Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

05 September 2012

Mijas, Baseball and the White House Need You!

I gave birth to one daughter, but I do consider every girl in the world a daughter. It's a cheesy thought, yes, but it is true. When I fight for women's rights, I am not just fighting for myself or my daughter, but for all the girls around the world.

That cheesy notion became all too real last night. Francesca Escoto wrote a quick post about a conversation she had with her daughters last night:

As we are making arroz-con-leche, my oldest asks: “Why are the major league sports male dominated?” Gulp. My middle child responds: “What? Baseball is only for boys?” I think I’m gonna cry.

Without me being able to answer coherently, my middle child goes on: “Why is everything for boys? Even my teacher says she prefers boys.” My oldest: “Mom, has there ever been a woman president?” My answer: “Not in the United States.” Middle child: “Even the president of the U.S. is a male-dominated sport?”

I wanted to get my virtual friend Veronica Arreola and put her on speaker phone. Veronica, aka @Veronicaeye is a Latina, a feminist, a mom, an activist. I’m sure she would know what to say in this kind of situation. I, however, really, could only ask myself when did my girls grow up to be so inquisitive, why is this world a male-dominated sport, and how can I help my daughters right now fight to take this load of their back? Where is Veronica when you need her???
This is not a new position for me, I get asked questions like this quite frequently. But never framed like this before. I feel like I need to get in the car and head on over to Francesca's house!

So how to handle these questions...It's tough and it's simple.

Let's start with history.

The United States was born in 1776. 144 years later, women's right to vote was written into the Constitution. 189 years after the USA was born the Voting Rights Act allowed for full suffrage for citizens of color. That brings us up to 1965. That's only 47 years ago.

In those 47 years, women have done a hell of a lot. (Yes, times like this requires a bit of swearing, even when talking to the kids.) We have gone from going to college to find a husband to out numbering men in college. We have gone from hoping that we don't get pregnant to being able to decide when and if we have babies (no girl is too young to know they control their bodies.). We have seen newspaper want ads go from containing "Men Only" sections to only being categorized by types of job.

We have made a lot of progress, girls, but we still have a long way to go.

As for baseball itself...That's complicated. On one hand, we did play baseball! Maria Pepe became the first girl to play Little League in 1972. That should be enough time for enough girls to grow up playing baseball and make it to the Major Leagues. On the other hand, according to research from the Women's Sports Foundation, quoted in the ad below, by age 14 girls drop out of sports at twice the rate as boys.



Then we add to the equation that girls are most often then not, funneled into playing softball at younger and younger ages. When I was a girl (many moons ago) girls played baseball until we hit high school. In my opinion, they are different games, not a girl or boy version of ball. And quite honestly, some people still think girls don't belong in baseball. Seriously.

As for the White House...I guess we have to say the same. Some people still think women shouldn't play politics. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran for President four years ago, the things people said about her were awful and a lot of it was just about her being a woman. The USA took a huge step when it elected President Obama, but just a peek at the language used against him shows we also have a long way to go in terms of race too.

I don't have a good answer as to why other countries have had women presidents and the USA hasn't. Are we that sexist here? Or as the women in the other countries more compelled to seek out leadership of the country? We got close with Clinton and hope that we can actually elect a woman in the near future. The fact is that women, far too often, need to be asked to run for office, while men just do. But when women run, women win, especially if it is an open seat. So don't ask people if you are ready, just do it. Seriously, have you seen some of the people, men and women, who are elected officials? Go visit your elected officials. Your mayor, alder/councilwoman, state representatives, Congresspeople...Some will inspire you to support them. Some will inspire you to run. We have to stop wondering if we can get elected and just do it.

My hope is that by the time I die (a very old woman living in Hawaii) we will have stopped counting women. No more first this, first that. Just presidents and baseball players. Just governors and First Gentlemen.

To Francesca's mijas...Don't despair if you don't see a woman or a Latina doing what your heart compels you to imagine. If you don't have a role model in that exact job, imagine yourself. Draw yourself behind the plate or podium. Tape it to your bedroom wall and never stop working towards that goal. Don't let the naysayers bring you down. Never stop believing in yourself. Someone always has to be first. Perhaps you will be...And if so, don't shut the door behind you, kick it open, reach out and bring another girl with you.

That way you're not the only one. Cause what's the use of being the first, if you don't bring a friend to the party?

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