A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - SCREEN REVIEWS - Di­rec­tor: Penny Mar­shall { Columbia pic­tures } —britni de la Cretaz

“Girls can’t play ball!” a man yells as he stands on top of the dugout to mock the women play­ing in the All-amer­i­can Girls Pro­fes­sional Base­ball League (AAGPBL). To shut the man up, Ellen Sue (Fred­die Simp­son) fires a ball that pegs him right in the shoul­der, knock­ing him down. Twenty-five years later, women in base­ball are still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the sex­ism por­trayed in this 1992 fea­ture film.

Girls were ini­tially in­cluded in base­ball, but when the pas­time be­came a pro­fes­sional sport in the late 1800s, it was mar­keted to­ward white men. Now though, girls are fight­ing to re­claim their space in the sport. Mo’ne Davis was the break­out star of the 2014 Lit­tle League World Se­ries, be­com­ing the first girl to throw a shutout game in the tour­na­ment’s his­tory. In 2016, the Sonoma Stom­pers be­came the first men’s pro­fes­sional base­ball team to draft mul­ti­ple women. This sea­son, pitcher Stacy Pi­agno col­lected her first win with the team, mak­ing her just the third woman to get a win in men’s pro­fes­sional base­ball.

Yet pro­fes­sional base­ball teams are much more will­ing to cel­e­brate the 25th an­niver­sary of A League of Their Own than the actual women of the AAGPBL. Many teams, in­clud­ing the Boston Red Sox and the Mi­ami Mar­lins, have hon­ored the film. But when it comes to cel­e­brat­ing the actual play­ers, Ma­jor League Base­ball rel­e­gates women to the sidelines, as base­ball has done since Al­bert G. Spald­ing pro­claimed that a woman’s place was in the stands.

Even rarer still is the ac­knowl­edg­ment of Black women in the game. The film al­ludes to it with a sin­gu­lar scene: A Black woman walks onto the field, picks up a base­ball, and fires it to Ellen Sue, who is stand­ing much far­ther away than the clos­est catcher, Dottie (Geena Davis). Af­ter the throw, the woman sim­ply nods at Dottie be­fore walk­ing away. The Black woman was mod­eled af­ter Mamie “Peanut” John­son, who showed up to AAGPBL try­outs but was told to leave be­cause she was Black. Pro­fes­sional teams never honor the women who played in the Ne­gro Leagues be­cause women are still not seen as le­git­i­mate ballplay­ers.

Un­til pro­fes­sional base­ball gets com­fort­able ac­knowl­edg­ing the women who have played base­ball, it will be im­pos­si­ble to get to a point where they are equally in­cluded. Women play­ers de­serve to be rec­og­nized, but 25 years is not long enough to undo more than a cen­tury’s worth of dis­crim­i­na­tion. RAT­ING:

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