Society and Culture

You Play Ball Like a Girl!

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Oh, I would love it if the way that people are talking about 16-year-old Melissa Mayeux–an excellent French shortstop (and the first woman to be added to the MLB’s international registration list, which makes her technically eligible to be signed this week)–is how we would talk about men.

Take Yankees outfielder Garrett Jones. How ‘ridiculous’ would it be if I took his ‘supportive’ comments about Mayeux and made them about men? Let’s find out, shall we? (Brackets are where I’ve switched pronouns and other such gender-y words.)

I watched the video of [him] taking ground balls and hitting, and [he] looked really good for being 16… [He] looked good for a 16-year-old [girl]. I’m for it. If a [boy] can play up to the level and compete with [gals], I’m all for it. If [he] can compete and help the team win, why not? It’s pretty cool that [boys] are playing baseball. I didn’t know they had that in other countries, like France. So, why not? If a [boy] can compete with the [gals] and play, why not let [him] play?

Hahaha, funny, right–isn’t it so odd to talk about how surprising it is that boys might be as good as girls at something? But it is not ridiculous–it is, in fact, considered complimentary–when we talk about girls that way. When we’re shocked that girls and women are–not can be, but are–as good as men at sports. Or maybe–gasp!–even better?

Keep your compliments to yourselves, boys. I don’t want to hear that I can play if I’m as good as you. (I already know I’m better.)

And just for clarity there, Jones: were you unclear as to whether people in general play baseball in France? Or that girls are allowed to play?

Probably the second one, because you seem surprised that girls play baseball at all (though I suppose you’re right: it is “pretty cool”).

But I suppose maybe it’s not fair for me to take Jones as a proverbial straw man: he was, after all, trying to be supportive, and anyway, the problem is not limited to him.

There’s a problem in the way that most male-dominated sports-casting is discussing Mayeux: in sporting industries where women must automatically be on the defensive regarding whether or not we are “as good as” men, we are bound to get sexist reporting and commentary that is trying very hard to sound non-sexist.

Except it’s failing. Because it is evidence of a sexist industry when supportive people are referring to Mayeux as a “legitimate” shortstop (would we question a man’s legitimacy in his position?)

It is evidence of a misogynist industry when MLB Director of International Game Development Mike McClellan comments on Mayeux smoking a 91 mile-per-hour fastball that she “looked good doing it.”

It is evidence of a misogynist industry when articles rush to assure readers that Mayeux is not interested in–or (unrealistically unlikely) even aware of–breaking down gender barriers.

If she were an outspoken advocate for her right as a woman to enter the MLB, would she be considered a less “legitimate” shortstop?

In the male-dominated gaze of pro sports? Probably, yeah.

Jennifer Polish
Jennifer Polish is an English PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC, where she studies non/human animals and the racialization of dis/ability in young adult literature. When she’s not yelling at the computer because Netflix is loading too slowly, she is editing her novel, doing activist-y things, running, or giving the computer a break and yelling at books instead. Contact Jennifer at



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