Co-ed intramural sports sound like a great opportunity, and being here at Texas A&M University made it all the better. If you’re female, you receive mandatory playing time and men have to include you in plays.
However after first glance, I discovered to my dismay that many of these rules counter gender equality. In both flag football and soccer, a girl scoring counts twice as much as a guy scoring. This reinforces the idea that women are not as skilled athletes as men. These rules perpetuate gender stereotypes under the guise of egalitarianism. You might think I’m being paranoid, but I assure you I’m not. Let me explain further, focusing on softball.
Just so you understand where I’m coming from, I’ve played softball since I was five and competitively since I was ten until I turned nineteen. I’ve been called several denigrating names because I was a female athlete, but I’m to the point in my life where I am very confident in my abilities. So when I say I’m better than many guys, any person male or female who has played a competitive level of a sport can make that claim.
In intramural softball, the batting order alternates between men and women, as do the fielding positions. A girl scoring does not count as two runs. So far so good. However, the problem enters when batters get walked. A guy who gets walked automatically heads to second base. Why, you ask? In order to prevent pitchers from pitching around guys to get to the girl, or the “easy out.” Yet again, we’re told that women are not as good as men. While this event is frustrating, it is hardly the largest indignity. When there are two outs and a guy is walked, the team captain can elect to automatically walk the girl, effectively denying her a chance to hit and play in favor of having another guy at the plate. The weirdest part of the rule? Few people seem to care or think it’s sexist.
At this point I should explain why this is such a huge indignity for a softball or baseball player. In the field, you can only participate as much as the ball is hit to you, which can be erratic. At the plate, though, you’re in control: it’s you and the pitcher, you and the chance to help out your team. When you get a hit, the elation and adrenaline rush are almost indescribable. Having someone take your contribution away from you before you even make it feels like you’re being robbed.
My first game, the two out/walked guy scenario occurred when I was up to bat. My team captain knew I’d played softball competitively and I’d also done very well during the game. However, he decided to put me on first instead of letting me hit. At the time, I did not know this was an optional rule at the batter’s prerogative and complied. When I found out the next day that the team captain had chosen to make me walk, I became furious. I felt so slighted, that he seemed to think I wasn’t good enough to hit in spite of my experience with the sport. Not only that, my choice in the matter had been taken out of my hands and made for me by a man. Needless to say, I was not enamored with the feeling. The next time I saw him in the hall, I informed him in no uncertain terms that if I were in the same situation again, it would be my call, and that I would hit.
What does this story have to do with anything? It shows that even at such a trivial level as intramural sports, women are told that they are worth less on a daily basis. Women are so incapable as athletes that when they score, it’s worth twice as much as a guy scoring because it’s harder for them. What’s worse, women accept this as fact. During my entire time playing at Texas A&M, my current roommate is the only one who felt offended by this rule on a regular basis. My team would only become irate when the repeated walks slowed down the game. I am an outlier—I know that I am a good athlete and a valuable player and I refuse to be belittled. But think of the message these rules send. Women are inferior, no matter their skill set. Men only need women to play because otherwise they’d be penalized. Women are athletes, not penalties.