I usually use this space to talk about the A’s, but today I’m thinking about the bigger picture – loving baseball in general and what it’s like to be a woman who loves baseball. Today the wonderful-even-though-she’s-a-Giants-fan Wendy Thurm tweeted this and this in response to the latest news and reaction to the White Sox’s Adam LaRoche retiring:
Let’s at least stop talking about whether MLB players can bring their kids in the clubhouse & more correctly say “Can they bring their sons”
I’m not advocating for young girls hanging out in the clubhouse but recognize this is only about sons, not daughters.
This one hit me hard. I was immediately taken back to the late 80s, when one Labor Day weekend, 10-year-old me was excluded from a trip to an A’s game with my dad and my brother. It’s been almost 30 years, but I still remember this as a defining moment in my life, when it was treated as weird and surprising that I was interested in going to a baseball game. My dad had no idea that I would be interested in going. He decided a good day for a ball game was a good day to take his SON to a game. I don’t blame my dad for thinking that way; he was influenced by culture the way we all are. But here we are in 2016 and this is still a thing. People still assume women aren’t interested in sports, and treat those who are as either suspect (“You’re just in it to look at hot dudes”) or strange. If I had a nickel for every time someone reacted with surprise that I love baseball, play in several Out of the Park Baseball leagues, play fantasy sports, and watch baseball nearly every day, I’d have a lot of damn nickels.
But actually, there are a lot of baseball fans that are women. A LOT. In fact, according to this piece (which of course has an “OMG, surprise” headline,) the percentage of MLB’s fan base that is comprised of women is probably around 35 to 40 percent. Sure, that doesn’t have any correlation to the number of women in general and is disproportionate with actual population, but that’s still A LOT of women. This Gallup study was from 10 years ago, so we’ll have to give or take a little, but if they estimate that half of American adults are fans of baseball, and then 35 percent of those are women, I calculate a rough number of something like 40+ million female baseball fans. 40 million? Well, suddenly I don’t feel like such a weirdo.
Yet we still are met with surprise from people who assume we must not be interested in baseball because it doesn’t fit into our gender box. And culture continues to put children into those boxes, and excludes them from things that are culturally reserved for the other gender. It makes me wonder if that number wouldn’t be closer to 50/50 if girls weren’t met with automatic exclusion as they are growing up and presented with opportunities to explore things outside of the box. We are not strange at all. We are just us.