The invisible man that rules baseball

Throughout my research I wanted the focal point to emphasize on gender differences in baseball, but that would have been a huge topic to cover, so instead I will be only looking at the roles that are played by women. It is well known that baseball is a male dominated sport so I will not be looking in depth the roles played by men but rather a cultural analysis of women in baseball past and present. My question is why is it that women’s roles are deemed minimal? I will be looking at the roles more concretely, but also how it ties to the role of the nation. Some of the roles that will be discussed are the baseball wife, the reporter, and as well as the athlete.

The first role that I looked at is the baseball wife, where most of the information could be found in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography: Baseball Wives; Gender and the Work of Baseball. To summarize this reading, baseball wives are shown in the spotlight as subservient women that cater to their men but in reality they are the opposite. Many wives were interviewed for this particular study of the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography and basically “big league wives in particular felt that their lives had been overly glamorized by the press and that the public had little understanding of the liabilities that go with their position” (Gmelch and San Antonio). Through the media, baseball wives are seen as these high maintenance trophy wives that do little in the baseball world. What people fail to realize is that the wives are the ones that hold down the home while their husband is playing baseball eight months out of the year. Because the wives have so much time away from their husbands they become extremely independent taking on the roles that are predominantly male such as the role of the father. But even though baseball wives do so much to ensure that the home is contained, “such comments reveal another aspect of the role of the baseball wife- she is viewed in large measure as a player’s property, part of the assets he brings to the game” (Gmelch and San Antonio). Though the wife is independent, being the wife of a baseball player; a sport where patriarchal ideologies dominate, she is seen as the wife and nothing else.

The next role examined is the female reporter in baseball. The second source used is a book called Media Sport that is edited by Lawrence A Wenner with contributions of many people. I specifically focused on a section in chapter 6 because it primarily talked about women and sport coverage. This section concentrates on breakthrough performances of females in sports media but also the areas where work is needed. It was interesting to see that “the number of woman enrolled in journalism and mass communication programs has outnumbered men for over twenty years since 1977” (92) but the statistics of women in the actual field show otherwise especially when it comes to male dominated sports like baseball. The female baseball reporter/sportswriter is seen as the “bottom of the food chain” not necessarily on the quality of what they produce but rather solely on their gender. They are ridiculed and are made into spectacles where bets are made against them. Just because females have access to report/ write about baseball that does not mean that they are accepted. One quote to fairly summarize this reading is that “female reporters cross “a dangerous intersection between media and sport where gender values still privilege male power” (95).

Lastly the role of the female as an athlete is analyzed. Historically it is shown that women are in fact capable of playing baseball. On the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League website an article was written by Joanna Rachel Turner on the history of women playing professional baseball. 1943 was the year that P.K Wrigley started the league for women. The league started because many of the greatest baseball players were off to fight in World War I. It is quite ironic that during World War I the girls professional league was more popular than major league baseball, “the League had a profound effect on how the people of the 1940’s looked at something that was supposedly ‘a man’s game,'” (Turner). The league only lasted for 12 seasons due to the decline on attendance but it demonstrates that women do attain the skills to play baseball. Society felt that women baseball players should go back to being mothers and wives. It is sad that the league ended because it was such a vital and crucial aspect of feminist history. And it ended based on the ideology that society has that caters male dominance.
What does the baseball wife, female baseball reporter, and female baseball player have in common? They are all marginalized in the male dominated sphere of baseball. It does not matter the involvement, knowledge, or skills that a women possesses in the sport of baseball because the patriarchal ideology will always determine that baseball is not for women. And as previously shown in the sources used the women that are present in baseball are rarely taken into account and/or are not taken seriously. Unless that ideology is changed it will continue to decide on the inclusion or exclusion of women in baseball.

Creedon, Pamela J. “Mass Media as a Gendered Institution.” Mediasport; Women, Sport, and Media Institution: Issues in Sports Journalism and Marketing. Edited by Lawrence A Wenner. Taylor & Francis Publication. 1999. Page 92-95

Gmelch, George, and, San Antonio, Patricia Mary. “Baseball Wives: Gender and the Work of Baseball.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.2001. Sage Publications.

Turner, Joanna Rachel. “Diamonds are a girls best friend: How P.K Wrigley started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.” All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Website.

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1 Response to The invisible man that rules baseball

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Good sources overall. You demonstrate a pervasive and historical trend of sexism in baseball through a variety of angles. These sources all in various ways demonstrate the work that women are doing to fight against these obstacles, but they also demonstrate that this is not enough. As you mention in the conclusion, patriarchal ideologies must also be addressed. I’d enjoy hearing what sort if interventions you would suggest or stage based on your work and research. What can be done to challenge the system that continually belittles, downplays or suppresses women’s efforts?

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