At a recent Little League baseball game my attention, to be perfectly honest, was somewhat divided between watching my son Webster play, chatting with other mums and working a little on my laptop, when all of a sudden I thought I spotted a swinging ponytail out of the corner of my eye. Long haired boys are not uncommon where we live, so I focused my eyes fully on the field and to my delight discovered that the opposing team did indeed have a girl player.
From then on the game had my undivided attention. In fact, my entire body tensed up with hope for this one girl in a sea of boys. Hoping she would hit a home run, hoping she would catch a pop fly or at least throw like a mini pro. As it turned out, she did none of those things. She was no worse and no better than the majority of the boys on that field and yet, she looked like she was enjoying herself in exactly the same way as the rest of the players. It was at that point I realized, I was watching something wonderful.
Girls could only formally play Little League in 1974 .Kathryn Johnston was the first girl to actually play Little League baseball in 1950. She pretended to be a boy to get on the team and when the coach discovered her gender, he let her stay because she was very naturally talented. Ah! That special, attention grabbing, value adding, much better than average talent! The kind of talent that for so long, has been unofficially mandatory for any woman wanting to succeed outside the traditional feminine domain.
I am not suggesting that the Little League girl I watched that day has no talent, she may turn out to be an all-star player. But what made that moment so wonderful was realizing that even if she does not, she can still play just like the boys… purely for her own enjoyment.
Because isn't ultimately what we are seeking a completely level playing field?
"It is incredible how far women have come and women in sports have come."
— Jennie Finch
(This post was originally published on Professional Women's Perspectives - Gender observations from a working life)
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