Sunday, April 9, 2017

Let Us Play!

A League of Their Own, directed by Penny Marshall, is a movie about the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league was created to fill the gap left by the disbanding of Major League Baseball due to World War II. The newfound league scouted young women from farm leagues and urban softball leagues all over the country to play baseball for a living. The movie itself, which follows the Rockford Peaches, was made in 1993, however takes place in the 1940s, when sexism in the United States was predominant. Therefore, the movie displays examples of the sexism that consumed the country at this time, showing many examples of misogyny, as men in power take advantage and exploit the comparatively weaker women, however A League of Their Own itself is a feminist movie because it defies gender norms as it gives women agency and a prominent place in society.

In the 1940s, America was overpowered by sexism. This was the era of the Cult of True Womanhood, which declared that women belong in the home and are expected to display ladylike characteristics at all times. This changed, however, when men crossed the seas to fight in the war because women had to take men’s place in society, thus leaving their traditional place in the home. In real life, this was viewed by the public with outrage and confusion. The movie cannot, however, be knocked for illustrating this reaction because it is accurately representing the time period’s profound disrespect towards women. The sexism of the era is shown in the movie as a radio talk show host introduces the radio world to women’s baseball. He says, “Careers and higher education are leading to the masculinisation of women with enormously dangerous consequences to the home, the children and our country. When our boys come home from war, what kind of girls will they be coming home to? And now the most disgusting example of this sexual confusion. Mr. Walter Harvey of Harvey Bars is presenting us with women’s baseball. Right here in Chicago young girls, plucked from their families, are gathered at Harvey Field to see which one of them can be the most masculine. Mr. Harvey, like your candy bars, you are completely nuts.” The radio announcer uses words like “disgusting” and “sexual confusion” to describe women breaking out of the private sphere, displaying the popular opinion that women cannot hold the same place as men in society. The movie exploits and emphasizes the radio announcer’s use of sexism to allow the audience to recognize the misogynistic treatment of women when the league started. Because it does not condone or encourage sexist behavior, the movie is a feminist work.

A League of Their Own is a feminist movie because, despite the obvious objectification of women by the public, the movie gives women agency in a time period when this was extremely uncommon. The agency of the women in this movie is shown when the women sneak out of their residence on an away trip to go to a local roadhouse for dancing, drinking and fun. This scene is visually different from the rest of the film because it is fast paced and filmed with a moving camera to display how wild and unusual the women’s actions were. This scene also shows cultural difference for the time period because it shows women making impulsive decisions for themselves. Their decision, consequently, allows them to abandon common stereotypes of women such as that they are submissive and tranquil. Because they are defying common stereotypes of women, the movie is a feminist work.

After the teams are selected for the league, the women discover that they are required to wear uniforms that are no type of uniform at all, but rather very closely resemble dresses. Not only do their required uniforms make it almost entirely impossible to perform at the level they are capable of but also, turns them into sex objects. This attire was a real requirement in the AAGBL and is important because it shows that no matter what women are doing, they are required to look good and ladylike to please the public. The movie, however, takes this perpetuation of gender expectations and uses it to show the determination and grit of the women in the league, characteristics not normally given to women at this time. In one scene, we see the results of the terrible uniforms, as a player slides safely into third base and gets a severe bruise because the uniform does not cover her legs. Despite her deep contusion, she continues to play through the pain showing the audience the magnitude of female perseverance, further justifying that the movie is a feminist movie.

In conclusion, A League of Their Own is a feminist work because it gives women agency, defying gender stereotypes that were commonly perpetuated in the 20th century. The women in the league defy these common gender stereotypes by neglecting the private sphere and pursuing their dreams as professional baseball players. The All-American Girls’ Baseball League is a real life example of the type of work women can do when given the opportunity.

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