Through the movie “A League of their Own,” one can see how the more sexist views of the culture of this time in America permeated throughout this account of the Girls Professional Baseball League which existed from 1943 until 1954.
“A League of their Own” is a snapshot of what was once the “All-American Girls Professional Baseball League” that was formed when many young men were active in World War II. Philip Wrigley, chewing gum mogul and MLB owner feared the major leagues would disband so he created the girls professional baseball league.
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One of the obvious cultural views during the time this movie depicts is that of feminizing the baseball players to make them more acceptable to that culture at the time. Although they wore shorts under their baseball skirts, the fact that they were to wear skirts that were very short for this time while playing the athletic sport of baseball is just one of the clues to how the “All-American Girls Baseball League” was to be as much about show as it was about talent.
In one part of “A League of their Own,” the scout Ernie Capadino intends on passing up the player Marla Hooch who is unattractive yet proves to be a great switch-hitting slugger. Capadino was told to find girls who play ball well and are equally as attractive.
Another argument supporting the existent and greater acceptance of sexism represented when putting this “All-American girls team” togehter was that the female professional baseball players were at least in the beginning of this venture considered more seriously as princesses rather than as serious baseball players in this era, as we hear the announcer comment, “After the first month of league play, the shine still isn’t off these “diamond” gals.
Alice “Skeeter” Gaspers says legging out a triple is no reason to let your nose get shiny—Betty Grable has nothing on these gals. Helen Haley has not only been a member of several championship amateur teams, she is also an accomplished coffee maker” (Marshall, 1992).
Even the radio program that is played during the tryouts at Harvey Field makes fun of the idea of a woman’s baseball team. During the radio program, the girls baseball team is referred to as the “masculinization of women.”
The female baseball players have mandatory etiquette classes they must attend to portray a “lady-like” image. Even some of the names given to these female baseball teams at this time rings of what we would today consider sexist in its lowest such as “Rockford Peaches,” “Racine Belles,” “Milwaukee Chicks,” “Fort Wayne Daisies” and “Muskegon Lassies.”
Of course then you hear the announcer say things like: “Then there’s pretty Dottie Henon, who plays like Gehrig, and looks like Garbo. Uh-uh, fellas, keep your mitts to yourself; she’s married. And there’s her kid sister Kit, who’s as single as they come.
Enough concentrated oomph for a whole carload of Hollywood starlets” (Marshall, 1992), today’s announcer need protect their heads if they were to utter such remarks.
I think most of us would be thankful that announcers today couldn’t get away with trivializing the talents of those female baseball players, only to make the main focus their various levels of attractiveness and unattractiveness. This we know has never been something acceptable to do to professional male baseball players.
Viewing the female as the care taker of the alcoholic baseball manager some can interpret as another female stereotype revealed in the movie and more accurate to the depiction of its acceptability during this time period. The character Dottie Hinson provides a maternal, care-taking role many times for baseball manager Jimmy Dugan, the often drunk manager of her team.
Another part of the movie that would be considered very inappropriate real life behavior today versus the time incorporated in this film would be when the drunken Dugan relieves himself in the clubhouse. His female baseball players he is supposed to be managing are standing near awaiting instructions to play the game as he completes his task. Today, that would make the evening news along with being connected to legal repercussions.
Today, unlike then, one has learned to be a lot more careful of how things one says can be monitored and reported. Even the humorous little prayer where Dugan says:
“Uh, Lord, hallowed be Thy name. May our feet be swift; may our bats be mighty; may our balls... be plentiful. Lord, I'd just like to thank you for that waitress in South Bend. You know who she is — she kept calling your name. And God, these are good girls, and they work hard. Just help them see it all the way through. Okay, that's it” (Marshall, 1992).
Whether one sees it as a positive or negative or a little of both, one would just have to watch more carefully things they say like that today than one did then.
When Jimmy Dugan was attempting to convince Dottie Hinson to stay with the team, he yells at her, “If you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great” (Marshall, 1992). This again, wouldn’t be something any professional could spout out to another, including a female player he manages, without the strong possibility of suffering professional or legal repercussions in today’s society at least in America.
While I’m at this point in the movie, the fact that Dottie feels she must make a choice between her marriage and that of playing professional baseball or any professional sport is another noticeable difference. There are many great professional and non-professional married female athletes today. One could just watch the 2008 Olympics and observe the obvious signs of that.
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