Words do matter & the power of community

Yesterday The Howler published another article in their Bleachers Full of Women series. This article, Bleachers Full of Women: Debate Over Timbers Army Chant Show Why Words Matter, hit closer to home than the previous two (and that’s saying a lot), as I was interviewed for the piece and was able to reflect on my personal experiences as a female supporter of the Chicago Fire. Author Gaby Kirschner not only ties together issues that the Timbers Army and Section 8 Chicago (S8C) are faced with, but also connects their frustrations to Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro’s #MoreThanMean video.

Kirschner touches base on the impact that words have on the women in Major League Soccer’s supporters’ culture. As Kirschner said, “words have an impact, whether part of a tradition, meant seriously, or not.” I couldn’t agree more.

Since sharing Kirschner’s article via Twitter ( both via my personal account @nikhak and via @section8chicago) there have been mixed reactions. Some have been off-putting and difficult to read like the sarcastic tweet below.

Maud Squiers, who was also quoted in the article, reacts to article responses that she received on Twitter this morning.

Overall, however, Kirschner’s article was well-received. My first tweet about it received 25 retweets and 37 likes. Section 8 Chicago’s tweet was also received more positively than not.

I am fortunate to be among peers, who generally do not tolerate the behavior that is mentioned in Kirschner’s article.  The tweets below reference scenarios both Squiers and I have encountered with other Fire fans, and we’re certainly not alone.

Even with an outpouring of support from my peers over the years, there was a time when I faced my own anxieties, especially when it came to posting to S8C’s forums, where most Fire supporters’ discussions occurred before social media was a primary platform for soccer conversation.

I feel fortunate that Kirschner gave me the opportunity to talk about the struggles some female Fire fans face. More importantly, and not touched upon much in the article, is how happy I was to talk about CF97 Sirens.  CF97 Sirens, who this blog was named after, is “a group dedicated to like-minded female supporters of CF97 and/or affiliated with Section 8 Chicago that allows women the opportunity to connect with one another in a female only forum in the hopes that we will inspire, unite, motivate, & encourage one another in a culture that is male dominated.” Because regardless of all the bullshit that we have to face, it’s  nice to have a women’s-only outlet. 

Supporters’ culture is such a “boys club”. Unfortunately in many ways, Chicago Fire’s supporters’ scene is no different. Over time, I learned to ignore the “boys club” mentality as best I could and post to the forums whenever I wanted. I realized that I’m a valuable part of our community, and I have a lot to contribute. I can’t let others (male or female) make me feel inferior because I wasn’t one of “the guys.” This was a major influence that encouraged me to start the CF97 Sirens in 2013.

Since I first started being involved in Chicago’s independent supporters’ culture around 2006, I have seen the community evolve – more women are getting involved, which is extremely encouraging.  I hope that if any women are intimidated or face insecurities like I did they use CF97 Sirens as an outlet, where they can reach out to other like-minded fans.  It’s empowering to have an outlet for female fans to connect together at without the domineering personalities of many male fans.

While dealing with trolls and bullies is absolutely uncalled for in Chicago’s supporters’ community, for the most part, supporters have always been known to stand up for one another.  I, for one, am thankful to be surrounded by people who do not tolerate the hostility of words towards others.

As Kirschner said, “…because words do matter, they should be taken seriously and used to bring soccer fans together rather than tear them apart.”


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