Mascot Mania: Mascot Misogyny

Written By Sarah Gibson

Before we get started: No. No, I don’t think this is the most serious problem facing mascots and/or feminism. No, it is not something that I am legitimately mad about. And no, I am not interested in listening to any of your responses. I have spent the last year of my life reporting on mascots, and I have been a woman for as long as I can remember, so I feel pretty educated on the two topics that intersect in this piece. I have occasionally called myself, “The Mark Madden of Mascots,” and this week, I will be acknowledging criticism just like Madden does: I won’t be. 

That being said, I wanted to discuss the ratio of male-presented to female-presented mascots. I’m sure telling you that there is a stark lack of lady and gender neutral mascots won’t surprise you, but I thought it would be interesting to delve into why. I think it’s important to examine the little biases we find in places like this. (As a little preamble, I want to establish that I know that pronouns do not equal gender, and there are lots of nonbinary folks who use she/her or he/him pronouns, but for the sake of the topic, I don’t really go into it, since it’s not something I think the professional sports world has thought about at all. If a mascot uses he/him pronouns, I consider it male coded, but only because of this extremely specific set of circumstances.)

I looked into mascots from the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA. Out of those four leagues, I was only able to find six total lady mascots, and two gender neutral ones. (For transparency, I didn’t count any running Sausage/Pierogi/Presidential type mascot, nor a mascot like Philedelphia Phyllis because those characters aren’t really figureheads of the team.) I feel it necessary to mention that this is throughout all of history, so most of these mascots are either very new or now defunct. Also, none of the lady mascots are the primary mascot. They all serve as sidekicks to a male mascot.  As for the women, you have:

-Caroline, the secondary lady mascot of the Carolina Hurricanes introduced in 2017. She looks just like the regular mascot, but she has eyelashes, a wig and a skirt. 

-Diamond of the Toronto Blue Jays. Introduced alongside Ace in 2000, but was nixed in 2003, leaving Ace as the sole mascot. 

-Mrs. Met. She’s Mr. Met with eyelashes and a brown ponytail. Introduced in mascot form in 2003 (other than a small stint in 1975).

-Tessie was introduced in 2016 as the little sister of Wally, the Green Monster of the Boston Red Sox. She has eyelashes, red pigtails and a skirt. 

-Rosie Red is the female mascot of the Cincinnati reds, introduced in 2008. She wears an old-timey women’s baseball uniform, skirt and all, and sports bright red lipstick. 

-Bonnie Brewer was a live human woman in the 1970’s whose act included hitting the 3rd baseman on the bum with a broom before kissing them on the cheek. 

As far as gender neutral mascots, I was only able to find two, neither of which are still around. They both use It/its pronouns.

-The Braves Bleacher Creature was this big shaggy walking rug with a permanent toothless smile. Horrifying, really.

-The Crazy Crab of the San Francisco Giants was actually an anti-mascot used to make fun of the mascot craze of the 80’s, but it counts. 

Something I noticed while looking at the disparity between the male-coded and female-coded mascots is that the lady mascots HAVE to be feminine. They have to have ponytails and wear lipstick and skirts, whereas the male mascots don’t owe the crowd anything. Male mascots don’t have to perform masculinity in the way that any female mascot has been expected to outwardly advertise femininity. 

As an example, take one of the greatest mascots to ever play the game: The Philly Phanatic. There is nothing inherently masculine about him. He is a big green furry bird thing with MAGENTA eyelashes. If anything, he even has features that would normally be coded as feminine, but because he’s a male mascot, he doesn’t have to subscribe to any sort of presentation. That, and he is one of the oldest sports mascots to date, designed by some folks associated with the Jim Henson company, but the same can be said about other, frankly, androgynous mascots. Dinger isn’t masculine, Slider isn’t masculine. For god’s sake, The Pirate Parrot isn’t, either! Male just seems to be the default. If anything, it would make more sense to make a majority of mascots gender neutral.

 I’ve seen people argue that the mascots have to be men, since most popular professional sports teams are made of men, and they’re a teammate, but that certainly isn’t true. They’re staff, but they are not a player. They’re a figurehead. A symbol. A host. We have women PR professionals and female in-stadium reporters. So why not a female mascot? I’ve also heard the argument that men are inherently more intimidating, as some mascots are supposed to be, but it’s simply silly to argue that mascots are men because women cannot be “intimidating.” You want to be scary? Make a spider mascot. You’re now the CityTown Black Widows. Make a killer queen bee mascot. You’re the University of College Hornets. 

I actually have some ideas for teams that don’t currently have a mascot, to introduce some diversity: Golden State Warriors? An Amazon warrior woman, whose face is constantly twisted into an angered war cry. She’s in full plate armor, and she has a sword. Her name is Sparta.

LA Lakers? I actually think a live, human mascot could suit you well here. Enter, The Lady of The Lake. She’d offer opportunities for cool special effects during the pregame, and she’s a pretty woman with a sword. Amazing. (It also could go to show that having a mascot who is feminine isn’t bad! Real feminism!)

LA Dodgers? Dog mascot. Her name is Dodger. She’s generic, but good for PR. Your lady mascots don’t even have to be special. They can be a generic animal without any distinguishing features other than a baseball cap and a Jersey. Or, make them gender neutral! Certainly nobody will see that coming. 

I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it this much until I wrote this piece, so it’s not something that vexes me that much, but isn’t it kind of bizarre? Women have been making strides for years as far as representation, but still, when it’s time to choose our mascots, a lady mascot is never really on the table, and certainly not a gender neutral one. I thought looking into it would be interesting, and I hope you did too.