Link: Why Gibbons’ Casual Sexism Matters

As some of you may know, I write about non-Phillies-centric baseball topics at a couple other places on the internet. The vast majority of my Phillies content is housed right here on Crashburn Alley, so if that’s all you care to read from me there’s no need to update your bookmarks. If you are interested in reading my other work, however, you can do so at The Hardball Times or Today’s Knuckleball.

I’ve never plugged my other work here and don’t intend to start doing so, but I wanted to make an exception today and encourage you to read a piece I have up at The Hardball Times. Last week Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made an off-the-cuff remark with sexist undertones which reopened discussions about gender and baseball. Although I’ve largely steered clear of writing about gender and baseball, it would be disingenuous to deny that being a woman impacts the way I’ve interacted with baseball throughout my life. For a variety of reasons, this was the right time for me to tell my story and explain why language, jokes, and comments like the ones Gibbons made have a real impact on fans of the game and people like me. The full article is here: When The Sport You Love Doesn’t Love You Back

I hope you read it because I think it provides important background about who I am and the lens through which I view baseball. And, as always, thank you to all the readers of Crashburn for helping create an environment where I am free and able to just be another baseball writer.

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28 comments

  1. Romus

    April 14, 2016 08:44 AM

    Along those lines……there has been radio chatter about Geno’s UConn’s team’s dominance as a dynasty in women’s basketball and how it is bad for the sport.
    But I never heard that talk when John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins were winning alltheir NCAA championships, or Coach K at Duke or Adolph Rupp and coaches at Kentucky…or even professionally with the Celtics teams of the Red Auerbach era or Jackson/Jordan and their Bulls.
    But when a women’s team has a dynasty……radio types seem to think it is a detriment to the sport.
    Go figure.

    • Dante

      April 14, 2016 09:14 AM

      I think you are missing the crux of their argument. Men’s basketball has always been far more popular than women’s, so when they have a limited number of teams legitimately in the running for a title, it doesn’t hurt the popularity as much – they have a deep established base of diehards to limit the dip in interest. It would be great if we could have women’s basketball increase in popularity, but if the same team wins every year (or even the same few in the running), it takes away from the potential excitement and intrigue. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel as interested in a sport of a single person/team is so utterly dominant that it makes watching the event pointless. Isn’t that the reason so many people turn off the super bowl by the third quarter if one team has a seemingly insurmountable lead?

    • TommyDigital

      April 14, 2016 10:13 AM

      It’s not really apples to apples to compare how teams from 50+ years ago were treated or viewed and how teams today are. When people say “bad for the sport”…they mean television ratings/revenue. Also, Coach K and Duke were the most hated team in sports for a long time. They didn’t come close to Uconn’s dominance either. The point being that there has to be competition in sports…a chance of losing. Many people feel that UCONN won’t lose…while many of the other teams you listed lost multiple games a year.

  2. Gil

    April 14, 2016 09:08 AM

    Are you crying Corinne? There’s no crying in baseball.

    But seriously, thank you for writing and sharing this article. I couldn’t more strongly agree that “femininity as a punchline in sports is simply not funny”.

    It is beyond tiresome to have to accept casual sexism not to mention the more serious versions. Whether aimed at women or men, because it is, such behavior makes emotionally or physically exclusive what should have always been inclusive to all regardless of gender.

    Thank you again for writing and sharing this piece – it’s an important issue because telling people to “lighten up” is another way of supporting a status quo that needs to change.

    • bubba0101

      April 14, 2016 01:02 PM

      This point is important. When someone says “throw like a girl” I think of my mom throwing. Its a comical sight indeed. The bottom line is that that sort of assertion is offensive and supports the status quo of women<men. There are many other ways to describe a bad throw that only offend the bad thrower and not large groups of other people.

    • Edwin

      April 14, 2016 01:11 PM

      Yep, Gibbons is an idiot.

  3. Josh

    April 14, 2016 10:03 AM

    I just read the article and came here expecting to email you and ask you to put the article up here. So thanks for being a step ahead.

