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At least they didn’t title it “The Phillies and their fillies”

October 19, 2010

I’ve outrun it for the last few years, but this time the flu got me, and I’m currently on Day 7 of being housebound, which explains why the blog—like the house, the dogs, the cat, my jobs, and at least certain elements of my personal hygiene—has been neglected. Today, though, the Philadelphia Inquirer broke a front-page story that’s just too shocking to ignore: Women like baseball! And some of them even like it for reasons besides the players’ tight asses and the increasing availability of fashionable team apparel in feminine colors! But mostly not!

Before we delve into this morass, I need to do a couple of things. One is to take some more drugs. The other is to inform you that it could have been worse, and, in fact, was worse just a few hours ago. See how the headline of the online story says “Phillies a big hit with women fans”? This morning, that headline was “Female fans turned on by Phillies.” The theme of female fandom via sexual attraction—the assumption that hotness is necessarily the gateway through which women learn to appreciate male athletes and men’s athletics, if not the sum total of their interest—remains omnipresent in the article, of course, showing its face in the first paragraph (“These Phillies are a bunch of really nice, good-looking guys of all stripes….”) and hitting its stride a few inches down the page:

….while the to-a-player first-blush sex appeal of the Phillies surely has not faded— “Jayson Werth stretching in the batting cages” is a perennial YouTube video favorite among women fans—these players have proven themselves worthy of a long-term relationship.

Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence! “[T]he to-a-player first-blush sex appeal of the Phillies” isn’t just a turn of phrase so nauseating and sycophantic that a Bieber-worshipping fourteen-year-old girl would be embarrassed to write it in her private diary, it’s also easily disproved with two simple words: Brad Lidge. And Jayson Werth, for his part, already looks like a Tellarite who’s had a few inches added by means of the rack, so footage of his long and hirsute body being stretched further strikes me as more a scientific curiosity than a titillation. Your results may vary, naturally; in any case, the perennial need to frame women’s interest in sports as a dating scenario is as journalistically tired as it is eye-rollingly sexist.

Then there’s this:

“It sounds shallow, but you pick your favorite player because they’re cute,” [fan Erin S.] said. (And then you buy the shirt.)

We could talk about a number of facets of this little excerpt, including Erin’s failure to recognize that most things that sound shallow are shallow, the casual use of “you” to co-opt all female fans into her approach to the game, and the cutesy assumption that when it comes to women and their whims, all roads eventually lead to the mall. Instead, I’m going to take this opportunity to point out that of the five current and former Phillies cited in the article as players worthy of fangirls’ adulation, every single one is white. Isn’t that strange? This is a particularly ethnically diverse team, but the two African-American former MVPs, the Dominican Gold Glover and Silver Slugger, and the Cuban-American All-Star don’t even merit a mention in an article about players who have endeared themselves to these loyal female fans. Could it be that Ryan Howard’s 253 career homers and winning personality aren’t enough to make up for the fact that he’s a 250-pound black man whom many of these women (themselves overwhelmingly white, one notices in the photos accompanying the piece) would be scared to meet on the street after dark? So much for chicks digging the long ball.

We’re not done, folks:

No doubt, all this devotion has found a rewarding object with this team, no moral quandaries required. No reformed dog fighters among them, these Phillies talk of epic things like friendship (Roy Halladay) and of learning courage from team members (Cole Hamels about Halladay)…..

“What could be more wholesome?” said [fan Joan] Malseed.

I have a wonderful memory of my mother—yep, the same mother who got me into baseball—explaining why she had no desire to see Bend It Like Beckham: “It just sounds so goddamn wholesome.” Yes, exactly. I’m repulsed by the notion that women cannot, or perhaps should not, be able to relate to anything that isn’t full of virtue and vitamins, as if we might faint at the sight of a ballpark brawl and require a trip to the smelling-salt vendor. I’m disgusted by the idea of a baseball team as the grown woman’s Jonas Brothers, safe to crush on and giggle over because you know nothing will ever happen between you (nothing untoward ever happens between major Pennsylvania sports figures and their female fans!). And I’m amused by the suggestion that Friendship and Courage are topics not merely unique to the noble Phillies, but downright epic, as if there’s no such thing as media training to coach these guys on which clichés will get them the most mileage, and as if every other ad on MLB Network doesn’t already elevate baseball players to the stature of war heroes.

You might think that this article would be sufficiently patronizing to the ladyfolk that the dudebros wouldn’t feel much need to circle their recliners and reassert their claim on the territory of professional sports. You would, of course, be terribly, humiliatingly wrong. The comments on the piece don’t introduce any new themes we need to explore or indulge—and in some cases, infuriatingly enough, they use revoltingly misogynist language to make the perfectly reasonable point that lusting after a bunch of guys is not the same thing as baseball fandom—but here’s a sampling for your enjoyment:

women dont know anything about sports

all the young girls are at the games to get drunk and meet guys…i’ve talked to a ton at games and they hardly know anything other then which guy on the team is hot

I’m glad there are women coming to the games…for years I had to get my own beers.

they should be making dinner & doing laundry, not watching the phisl

Look at the rack on that chic with the glasses- she can’t even button her shirt-

i don’t talk about purses and shoes, women shouldnt talk about sports. also, i never saw a woman at a phils game at the vet

The only role women should have in sports is serving me beer and wings during the game.

Why is your wife in the living room when you’re watching the game? The chain from the kitchen is too long.

Because I’m sick, bored, and chronically, stupidly unable to resist sallying into arenas like this with my virtual dukes up, I posted a comment about the sexism of the article and the responses. The reply came swiftly:

ABlogOfTheirOwn, I have a question for you. Would an extra rinse cycle in the washer help to further soften towels once they are placed in the dryer without a dryer sheet?

Right. Sigh. Time for my next round of drugs. Want some?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 1, 2010 4:21 am

    makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

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