You wish you could “Play Like a Girl”

Softball is a sport that is undeniably linked with lesbian stereotypes in popular culture. Softball players are generally built in the upper body with strong defined arms. The body stature that is represented in a softball player is associated with a butch masculine body type. This common perception of female softball players is an evident factor for the athletes that participate. Watching my sister’s collegiate softball team, many of the girls wore big earrings and bows in their hair to add some femininity to their uniforms. The image of the masculine butch softball body overlooks the realistic body of each individual that plays softball.  

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Because of the stereotypical body types that softball players inhibit to perform well in the sport their is another common misconception that all softball players are lesbians. In 2010, the simple posting of picture in a prominent newspaper of the Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan with a bat in hand over home plate, the assumption was made that clearly she must be a lesbian. The representation of softball players as lesbians makes it difficult for woman who play the sport because they are constantly being judged. Not only is it difficult for woman who do not identify as lesbian to break away from the stereotype, but it also makes individuals who do identify as lesbian an easy target for social stigma. This stereotype requires woman to not only perform on the field, but overly perform their sexual orientation to not be categorized simply by the sport they play. 

Athletes should be judged based on their performance not their sexual orientation. However, when woman perform better in a sport than men, a justification is needed. This goes back to the historical ideology that woman were not meant to play sports and there place was in the home. The gender-bias that exist, are to profess males as athletic and woman as not. Another commonly heard phrase for softball players because of the similarities with baseball is, “You play like a girl!” Despite the obvious similarities with baseball and softball there is a continual debate that softball is less than. Justifications are usually attempted like the size of the diamond and equipment, however they both entail the same concept, set-up, and most of the rules. 

It is very unfortunate that the woman associated with playing softball are seen as butch, gay, and less than. If you were to line up any softball team, it would be clear and evident that softball players  come in all shapes, sizes,  and sexual orientations. However, they do all Play Like a Girl, some things are just better that way.

Works Cited:

Hayes, Graham. “Stereotypes Haunt softball.” ESPN.com. Hayes, 11 Oct. 2010. Web. 17 Jan. 2014. <http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?id=5671978&gt;.

 

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2 Responses to You wish you could “Play Like a Girl”

  1. Jamie Ray says:

    Good article, but take a minute to think about the question in reverse. What role does softball play for butch lesbians?
    Is softball a place where their butchness is an asset and not a liability?
    A place to be butch without it being in a bar or a dating environment?
    Where the uniform is comfortable and not seen as inappropriate?
    It is interesting to completely turn the issue around.

  2. Sarah McCullough says:

    I like that you mention the example of Elena Kagan. This nicely attenuates the ubiquity of the stereotype in the U.S. This could be a productive site for future analysis as the project moves forward. Also consider how the butch aesthetic’s tie to softball might actually be productive in some small ways. How might this provide a safer space for individuals often marginalized in society? Could we read the butch label and the phrasing “you play like a girl” as a potential site for appropriation of something that is supposed to be derogatory? What would such an analysis look like? How can we move toward changing stereotypes in nuanced and complicated ways?

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