Jennie Finch the most famous softball player in history, as described by Time Magazine, has become an iconic representation for the sport. Finch’s popularity as a female athlete derived from her ability to remain feminine while playing the sport. “Finch taught young woman all over the world that it is possible to achieve greatness, look beautiful while doing so, and still remain grounded and humble about it” (Banks). Finch gives softball a different reputation from the lesbian, butch, and masculine stereotype that has been associated with the sport. Her long blonde locks, tall, slim physique, and pretty facial features in combination with her muscular and toned body, show that Jennie Finch is as much of a woman as an athlete.
The image above depicts Jennie Finch adorned in a form-hugging dress and strappy heels. On the softball field, Finch with softball in hand is in stride to deliver her infamous rise ball pitch. The way in which Finch’s body is highlighted and enhanced, accentuates her muscles and physique. With Finch attempting to showcase her feminine body and simultaneously depicting her athleticism, this photo gives the idea that the photo is that of the male gaze. With softball on the rise, there was much need to gain an audience from both men and woman. While the image is being sold to men, as Finch is an attractive woman. The image is also being sold to women telling them that they can be in the place of Jennie Finch. Finch is the perfect icon for softball because of her ability to appeal to both worlds. Finch is not only attractive, but she was also well known for her role as a mother and wife. This picture is meant to make fans out of everyone for different reasons.
With Finch in a white dress, the ideas of purity project the image of an All-American girl. Because Finch is the face of softball for Collegiate Softball, National Pro Fastpich, and the last USA Olympic Team, there is an image being formulated about the ideal softball player. With the lack of diversity being shown throughout the various levels of collegiate and professional softball, she is assisting in reinforcing the limiting body type of what a softball player should look like. As Heywood discusses, “the ideal image of female athletes perfectly incorporates the idea of the new, can-do, DIY, take responsibility-for-yourself subject” (Heywood, 113). This attitude suggests that it is in the hand of the individual to succeed in sport despite their situation. With Finch encompassing the token iconic role for all of softball, she is limiting the opportunities for girls that do not come from the same socioeconomic status, culture, or upbringing as her own. Despite her stance to to promote inclusivity and femininity as a female athlete, this photo objectifies the female athlete body and uses Jennie Finch as a tool of advertisement to increase fans for the National Pro Fastpitch Softball League.
Banks, Paul. Jennie Finch Pitching in a Dress. N.d. Photograph. Sportsjabber. Web. <http://sportsjabber.net/2010/08/22/jennie-finch%E2%80%99s-final-home-stand-and-her-legacy-in-softball/>.
Heywood, Leslie “Producing Girls: Empire, Sport, and the Neoliberal Body” in Physical Culture, Power, and the Body, London: Routledge, 2007, 101-120.