You Play Ball Like a G***!

you play ball like a girl.jpg

The other day Kate and I sat down to watch The Sandlot with our boys for the first time. A classic movie from our growing up years, we were excited to see if it held up, and how our boys would like it.

Before the movie started, Kate (wisely) spoke to our kids about how this movie was made 25 years ago (that’s a quarter century... good gravy!) during a time when certain things were said and permissible that in today’s world (and especially in our family) we are not okay with. Such as how kids might talk to each other, or how girls were treated.

One of the iconic scenes of the movie includes a line that has been etched into pop culture ever since it flew out of young Ham's mouth. You know it, it’s when the organized league baseball team shows up at the sandlot--dressed in full baseball attire-- to mock and challenge the neighborhood kids. This sets up a back and fort between their team’s captain and Ham, where insults are launched back and forth, such as:

Scab eater!
Puss Licker!
Fart smeller!
(and the particularly creative)
You bob for apples in the toilet... and you like it!

The insults are revving up, getting louder and more intense, until Ham drops the mic with the mother of all insults:

You play ball like a GIRL!

Evidently, in 1962 (when the movie is set) this is the ultimate insult. But clearly this wasn’t snatched out of the air. We’ve waded for centuries in pools of patriarchal crappery, where “to be like a woman” is the ultimate in degradation. The Sandlot merely capitalized on the ethos of the day.

And back in 1993 when The Sandlot came out, this sort of insult was common. This sort of subtle misogyny was everywhere in pop culture (Example B: the scene in Star Wars when Han Solo pins Leia against a wall and forces a kiss on her, and insists that she likes it. Example C: another scene from The Sandlot when Squints pretends to drown so that he can kiss Wendy Peffercorn).

These sorts of messages reinforced that boys were not only superior to girls, but that we had the right to exert our will upon them accordingly. 

I’d like to think I’m a more woke feminist these days, and in many ways I am.

But the truth is, I’m fighting an uphill battle against 30 years of swimming in a milieu of messaging about the superiority of the male. If you would have asked me, at 21 years old, if I think men were better than women, I would have easily answered “no.” But that was what my prefrontal cortex believed. My lizard brain--which had been formed with subtle (or even overt... Example D: how about that rape scene in the beloved Kevin Costner adaptation of Robin Hood?!? Good gawd) messaging that women must submit to men, and that women were the weaker sex.

"You play ball like a girl!" was the norm. No one batted an eye at it. My brain was formed in a world where that was not only true, but it was acceptable to say as much.

Therefore, the best hope we have for our world is for parents of my generation to wake up and start raising their kids differently. Start talking to your kids now about equality between genders. Correct the messages they pick up from movies, tv, and music.

And maybe, just maybe, the next generation will be able to truly turn the tide of misogyny and rape culture, and create a more equitable world of mutual respect, admiration, and love.