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Keep Playing For Fun.

August 16, 2012

So while browsing youtube I came across this awesome video…  The whole channel (love Amy Poehler) is actually made up of awesome videos… but this one specifically addresses feminism as well as baseball… which happened to be my sport of choice as a young girl.

This little girl articulates some great improvements brought about by feminism.  She insightfully points out that her single mother can raise and support her because of feminism.  I hope this little one doesn’t lose her passion for feminism and continues to advocate for women as a young adult, and eventually as an adult.  Near the end, she sings a song about girls being able to play baseball and sports, just as boys can.

The song brings me back to my years in which baseball wasn’t something I only watched but something I participated in.  I was on “the yankees” in little league, of which there were maybe only one or two other girls at any given time. No, not on the team- in the entire league.  I attended baseball camp every summer as the only girl in my age bracket. Growing up with an older brother and a twin brother, I did not find this strange. I was very aware of it but it didn’t bother me. I felt special even. When I think back to baseball camp I get nostalgic… what a great way for a kid to spend summer.

But then I entered middle school and things changed.  I didn’t want to be different from the other girls or the only girl in little league.  I felt self conscious and scared.  I preferred hanging out with the girls at the baseball games rather than being in them.  I traded in my tomboy get up for more feminine clothing.  I wanted to be as pretty as my friends who wore dresses… who all the boys had secret (or not so secret) crushes on.

In tenth grade when I decided to join the girl’s softball team I realized I literally had not moved in almost 4 years.  Even though I was thin, I was actually really out of shape.  But even so, I realized I liked to play.  I missed it.  I was even pretty good!

Still, move on to college and I realized something else.  I was in better shape now: I was able to run a mile without dying for air.  But now, I went to the gym to run on the elliptical with the other girls in spandex shorts wearing makeup.  I would look over a the basketball courts and see all of the boys playing pickup games and would wonder why girls can’t exercise that way.

What happened to playing for fun?  I never wanted to play softball- or basketball for that matter- professionally.  I never even wanted to play competitively in college.  But boys who don’t play on college basketball teams still get together with their friends and play.  Why can’t women get together and play a game of basketball or softball for fun?

Why don’t women?  Instead of going to the gym and watching E!News, why don’t we each bring a couple friends and make exercising into a fun activity to do with friends? And even meet new friends.

Well I guess I sort of know why.

When it rained at baseball camp, we would trek up to this school building and watch The Sandlot.  The Sandlot is one of my all time favorite movies.  I even used the line “Follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong,” as my senior quote in my high school yearbook.  I honestly love that movie to death.  But there was one line that always bothered  me and now understand is so revealing about the way we are taught to feel about women and sports.

When two boys are throwing insults at each other, they use all sorts of gross and creative digs: “You ain’t good enough to lick the dirt off our cleats,” “Scab eater,” “Butt sniffer,” “Puss licker,” “Fart smeller,” “You eat dog crap for breakfast, geek,” “You mix your Wheaties with your mama’s toe jam,” “You bob for apples in the toilet… and you like it.”

but then… the ultimate insult: “You play ball like a GIRL!”

And there it is.  I know this movie is supposed to take place a long time ago, but the message hasn’t changed.  And I don’t know what the answer is.  I don’t know how parents can keep their girls into playing sports or how we can get people to stop making jokes about the WBA.  I just know that I look back at my summers at baseball camp and feel they were a special part of my childhood.  One of the reasons I look back on camp with such fond memories is because it wasn’t about winning or losing.  One of the reasons I love the sandlot so much is because they never kept score.  It was all for the love of the game.

I guess all we can do is encourage girls at a young age to play and be active.  So many girls are immobilized by what it means to be “girly,” when they don’t even realize they can do both.  And for adult women who never played as children, don’t be afraid to join your company’s softball team or join a pickup game of basketball.  So many men who were not baseball players or who have never even played before join those leagues just for fun. Hell, Smalls in the sandlot didn’t know how to play baseball before he met Benny.  And I’m not trying to tell you to be someone you’re not if you don’t like sports- that’s ok too.  But if you liked a sport when you were younger but either just never played or just sort of lost it along the way, then get back out there.

Play for fun.

Peace and Love,

-K

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