    Also, I thought that “As a kid, you don’t question the reality with which you’re presented ” to be particularly poignant and not even specific to gender or baseball. So thanks for the universal enlightenment?!

  4. Greg

    April 14, 2016 10:25 AM

    I’m new to this blog, in fact this is the first article I have read by you, and I’m impressed! This was very well written and thought out, I look forward to reading your other pieces on this site and others, nicely done.

    • Francisco (FC)

      April 14, 2016 12:23 PM

      You’re in for a treat!

  5. John

    April 14, 2016 12:00 PM

    Corrinne, you are by far my favorite writer on Crashburn Alley. I appreciate your point of view on this topic, but I would encourage you to stay away from these types of discussions at this site. I always felt Baer and Baumann were too political in their articles (Baer with his staunch defense of Black Lives Matter, among other things, and Baumann with his ever present yearning for collectivism). I suspect there are many well educated, well meaning people who disagree with your opinions on gender politics and come to this site for an elucidating discussion on baseball, not social issues. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and you are writing to the niche of leftist, stats oriented Phillies fans. Best of luck and Go Phils!

  6. rlh1004

    April 14, 2016 12:02 PM

    Corinne,
    I just want to say that this piece is beautifully written and very thought inspiring. I will readily admit that many times in my sporting life I have been more of a part of the problem than I have been part of a solution. I admit this while also realizing that, with the help of individuals like you who are helping to shed light on issues like this, I am changing. I may still find myself laughing at, or even making, a similar comment similar to Gibbons’, but where I’m realizing the change is in the number of times that I stop myself, or at least feel guilty immediately after making them. Old habits are hard to break, but I take the fact that I’m consciously making an effort and feel real guilt when I fail as a good sign.

    That being said, a line like “masculinity is unjustifiably held up as an athletic ideal above femininity”, seems like an overstretch. I am sensitive to the plight of women for equal treatment, but I also think that the general differences in males and females cannot simply be ignored. We are different, neither is wrong, just different. Men are GENERALLY more powerful in physical terms, this is inarguable and by the definition of most sports, puts them at an athletic advantage. This extension of a movement for inclusion is where I start to take issue with the feminist movement. I have no problem with those women who are physically gifted enough to participate in men’s sports, in fact, I encourage it. I loved the Mo’ne Davis story and Annika Sorenstam’s playing in a PGA event, among others. But to say that the males are unjustifiably held up as athletically superior is just incorrect. Another excellent article on this can be found here: espn.go.com/espnw/news/article/6495612/women-pro-sports-women-play-men

    I’ll finish by saying again that I loved this article like I do all of your work. In terms of knowledge and passion for the game, your feminine fandom far surpasses my masculine fandom. I will probably draw many negative votes and aggressive bashing for the previous paragraph, but I want everyone to know that I do believe that comments like Gibbons’ are insensitive, hurtful, and wrong. However, taking that sentiment to the point of ignoring the real differences between men and women is going to a place that I just can’t go.

    • Francisco (FC)

      April 14, 2016 12:33 PM

      I don’t think Corrinne is trying to argue that, but IS questioning why the heck do girls have to end up in Softball and not Baseball? It’s an institutional thing primarily, not an athleticism thing. There’s no reason we can’t have a WMLB. There’s no reason we can’t have Girl’s High School Baseball or Girl’s College Baseball, etc. But for along time the culture of baseball has kept pushing women into Softball and excluding them from Baseball. So the infrastructure to encourage and help women become proficient at baseball is non-existent.

      We can talk about sports ratings and popularity about the viability of Women’s sports leagues but that also is largely a construct driven by the culture of the sports themselves. It’s a lot of history to overcome. I can say that I watched that Pan Am games here in Toronto and by far the Women’s Soccer teams were much better and more exciting to watch than the Men’s Soccer teams. So it’s not about the quality of the play.

      By changing our culture and being more inclusive I think a market can be created and sustained for Women’s sports. Baseball included.

