THROWN OUT WITH NO LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: America's Unwillingness to Let Womxn Play Baseball, Analyzed
* "womxn” is a visually inclusive term to include AFAB nonbinary and genderqueer folk into a conversation that they are also potentially affected by.
(There has been discourse on the word’s potentially misleading qualities, but in this article, we are using it to be as inclusive as possible in the face of what is traditionally known as just women’s sports).
I try to live my life without regrets, but I do have one: not being able to play baseball. Though, that really isn’t on me. Ever since I was a kid, being brought up in Queens, New York City - Let’s Go Mets! - I’ve been a huge baseball fan. And being an athlete, I wanted to get into baseball but I was quickly told I couldn’t. Our society tends to relegate girls and womxn to softball and many kids, like me, fell in love with baseball, wanted to play hardball, but did not have anyone to advocate for us to break the norms.
Large efforts have been made to integrate womxn into baseball. There are many more womxn now in management and executive positions, primed to affect the game from the minors up to the majors. Major League Baseball has additional opportunities through the Diversity Fellowship Program, however, pathways for on the field are still a large and defiant work in progress, and severely lacking. There are numerous debates to be had about whether integrating womxn in the game or creating a whole separate league is the right way to go, but either way, America has a stringent unwillingness to let womxn play baseball.
Womxn have been playing baseball just as long as men have - but it’s only womxn that have been restricted from the sport.
It actually wasn’t too long ago where womxn were playing on the field. In 1943, Charles Wrigley (yes, that Wrigley) set to keep baseball alive during World War II and created an all women’s softball team that eventually became hardball in what is now known as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
And in the Negro League - many poc, especially
black folks were not allowed to play baseball within the MLB, so they formed their own league - black womxn exemplified this athleticism, rivaling men and making it to the top levels of the league.
So with this hype, what happened to womxn’s baseball? Ironically, television happened. Men’s games began to be televised and viewers no longer found a value to attending in-person. The womxn’s game was left at a standstill and eventually fizzled out, the AAGPBL disbanding after their 1954 season. Out with
the new, in with the same old, same old, it seemed.
Today, slowly but surely, we’re making strides, with more womxn playing college ball than ever and in making their way towards independent ball. However, even with the female ban in the MLB being rescinded in the 1990s, there are no womxn baseball players with a pathway to the majors.
Womxn’s sports have been on an incredible and persevering rise not only in the United States, but on a global scale as well. As a result, open diversity in gender identity and sexuality in sports have been at the forefront of social conversation. But baseball isn’t one of them, in either respect. There is a real rigidity in the sport and that may be attributed to the game revolving around steadfast traditions. So, we turn to the media. But the non-cancellation cancellation (renewed for a second but final season with only four episodes) of A League of Their Own by Amazon Prime is yet another example of the system prevailing in its patriarchal stronghold.
Even with all this data showing the world that womxn do play and excel at baseball, that people want to see womxn play baseball and be represented in baseball in real life there continues to be a real lack of progressive movement towards equality, virtually every step of the way. So, when reality doesn’t reflect the way we wish it to be, we turn to media for representation - and it seems “fiction” has done a lot more for us in paving the reality we wish to see than reality itself. The 1992 classic, A League of Their Own, is arguably one of the best pieces of media about baseball, but even with this praise, we’ve separated the idea of womxn playing baseball into both fiction and the past. But more notably, they weren’t able to tell the full truth of those stories. Womxn of color (notably black womxn), gender minorities, and sapphics were shut out or hidden away. The tv show adaptation by
Will Graham (Daisy Jones & the Six) and Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), and an earlier tv show that featured a woman as MLB’s first major league pitcher/player, Pitch, sought to fix that. And as expected, audiences and critics alike, loved it. But yet again, their progress was hindered by a lack of support (by executives), an uphill battle (mass cancellation of sapphic shows leading to fans having to fight for their shows as soon as the show dropped), and left to fizzle out (ALOTO was renewed for a second but last season with only four episodes, and Pitch was left canceled on a cliffhanger).
It’s starting to seem like the powers that be want us to think that womxn and baseball are mutually exclusive entities but there’s a mountain of evidence to suggest against this. We think of baseball in this country as merely a men’s game but womxn have been integral to its perseverance and growth. In fact, 44% of womxn are fans of baseball. Womxn are fans and ardent supporters and we don’t just want to be sidelined. We want to get in the game. It’s time to let us play too, without hindrance. Further, we want to see ourselves represented in the sport we love, both in media and in real life. How many start and stops will it be before we #LetHxrPlay for real, with the multitudes they contain, with full and ardent support, and as their genuine selves? When will the systems in place shift to let us play and how much more fight do we have to put up against in order to do so? It isn’t that womxn can’t play baseball or would make the men’s game less advanced - it’s about being unwilling to let go of not only the status quo but the past. And looking at today’s political landscape, we all know how hard that apparently is for some. All we can do is keep fighting for the joy we want to inhabit and hopefully, when our fight breaks the dam, it’ll flood.