler and associates also found that females are not as likely as men to highly identify with being a sport fan. Therefore, females perceive themselves as sport fans but are less likely to view being a sport fan as an important part of their identity.
Much of the early research explored differences between female and male fans as well as perceptions of them. For instance, males are more likely to engage in traditional fan behaviors such as watching sport on television, learning about the players and discussing sport (Dietz-Uhler et al., 2000; Gantz & Warner, 1991). Further, when asked to describe the reasons they are interested in sport, male fans (relative to female fans) are more likely to be motivated by eustress, self-esteem, and aesthetics (Dietz-Uhler et al., 2000; Wann, 1995; Wann, Schrader, & Wilson, 1999). Females, on the other hand, are more likely to consider themselves to be sport fans because they enjoy watching sporting events with family (Dietz-Uhler et al., 2000). This research has helped us understand differential perceptions of fan behaviors as a function of gender. Dietz-Uhler, End, Jacquemotte, Bentley, and Hurlbut (2000) extended the research on the reasons why and how females and males view themselves as sport fans and examined how others perceive the differences between the sexes. They found that those who identified strongly with being a sport fan believed that males engage in more "traditional" sport fan behaviors (i.e. attending games, talking about sports to friends, learning about players, etc.) and perceived that there are greater differences between male and female sport fans. However, if the participants were not strongly identified with being a sport fan, they did not believe there to be a significant difference between male and female sport fan behavior.
Taking it one step further, Wann, Schinner, and Keenan (2001) investigated how males perceive the female sport fan. They found that men with a high interest in sport tend to view a female with a similarly high interest in sport positively, while evidencing less positive feelings for females who show little or no interest in sport. This was termed the "Something About Mary" effect, based on the movie released in 1998. In the film, a female character (Mary) showed a high level of interest in sport. Mary played various sports, explicitly expressed interest in watching and following sport, and at one point, stated, "Hey, do you want to go upstairs and watch Sportscenter?" In the movie, the female was also shown as very attractive and feminine, suggesting that this may be an important factor for Mary. Does the gender role orientation of female fans influence the evaluations men have of her? This question was the focus of the current research.
Being a sport fan in the past has typically been a male-dominated domain (Wann, Melnick, et al., 2001) and the media has followed suit when covering or advertising sporting events (Duncan, 1990; Duncan & Hasbrook, 1988). Advertisements on television during sporting events usually depict a male as the main focus. If there is a female portrayed, she is usually very attractive. Not only do advertisers show mainly men in commercials during sporting events, but they also portray female athletes in provocative ways, showing more posed for pictures than action shots when compared to male athletes (Duncan, 1990; Duncan & Hasbrook, 1988).
Research has shown that men are more likely to pay attention to activities (e. …