    • Corinne Landrey

      April 14, 2016 12:44 PM

      I would argue it’s a mistake to equate “male” with “masculinity”. Think of it this way – would it ever make sense to say Serena Williams or Alex Morgan or Elena Delle Donne need to be more masculine in order to excel? Male bodies and female bodies are different, but masculinity itself is not an ideal athletic trait.

      Thanks for reading. I really appreciate the thoughtful response.

      • rlh1004

        April 15, 2016 01:05 PM

        From Dictionary.com

        Masculine:
        adjective
        1. pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men:
        masculine attire.
        2. having qualities traditionally ascribed to men, as strength and boldness.

        I don’t really want to argue about semantics, but trying to divorce the relationship between male and masculine doesn’t really work.

        Again, I appreciate your writing and perspective. Keep up the great work!

  7. bubba0101

    April 14, 2016 01:00 PM

    Women carry unborn children for 9 months then give birth. They win. Ive seen my wife give birth twice with a third in the not too distant future. All the heavy lifting and sports ability sits at the bottom of that mountain.

    Also, I had a friend who was a girl who played pop warner football until she was about 13 and dominated the league. She was running back and OLB and nobody wanted to hit her. Off the field she was a “lady” too. Not sure how important this is here, but its my 2c.

  8. Mike

    April 14, 2016 01:23 PM

    If I may play a bit of a Devil’s Advocate just to spark the debate. I don’t know John Gibbons. I haven’t listened to the audio. But could it be that the statement is in fact not comparing men to women, but comparing men wearing baseball uniforms to men wearing dresses? I am not ashamed of masculinity and the fact that social norms dictate that men do not wear dresses. And I don’t think it is evil to link masculinity to not wearing dresses. Men love women that wear dresses and I would hope that all men treat women as being as strong or stronger. But consider that he did NOT say that we should come out like “women wearing dresses”. The implication could be that we should come out like men “wearing dresses.” And I don’t care how politically correct you try to spin it. A man wearing a dress does not appear in the same light as a man wearing a baseball uniform. Do YOU want to watch men playing baseball in dresses? Maybe you will say there is no distinction, but as the Devil’s Advocate, I will say there is. And that is not to say that there isn’t sexism in baseball, but I think you also have to be careful when and how you accuse someone of this. Someone who could very well love and respect their wife, mother, and grandmother in an very non-sexist way.

    • Tony

      April 14, 2016 01:39 PM

      I don’t think we needed a devil’s advocate here, but if you must, please try harder and don’t bring this weak shit.

      > But could it be that the statement is in fact not comparing men to women, but comparing men wearing baseball uniforms to men wearing dresses?

      Right off the bat, it’s easy to see how desperate you are to read this charitably. Who wears dresses? For the most part, women. What other point could he have been trying to make about the illegal slide? Your alternate explanation does not answer this question — it just assumes he was taking about dudes wearing dresses, without acknowledging what he might mean by that.

      > And I don’t care how politically correct you try to spin it.

      If you can’t make a convincing case that he was trying to do something other than call into question the manliness of people who favor a slide rule that protects players (where manliness is assumed to be preferable to the kind of people who would wear a dress) then you’re the one who’s spinning.

      > Someone who could very well love and respect their wife, mother, and grandmother in an very non-sexist way.

      So you’re saying that as long as he loves and respects the women in his life, he gets a free pass to make unflattering comparisons to women. That’s doesn’t conform to any definition of “non-sexist” that I’m aware of.

      • Mike

        April 14, 2016 01:51 PM

        Thing is Tony. I’ve only read Corinne’s article. I clearly asked “Could it be…?” I didn’t see anything in her article where Gibbons used the word or term “woman”. Perhaps the guy is what she says he is. But I ask you, if you see a man wearing a dress, do you consider him weaker, as strong, or stronger than a man wearing a baseball uniform? Do you ridicule him deep inside or even externally? Do you want to see men playing baseball in dresses? Answer honestly. If not? Why?

