Baseball Isn't For Girls: HowTitle IX and a Sexist Culture Keep Women Out Of MLB
There are no women in Major League Baseball. We all know this; all you have to do is turn on a game or two or 300 and you'll see - or not see, to be more accurate - the proof of this: Not a woman on the field anywhere. Why? Why is that?
As this writer sees it, there are three main reasons for this.
1. Our culture, despite the great progress made since the 1960s, continues to support traditional gender roles that don't include athletics for girls.
2. Title IX created a "separate but equal" arrangement in school sports that virtually eliminated baseball from girls sports.
3. Baseball is and always has been a male-run, male-dominated sport and there is no incentive to change this.
Let me preface this discussion with this disclaimer: I am a woman who fought in the gender revolution of the 1970s. We made a lot of progress, but we didn't change everything. I am not blaming men for anything, simply pointing out what I see as facts.
Anytime women attempt to make inroads into male-dominated areas, there is resistance. Not only from men, but from society as a whole.
Americans want their women to fit certain roles. Girls are not socialized to sports as boys are. Boys are encouraged to pick a sport and stick with it, develop their talents, and make a name for themselves on the fields of competition.
Is softball an equal and fair substitute for baseball?
Unless it's a feminized sport, like gymnastics, swimming, or tennis, girls are not similarly encouraged.
American girls are supposed to quit sports and take up cheer leading or to sit demurely on the sidelines, rooting for their boyfriends and brothers. Because much of America still believes that boys don't make passes at girls who throw passes. Or turn double plays. Or sink three-pointers.
We want our daughters dating boys, not competing against them. And our daughters are taught from early childhood to know that's what we want.
Of course there are young women all over America excelling at sports, but for the most part, they are the exception, not the rule.
With the advent of Title IX, which required that schools offer all children equal opportunities in all areas of education, girls were offered more opportunity to compete, but were generally allowed to do so in separate arenas.
Girls could now be excluded from baseball because schools offered softball, a more acceptable sport for women. And so it's remained since Title IX became law in 1972; girls now have sports offered to them, but those sports aren't always the same as the boys.
It's largely because of Title IX and its allowance of separate-but-equal sports opportunities for girls, that there are no women in MLB; girls stop playing baseball, generally, around 6th grade and are never given the opportunity again.
Girls don't get to play baseball on a competitive level, so they don't get drafted to play baseball at the professional level.
In general, the inclusion of women in all areas of American life has taken time and been met with resistance. Most cultures tend to hang on to their traditions, and this country is no exception.
Witness the gender integration of West Point, which didn't happen until 1976, despite women's contributions to the military since the Revolutionary War.
Recall the fight Shirley Muldowney put up to race in the NHRA; all she wanted to do was drive a funny car and have breasts at the same time. Apparently, that was a problem for the men.
No institution likes change, and sports seem to like it least of all. NASA has had female astronauts since 1978, yet it was only in August of this year that a woman piloted an unlimited turbine-powered hydroplane.
Are males reluctant to give up their power, control, and dominance in what are traditionally men's domains? Perhaps.
Maybe men don't understand that, given the choice, women do want to compete on the testosterone laden fields of sports, against the men.
After all, real girls don't play sports, right?
It doesn't really matter why women haven't been drafted by the Dodgers or the Cardinals or the Yankees, the fact remains that they haven't.
There is not enough attention paid to the lack of women in baseball, and not enough pressure brought to bear on the powers that be in MLB, to make this change.
There's more to be said on this issue, of course. There are mothers who were denied sporting opportunities who now fight for their daughters to be allowed to compete in school athletics.
There are girls willing to take on the establishment to play boys' sports because baseball or football or wrestling aren't offered for young women. These girls work hard and set a wonderful example.
There are socioeconomic considerations here, and cultural reasons for the current condition of women's baseball. There isn't time or room to go into all of it.
All of this aside, there is still no baseball for girls in a lot of places. Once Little League ends for them, it's softball or nothing. Which means there are no girls being scouted for, or drafted by, MLB. And that is not acceptable.
For more information on the reasons that women aren't present in Major League Baseball, check out these resources:
Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don't Play Baseball, by Jennifer Ring (University of Illinois Press)
No Girls in the Clubhouse: The Exclusion of Women from Baseball, by Marilyn Cohen (McFarland)
Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is not Equal in Sports, by Eileen McDonough and Laura Pappano (Oxford University Press)
Girls Play Baseball
Why I don't play baseball
Do you think there are other reasons women don't play baseball, despite the fact that many want to? Is Title IX doing a disservice to girls by allowing for separate sports instead of fully integrating them? Did I overlook a reason for the lack of women in MLB? Let me know by commenting below.
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