Do you understand what's going on or do you just like watching people beat the crap out of each other?
So that's the embarrassing question I asked a co-worker on Friday when they mentioned they were watching a lot of boxing lately. Their response was an offended look and "That's an interesting question - would you ask a guy that question?" At that point, I was confused, as I hadn't even considered that this could be taken as a sexist remark, and I didn't even realize that that's what they were saying to me.
Part of it is that I ask these off-putting questions frequently, with these false dichotomies. They're generally meant to be teasing, a bit of a verbal riposte. To me it's the same idea as when someone asks me "do you really like your vest (car, shirt, glasses, etc), or do you only wear it because it's orange?" Another example might be when I tease one of our vegan coworkers about how I think his choice to be vegan really isn't socially responsible, e.g. " . . . but think about the cattlemen and their families."
I think I asked the question because through my lens, boxing is a gigantic mystery and a bit absurd. I don't understand it as a sport. I get watching it as a social activity or appreciating it technically - the conditioning to go all out for 3 minutes a round, the displays of speed and strength, etc, but it's very different from when I watch soccer, tennis, or golf. But I just don't get the appeal of watching two people try and hit each other repeatedly, with the goal of disabling/outlasting the opponent.
On the other hand, it's quite possible that I did ask the question because she was female, that maybe I've got an unconscious association/bias, and my asking this question highlighted that women can't be boxing (sports?) fans. I don't think that's the case, and there wasn't any intentional malice (besides some playful ribbing).
In a more general sense, the question "Do you like football or are you just watching the Super Bowl for the commercials?" has become pretty common, and I've never considered the implications behind it, e.g. "I don't think you're a sports fan . . . " Coming from a non-sports fan to another, there's probably no cross wires. A face-painted/jersey wearing fan asking a woman this question could definitely be seen as judgmental and biased. In my non-"sportsball" social circles though, this question is just a question.
Even flipping the question around, e.g. "Do you just like the commercials or are you hoping to watch the game?" changes the tenor of the dialogue . . .
It's amazing how much subtle shifts and changes in context can change the whole conversation.