      • Tony

        April 14, 2016 01:59 PM

        “Could it be” is not an argument. Anything “could” be, but if you’re playing devil’s advocate, it’s pure fappery to toss out things that could technically be true but don’t come close to passing the sniff test when you think about the issue even a little.

        Clinging to the fact that he didn’t specifically call out gender when he clearly meant to imply that is nothing but a desperate attempt to cast the comments in the best possible light. You might convince yourself with that logic, but you’re not going to convince anyone else.

      • Mike

        April 14, 2016 02:19 PM

        But it is ok to “toss out things” in a public forum that defame a human being without a shred of conclusive evidence that he meant “women in dresses” instead of “men in dresses?” and that he meant it as a term to reduce the status of women. If anything, the one who should be offended here are men who wear dresses.

      • Tony

        April 14, 2016 03:02 PM

        Mike, this conversation isn’t worth continuing if you’re going to stubbornly cling to the fact that he didn’t directly say the word “woman.” Subtext exists, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise.

  9. 100Bucks

    April 14, 2016 06:19 PM

    Corinne –
    You are the real deal and your baseball analysis is always welcome on my computer screen.
    Things are changing…

  10. Eddie

    April 15, 2016 04:22 AM

    I’ll crosspost my comment from there:

    Corrine, your column suffers from two flawed premises.

    The first is conflating 1) the idea that men are superior athletes with 2) the idea that men are somehow innately more valuable as persons. e.g. “This is not just one comment, but part of a seemingly never-ending pattern of behavior in baseball in which femininity is presented as inferior” and “What is the joke? That femininity is weak and inferior?”

    Nobody (unless you are) is claiming that being inferior at athletics equates to being innately inferior *as a person.* The idea is nonsensical and offensive. Part of the wonderful, rich diversity of human experience – and a concept enshrined in most all of the major world religions — is that while we all have different skills and abilities, we all possess the same innate value. A lot of that human diversity happens on the individual level, but some of it also happens on the group level, and gender differences are the biggest example of that latter.

    Men and women are very different. Different bone structures, different musculature, different hormones, different psychology. Women are, as a group, better at some things, and men are better at others. And athletics are pretty inarguably one of the things men are better at. The fact that men, as a group, are much better than women , as a group, at throwing things is pretty extensively documented, including in aboriginal cultures that don’t play ball sports. Serena Williams is indeed, a 21 time women’s champion … but when she played the guy ranked 203rd in the world, he beat her 6-1 (After having spent the morning golfing and drinking beer). The UConn women’s team is indeed impressive at their level of competition … but they routinely lose to their practice squad, a bunch of non-scholarship male players. And Kerri Strug did indeed show an impressive amount of grit by sticking her landing despite torn ligaments … but top-level male athletes show the same kind of grit all the time – Ben Roethlisberger played the Steelers’ playoff game last year with torn ligaments in his throwing shoulder; he didn’t have to stick one landing, he had to make dozens of passes. NFL players take the field with broken bones all the time. Strug was celebrated precisely because she was a top-level female athlete who was able to be as tough as a top-level male athlete – for at least one moment.

    Men are, as a group, much much stronger, and faster than women; they are also primed by biology to be more aggressive and have a higher risk tolerance, which is why even in competitions that emphasize precision and skill and where raw muscle has very little value– billiards, shooting sports, high-level poker – men do better. This is the reality of human biology.

    It doesn’t make “femininity” “inferior.” Nor does it make women “lowly” that they are not as good at athletics, any more than it makes them exalted or superior because they are, on average, more proficient at language usage (and any number of other things) then men. Which is why nobody except you is suggesting such a thing. It just means men and women are different. Instead of trying to deny that, why not just embrace the diversity and accept that God/evolution didn’t make us all the same?

    The second flawed premise in your thinking is reflected in statements like “I wanted baseball but baseball didn’t want me back” and “baseball is a world in which I can’t fully belong.” Again, you seem unhappy with basic facts of life. Welcome to adulthood, which is full of unrequited loves, unfulfilled dreams, and bitter realizations. Just because you want in, doesn’t mean you get in.

