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Coed Softball Rules: Institutionalized Sexism

posted by Fair Game News
Monday, May 11, 2009 at 5:33pm EDT

Seeking equality on -- and off -- the field. The strong connection between organized athletics and power (political, economic, social) means sports have consequences far beyond the game. FairGameNews.com aims to challenge sex-stereotyped assumptions and practices that dominate sports -- and recognize that sports can be a tool for seeking equal treatment and fair play.

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By Laura Pappano

The 2009 recreational co-ed softball season is well underway – and so are sexist practices. Why do organizers assume that female players are – by dint of being female – inferior players?

Planet Social Sports — which organizes recreational (emphasis on recreation) sports primarily in California and Nevada — notes in its softball rules that “No more than 6 men are allowed on the field at one time. There is no maximum number of women allowed on the field or in your line-up.” And if a pitcher decides to “intentionally walk a male player to get to a female player (italics mine) than [sic] the batter will be awarded two bases.”

There are leagues that let female batters choose to walk rather than bat if the guy before her walked.

That’s one of the “miscellaneous rules” in the Johnston, Rhode Island coed recreational softball league. The league may have the “Texas Swear Rule” in place this season – use foul language while you’re at bat and it’s an out – but finds nothing rude in assuming women are sure outs. (If you are short one female to start the game, rules say, the missing female counts as an automatic out until she arrives. There’s no such rule for missing men – even if the guy you’re waiting on is a complete novice and the woman is a former college player).

Coed sports are a terrific idea — but not if the rules perpetuate stereotypes which presume that any guy is better than every female. Why not just ask: Who played in high school? In college? Now, I’d back up in the outfield when I saw them at the plate — whether they were male or female.

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