In A League of Their Own, a girls’ baseball league was started while the professional male baseball players, along with many other men, were across seas fighting in World War II. This movie takes place in 1943. A group of ladies left their homes to become part of the All-American Girls Baseball League to keep the baseball traditions alive. In this movie, gender roles are crossed. “After years of perpetrating the image of the docile little women who sat at home caring for her lord and master, American society suddenly found that it needed women who were competent to do hard skilled work during World War II” (Ebert). This was alarming to the nation and threatening to some. During one of the scenes, a radio announcer announces that the league was “dangerous to society.” She called it “sexual confusion.” Much of the country began to worry about what type of women the men would have to come back to.
Society believes that women should be sensitive and nurturing, not competitive. At this time, women were also running the businesses and factories. Working in factories and playing competitive sports were considered to be the role of the males. Women are to be “sensitive, nurturing, and open” (Johnsen). By playing sports and working in factories, women began to take over some more masculine traits. This was threatening to the men. They saw this as loosing control. Women play many parts in men’s struggle for control. One part that women play is “to support the idea that men and women are fundamentally different because this gives men a clear and unambiguous turf – masculinity – on which to pursue control in competition with one another” (Johnsen). This threatened men’s role and their sense of control. This threatened their masculinity.
Even though women were now taking over the factories and sports while the men were away, there still were many politics involved. Instead of this new baseball league being looked at as a competitive sport, it was more of a show. One of the scouts in this movie did not want to take one of the most outstanding baseball players because she wasn’t pretty. The scout finds her “too homely for the league” (Brown). Also, they were forced to wear skirt outfits to play in the dirt. When the women complained about that, the male instructor commented that they should be glad he isn’t going to make them all wear bathing suits to play in.
As if the uniforms weren’t discrimination enough, each and every girl had to take classes at a charm and beauty school. Here, they taught these women how to be ladies. They critiqued them in every way. They walked around and inspected each one, ordering for haircuts, eyebrow waxings, etc. When they reached the homely Marla, they were stumped as to what to do. They didn’t see anyone being able to make a lady out of her. One instructor asked the other what she suggested. All the women could reply back was “a lot of night games.” She said this about one of the best players in the league. Also at the school, the ladies were taught how to sip “not slurp” tea, cross their legs appropriately, walk with grace, and balance a book on their head to promote a more graceful, feminine posture.
As the movie continues, this so called women’s league wasn’t drawing in any profits and was threatened with closing down. This devastated the girls in the league. This league gave them something to speak of, something of their own, a sense of pride rather than just cooking and cleaning. In order to keep the league continuing, the girls had to draw attention and draw a crowd. It started to turn into a circus. The girls had to do splits to make plays more interesting, slid while the guys on the sidelines got a glimpse up their skirts, anything to make it more interesting and less threatening.
At first the women were not given the respect they deserved for their hard work. Nobody believed that these housewives could play hard ball. Once the girls proved themselves, the men and the rest of society got threatened and still didn’t watch. Until the sport became a show, it wasn’t approved of. The girls had contests with the game to make it more interesting. One contest was called “Catch a foul, win a kiss.” This helps to illustrate that “women are objects to be competed for, possessed, and used” (Johnsen).
Once the women began to make a show of the sport, the bleachers filled. Headlines began to read things such as “Trading oven mitts for baseball mitts!” and “Diamonds, a Women’s Best Friend.” Women didn’t receive their own league until it was the way the men wanted it. They weren’t to play competitively. It was to be more of a show. “Women have gained only what men have been willing to grant; they have taken nothing, they have only received” (Beauvoir). This is because men fear competition from women. If they are playing baseball and working in the factories, then what is the male role? “Every woman who goes into medicine or law robs them of a job” (Beauvoir). The men were threatened to what else the women would begin to do.
“Hollywood threw out its romance scripts and started making movies about strong, independent females and it was discovered that women could actually excel at professional sports” (Ebert). This is a phenomenal movie that shows the power of women. It gets women out of the house and into the work force. It gets them doing just as the men. This was just the start of the women getting out of the house. Once the men came back from war, the women fought to keep their league alive. Many of the women in and outside of the league went on to be doctors and lawyers. Women were breaking out of the house whether the men were ready for it or not. The first girls in the league now have the own spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I believe that these women truly deserve this.