    All of us have worlds that are closed to us. I wanted to join the Marines at one point, but flunked the physical because of a birth defect. Biology closed that world off to me as surely as it closed me off from giving birth by not giving me a uterus. Now, I suppose I could get all indignant about it and say that I could have at least done a desk job well. I maybe could have even filed some kind of lawsuit or found some social-justice organization that would have changed the law to let me in … but then that would have changed the thing I was wanting to join. They would have ceased to be an elite organization that only accepted those it deemed useful to its mission, and instead would have become something else. I’d rather the Marines stay what they were and admire them from the outside, than get in as a charity case.

    In my first sentence, I started to say that your argument suffered from two flawed premises … but I changed it when I realized you weren’t really making an argument. As far as I can tell, you’re not specifically arguing that softball should be done away with and replaced with girl’s baseball … I suspect because you know that softball is an entrenched sport that millions of girls already love playing. Nor do seem to be specifically claiming that girls should be allowed to play baseball with boys … I suspect because you are well aware they are allowed but precious few can keep up. Nor do you seem to arguing that every level have both softball and baseball … I suspect because you know that’s a logistical impossibility. If I’m wrong on one of these, let me know. But as I read it, I don’t really see an actual argument anywhere. You end with bromides about “marginalization” and “continuing to build a culture that exhibits decency and inclusive practices toward all of its fans,” but I spent enough years teaching essay writing to recognize the stuff people end with when they don’t really have an argument, just a vague complaint that reality isn’t shaped the way they want it to be.

    • Corinne Landrey

      April 16, 2016 11:10 AM

      Because when you can write 1,000 words on the internet in two different places about how you just don’t get it, why wouldn’t you?

      If you actually have an earnest interest in understanding what this piece was about, please listen to any of the literally hundreds of women who have expressed to me how much this piece meant to them instead of clinging to utterly irrelevant stories about a 30-year-old tennis player defeating a 16-year-old tennis player two decades ago.

      • Eddie

        April 16, 2016 11:55 AM

        1) Um, yeah, since I took the time to write a lengthy comment with my thoughts, I figured I’d cut and paste it in both places for maximum visibility. Isn’t that pretty much what your post here was intended for as well? And aren’t you gratified that people are taking your writing seriously and engaging with it intellectually?

        2) You’re the one that brought up Serena Williams (and Strug, ets), as supposed refutations of the idea that “women are inferior athletes.” So no, not irrelevant.

        3) I’m pretty sure that if you wrote a post on how how tough life is for middle-class white men, you’d get a ton of emails from middle-class white men telling you what your piece meant to them. The fact that people are emotionally validated by a statement does not make that statement true.

        4) Instead of just asserting that I “don’t get it,” why not make a counterargument and show me (and everyone else) where I’m wrong?

      • Corinne Landrey

        April 16, 2016 12:16 PM

        And if “middle-class white men” were part of a community that had been using derisive language about “middle-class white men” as lazy and thoughtless insults for time immemorial, that emotional validation should be listened to and understood, not dismissed.

      • Eddie

        April 16, 2016 01:39 PM

        So that’s a “no” to counterargument?

    • rlh1004

      April 18, 2016 08:36 AM

      Eddie,
      You and I would agree on many points, but I just can’t get behind the style that you use to make your points. Do you really believe that your condescending tone and overall arrogant approach will even begin to change someone’s mind on an issue? If so, I’m not sure you understand much about human social behavior…

      Another thing, I’m assuming by your use of the “white male” analogy that you, like me, are a part of that group. I do get tired of us always being portrayed as the bad guy, but you have to realize that making your “life isn’t fair” argument from our point of view just doesn’t work. I understand your unique situation with being rejected by the Marines, but it doesn’t change the fact that white males are all lumped together in the “privileged” category (much like women are all lumped in the “can’t throw” category).

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