Why So Butch?

The most popular stereotype by far for a softball player is the assumption that one is gay. For some reason if a girl wants to play softball they have to be “manly” or “butch”. It is never even considered that a girl could be heterosexual and not only play the game but also be a great player. Yes, in my experience this stereotype has held true in some cases. Several of my coaches growing up were in fact gay. But the thing that strikes me is, it’s not a prerequisite for softball to be gay. There isn’t an application form that has you check off your sexual orientation. So what if your gay or strait? The focus should be on you performance as a player.

Being placed into this stereotype is awkward for players both gay and straight. It puts them in a situation where they are constantly feeling judged. Either your worried about people mislabeling you as gay or if you are then you dread the day when someone were to ever come up and ask you, what you would say. Playing softball, like any sport, requires an athletic body which does’t typically conform to that stick figure ideal of the perfect woman. Maybe because of the more “manly” and athletic body type developed playing sports, adds fuel to this stereotype.

Even though yes some softball players are gay, this holds true for any sport. In my experience I’ve seen people both gay and straight play a variety of sports. Just because one sport is stereotypically more gay or more straight, the players don’t gravitate towards that sport because of who they’re attracted to. I’ve played with girls who off the field people would be considered girly-girls. They are the complete contradiction to the stereotype but I have seen that if they happen to be wearing a softball shirt people do give them looks or wonder why they play softball. 

My relationship to this stereotype is no different that any other players. The assumption that because I play softball I’m gay will always be there. I will admit it makes me uncomfortable that people will just assume my sexual orientation because of the sport I love to play but I just try to look past that and at least for my own life, I try not to make assumptions about other players. I make an effort to get to know players as individuals instead of clumping them into a stereotypical ideal.

Here’s an example of this stereotype.


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1 Response to Why So Butch?

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    This stereotype has some great nuances to it worth exploring. First, there is the question of how the stereotype came to exist, which you allude to in your attention to the connection to masculinity and athleticism (and apparently, sexuality). What is also worth consideration is how lesbianism came to be so closely associated with a butch aesthetic. Just as not all softball players are gay, all lesbians are not butch. Adding to the complexity of this situation is the practice some communities of lesbians form around finding safer spaces to be themselves without fear of violence or repercussions. Perhaps softball teams have become one of these places in particular times and places. It is also worth considering what makes people so uncomfortable about having assumptions (wrong or right) made about their sexuality. This is obviously a charged assumption for many reasons, but moving beyond the knee-jerk emotional response to a more nuanced understanding of why we feel that way is worth considering. Of course, it would be good to move toward a more open and accepting mindset away from any such assumptions, but it is worth considering how expressing discomfort at such assumptions may actually close down conversations that could otherwise help us to question why such stereotypes exist.

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