WTF Philadelphia?

First stop on my vacation took me to Philadelphia. I think of Philly as a sort of mini-New York. You know, a city on the East Coast. So it must share the kinds of New York City values I’m used to. But apparently…not so much. I found myself bewildered more than once, thinking WTF Philadelphia?

[Yeah, I know there’s supposed to be a comma between WTF and Philadelphia. But I don’t want to anger the SEO Gods.]

My first clue came at the ballpark. Of course I was in Philadelphia for a Mets game. Don’t you know me by now?

RIP Darren Daulton

WTF Philadelphia
Daulton’s 1991 baseball card, image c/o mysticgames.com

The Phillies had just lost one of their great players the week I visited. Darren Daulton was the catcher on their 1997 World Series-winning team, and they paid tribute to him before the game. You know: moment of silence, reverent video—at least 7 of the whole 9 yards. I’m sure they’ll get to 9 later, when they can bring in his family and the men he played with for a more extensive tribute. But he’d only just passed away; the family is probably still making funeral arrangements.

We Mets fans know what it’s like to lose a beloved player too young—”the Kid,” Gary Carter. Carter was a catcher on our 1986 World Series-winning team. And, like Daulton, he was also felled by a brain tumor. I grabbed some extra napkins at the cheesesteak stand to sop up my inevitable tears.

And I did cry at the memorial (enough with the dying, already). But I also gasped in astonishment at the film tribute. After detailing the highlights of Daulton’s playing career—the little film was packed with clips of him in action—the voiceover announcer intoned,

“To the ladies, he was a matinée idol. But he was also a man’s man.”

Now I’ll grant you, the guy was handsome. Chiseled cheekbones, strong jaw, a full head of floppy late 1980s hair. But will someone please explain to me why we needed the caveat that men also liked him—or maybe that he also liked hanging with  dudes. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what that sentence was trying to say.

One thing it did say—loud and clear to me—is that someone thinks the only reason a woman could possibly admire a player is for his good looks. But is that really the story you want to tell your female fans, Phillies management? “Don’t worry your pretty little heads about strategy and skill; just look at the hot bodies. And buy lots of pink gear with the team logo. M’kay?”

WTF Philadelphia?

Still, I did enjoy the game. For once the Mets were in fine form, combining lights-out pitching by Jacob deGrom; stellar defense in the field; and—mirabile dictu!—actual hits, including singles and doubles, so that more than once when someone came along to hit it out of the park we scored not one run but three. Add in a handful of solo shots and you arrive at the very satisfying score of 10-0.

I hopped in a cab outside the ballpark—couldn’t have been easier—and hurtled back toward my hotel. The doorman opened the taxi door for me, gave a deferential half-bow and asked, “How was your evening, sir?”

Sir?

I mean, yes, I was wearing a baseball jersey and matching cap. But I was also wearing my—well, this is a business blog so I’ll just say “curves.” The moment I stepped one daintily shod foot out of the taxi, he started falling all over himself to apologize.

I looked him in the eyes and said,

“You know, girls can be baseball fans, too.”

The minute the word tumbled out of my mouth, I wanted to stuff it back in. I haven’t been a girl in—er, probably since before that doorman’s birth. But I was a little bit rattled, I gotta say.

So WTF Philadelphia? Seems like the “city of brotherly love” still hasn’t figured out that women love things other than men—or, in some cases, in addition to men.

Is this what it’s like in the rest of the country? No, I imagine in some spots it’s probably worse.

Well, I’ve checked the Phillies’s ballpark off my list. I don’t have to go back; in fact, I probably won’t.


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Why is it always about women’s bodies?

I’m not even talking about the cr@p that the president—the president of the United Freaking States—has said about women’s bodies.

Yes, it’s vile—pick your incident, it’s all vile. It’s also a distraction from the much more important stuff going on behind the scenes. Like the effort to turn us into Amerikaslovakia, the easternmost outpost of Putin’s evil empire. Or  the attempt to hijack voter rolls and suppress votes, since surely the Republicans can’t win a fair election with their new tax “health care” bill as Exhibit A. Or the “health care” bill itself, designed to kill and/or impoverish millions of people while giving the super-rich enough money to keep buying elections for the Republicans as long as they permit us to keep having elections.

The media mentions these things, of course. But healthcare, as the president noted, is hard; you have to think. You have to argue positions. Focusing on insults requires only heightened indignation. It’s much more fun.

