Mike Schmidt’s Casual Sexism
Phillies reliever Luis Garcia got into a pickle in the top of the eighth inning. He loaded the bases on a walk to Kevin Plawecki, a Dilson Herrera single to center field, and another walk to Ruben Tejada. Garcia was having trouble throwing strikes as usual, but his poor control may have also had something to do with slipping while delivering a pitch during the Plawecki at-bat. Garcia managed to get out of the inning when pinch-hitter Johnny Monell tapped a grounder back to Garcia, who threw to catcher Carlos Ruiz for one out. Ruiz then fired the ball to first base to complete the 1-2-3 double play and end the inning.
Upon return from a commerical break, the broadcast highlighted Garcia’s play to end the inning. Matt Stairs noted that Garcia’s throw home wasn’t great, which made the play closer than it should have been. Schmidt was going to say something but Stairs had to finish the segment first. Once that was done, Tom McCarthy prompted Schmidt to talk, which was a bad idea. Here’s what Schmidt said:
McCarthy: What were you going to say, Mike? That the throw was a bar of soap that Garcia threw to home plate?
Schmidt: Well, he did kind of throw it a little… I don’t know… are you allowed to say, a little bit…
Schmidt: …girlish, so to speak?
Schmidt: Watch out.
McCarthy: He didn’t have a whole lot on it.
Schmidt: Yeah, uh…
McCarthy: Not a whole lot on it.
Schmidt: Kind of a bar of soap. Did someone just say that, Matt?Mets @ Phillies on May 9, 2015
(Ballcap tip to @james_in_to for grabbing the above clip.)
This is sexist for a very obvious reason, one which was apparent to all three members of the broadcast booth once the words left Schmidt’s mouth. In fact, Stairs seemed to know what Schmidt was going to say when he interjected “no” before Schmidt said “a little girlish”. You could cut the awkwardness in the booth with a knife.
Calling a weak throw “girlish” implies that femininity is weak. I need not list examples of strong women because women are allowed to be weak as well as strong. Weakness is not specific to any gender. This works in the opposite direction as well: when an athlete does something that exhibits strength, we’ll laud it as manly, as if strength is something only people who identify as men can display.
The comment coming from Schmidt isn’t surprising, as baseball — as with all professional sports — has deeply entrenched misogyny. Players who choose not to play through injuries are often chided by teammates, coaches, and pundits, often in terms referencing femininity in some fashion. (Think of a p-word that doubles as a name for a cat.) Women are often doubted about their dedication to their rooting interests simply by being women, referred to as “cleat chasers” (a form of slut-shaming) or challenged to prove their knowledge as if not knowing particular information invalidates their right to be a fan.
Schmidt’s comment wasn’t a mistake. He had plenty of time to select different words and still chose to use “girlish” because he has been saturated in misogyny his entire life. The implication of femininity as weak was never pointed out as wrong for him (likely until very recently) because when you play baseball in middle and high school, that’s part of the culture. And it stays as part of the culture through high school and the minor leagues, and continues into the major leagues. With no women around, it was never thought of to be challenged. Schmidt has never existed in a culture that has been anything but extremely male-dominated. Athletes’ casual misogyny is picked up from peers and authority figures the same way children pick up speech and behavioral mannerisms from their parents.
Frat-ish “bro” culture may fly in the isolated world of professional athletics when the cameras aren’t rolling and the microphones aren’t on, but it won’t fly in the broadcast booth. Hopefully sooner rather than later, it won’t fly in professional athletics anymore, either.