Taney Dragons sensation Mo’Ne Davis is redefining what it means to “throw like a girl,” and she’s inspiring a lot of girls in the process.
From brother-the-younger, who is a baseball fan. I am not a baseball fan, but the article is linked for your perusal because it contains problematic use of the phrase throw like a girl. Since these days I’m going for Less Patriarchy in my Language (probably eliminating it is an unrealistic expectation at this point) we’re gonna talk about that. Or anyway I’m gonna talk and you can read or not read or scroll or whatever the fuck it is you people on tumblr do.
From the article, we have “I don’t throw like a girl,” my 7-year-old daughter uttered in late June, her tone full of sass. The haymaker of insults, whether on the grass and dirt of a baseball diamond or the hard asphalt of a schoolyard, has always been to tell someone they “throw like a girl.”
Your 7-yr-old has internalized the patriarchy. She knows that doing something like a girl is a top-tier insult. She’s currently displaying the knee-jerk response of distancing herself from her gender — I’m not like those other girls. I am one of the guys. If I try hard enough, I can play with the dudes and they will accept me as one of them. The failures of all other women and girls before me, their failures were personal and not systemic. I am different. I will try harder. I Can Win This Game, Damn It, and I DON’T FUCKING THROW LIKE A GIRL.
This is the response that many, many strong, capable, intelligent little girls and women have when they first (and second and third) run face-first into the concrete wall of patriarchy. I did it for years. It does not work particularly well — you can have some of the items from the shelf of male privilege, if and only if you agree to grind the rest of your kind under the heel of your boot and let slide an utter fuckton of bullshit that you really ought to be calling men out over. The “I Can Win This Game, Damn It” response is a trap that siphons off rather a lot of the most dedicated, capable, driven, intelligent women out there and distracts them from the core problems by offering them a limited selection of items from the shelf of male privilege. Honestly, don’t bother.
The ICWTGDI response is appealing because it grants women the notion that the game is winnable and that the system isn’t fucked and that if they just try hard enough, it’ll be all good. Hope is not that helpful here, though, and it needs to be set aside so that we as a gender can move past the “I Can Win This Game” bullshit and get to the Actually Improving The World part of the program.
Actually Improving The World is what happens once you understand and accept that the game is rigged to always, always favor dudes and you are not ever going to get treated fairly, no matter how hard you try. That’s a lot to swallow at seven, seventeen or seventy. It’s the kind of fact that will choke you, make your eyes water, block your air, and bruise your throat as you try to get it down. Keep trying, kiddo. You know you want it. Relax your throat and try again. :) Practice makes it happen.
Fuck my life. Fuck all our lives. We are so, so fucked. (Cousin’s kid, at 3, was doing opposites for learning. Hot-cold, tall-short, black-white, sad-happy. We got to pretty. You know what the three year old thought was the opposite of pretty? Fat. We could not convince her otherwise. Child only watched PBS, very little exposure to movies, magazines, other media. Child was three fucking years old. It starts very, very early. If you want to know what messages are out there, ask children. They don’t have the sense to lie to you. But I digress.)
I get that the article is kinda trying to reclaim blah-blah like a girl but it’s an article written by a dude. Weight it carries? Not a whole lot. I’m more in favor of throwing up my hands and declaring the phrase irredeemably broken. Reclamation seems kind of rah-rah girl power and I get why that might appeal to people. Thing is, I’m not really a rah-rah girl power kind of person. I feel pretty strongly that if you need to be all runnin’ around and tellin’ folks that you have power, you don’t, y’know, actually have it. If you actually *had* power, you’d just be goin’ ‘bout your bizness, exercising your droit, getting on with your agenda privilege (get it? sounds like gender privilege? No? n/m.), and stompling the folks in your way. I mean, that’s what the folks in power do. They ain’t be all marching around telling folks about the power they wish they had. They don’t have to do that and besides they’re too busy runnin’ shit in ways that benefit them to be marching around anyway.
So, reclamation is right out, unless you want to make golf courses on what used to be mountaintops before mountaintop removal took away the mountains and left lots of space for golf courses in impoverished sections of Kentucky and West Virginia… and I’m sure those people sure as shit need golfing. See, rich people golf. Poor people don’t golf. If the poor people would just fucking start golfing, it’d probably fix the poverty thing. That’s why they need more golf courses in impoverished coal regions in Appalachia.
I digress again. Back to the article and its problematic phrasing.
So, given that reclamation (aside from the golf course-poverty connection discussed above) is a non-starter, then we should probably just toss the phrasing entirely. The issue here is not that Mo’Ne throws “like a girl” anyway. The issue here is that she throws better than most boys her age… so fucking well say that. Or, if you like, you can say that Mo’Ne throws better than most 12-13 yr old little league pitchers, full stop. Mo’Ne can be a little league pitcher measured against other little league pitchers and that’s fine. The gender of a little league pitcher is pretty much not germane to the discussion.
Also, I get rather steamed at Person Does Activity Really Well And Is Also A Girl articles because the implication is that this person is an outlier and, as such, a credit to her
race gender. Like, most girls don’t do Activity well. It feels very dancing-bear to me. (The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all.) Protip: If you’re not sure if something is sexist, try changing the wording from “girl” to “black” or “hispanic” or “asian” and see if it reads differently for you.
I also really liked the way the article used the phrase “City Kids from Philly” to code for persons-of-color status. (Did you catch that?) Some day I’d like to live in a world where people were valued for what they did, what they actually accomplished, rather than what they looked like.
Man, I’m packing gender issues today. Got a basket of ‘em. (Oh, go on. Read that again. It was funny.)