I saw the tension between these two positions played out live on MSNBC last Friday. Rachel Maddow signed off her show by reminding us not to take the bait of Trump’s tweets and to focus on the real issues he was trying to obfuscate.

And then the Ken Doll filling in for Laurence O’Donnell opened the next show—in split-screen with Maddow—by talking about…the tweets.

Headdesk

women's bodies
Maddow in real life. Photo by Paul Schultz from Kenmore, Washington, USA derivative work: upstateNYer – Rachel_Maddow_in_Seattle.jpg

So many things about this infuriate me. Besides the fact that Trump’s misogyny is a) not news and b) a smoke screen, it’s not like media companies have a leg to stand on when it comes to how they view women’s bodies.

And I’m not just talking about Roger Ailes or Bill O’Reilly playing grab-ass at Fox News. As brilliant as Rachel Maddow is, as good as her ratings are, does anyone believe MSNBC would let her anywhere near an anchor desk without the false eyelashes and perfectly contoured eye makeup?

Media companies still boot women off camera the minute they start to wrinkle or sag. And who wouldn’t sag, what with the weight of expectations we heap on women in highly visible positions?

But those aren’t the women’s bodies I’m talking about.

No, the women’s bodies I’m focusing on today are women writers’ bodies.

Writers? You may ask, Who cares what a writer looks like? How is that even a thing?

But there it is, an article The Guardian published last week:

Is there any way to avoid writer’s butt?

“Writer’s butt”? I told a friend about it and she immediately said, “That article was written by a man, wasn’t it.”

Reader, it was not.

The roundup of “authors’ best tips for keeping trim” was written by a woman, a freelance journalist. On the off-chance that she just needed a quick buck and latched onto an idea some male editor assigned to her, I will not mention her name. But sheesh, sister.

After moaning about her own body image, she rounds up a number of other women writers to lend credibility to her thesis:

“Half a stone per novel over here,” wailed Sinéad Cowley, author of One Bad Turn. Catherine Ryan Howard, author of Distress Signals, agreed: “Since writing full-time, I’m in a constant state of exponential arse expansion.”

The article doesn’t focus entirely on women, though. Michael Connolly gets a mention because he uses a standing desk. The author also quotes another male writer. He walks his dog for exercise and to think things through. If either of these men is concerned about widening “arses,” they don’t say.

Stop the inanity

Not all women writers look at their sisters through such a body-centric lens. I found a lovely roundup of quotes in an article on Bustle called:

15 Writers On Beauty And Body Image, Because, Yes, You Look Hot Today

Thank you, Bustle. I happen to agree.

So here’s Jessica Valenti, author of Full Frontal Feminism:

“Value yourself for what the media doesn’t — your intelligence, your street smarts, your ability to play a kick-ass game of pool, whatever. So long as it’s not just valuing yourself for your ability to look hot in a bikini and be available to men, it’s an improvement.”

If Valenti read the ridiculous article in The Guardian, I feel sure she would add:

And your ass. Value your damn ass. Especially when it’s in the chair, because that means you’re writing.


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Women love baseball — Song for a Sunday

Women love baseball. Always have, always will. Just ask Katie Casey.

Who?

I know, I know—most people, even die-hard baseball fans—have never heard of Katie Casey. But the song that introduced her to the world remains ubiquitous, even 109 years after its creation.

Women love baseball
detail from an illustration of “The Average American Woman of 1908

Yes, friends, Katie Casey is the heroine of the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” We don’t know about her because we never sing the verses of the song, only its chorus. For the record, then, here are the original lyrics (now out of copyright), by songwriter and vaudevillian Jack Norworth:

Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou
Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do:”

Chorus

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

(Repeat Chorus)

Women love baseball, then and now

We tend to think of Edwardian era women as all buns and corsets. But enough of them spoke their minds, even back then. Women participated in the 1908 Democratic Convention that summer, even though only a few states had granted them the right to vote. Earlier in the year, 15,000 women garment workers marched through the streets of New York City, demanding political rights and economic justice. That was March 8th, the day we now commemorate as International Women’s Day.

So the idea of a woman speaking her mind and demanding that her beau take her to the ballgame rather than the theatre—well, it probably amused audiences in 1908 but her outspokenness wouldn’t have come out of left field.

I’m not surprised baseball embraced the chorus of the song. It’s an anthem of consumerism: Buy a ticket. Spend lots of money on the concessions. But I am surprised at how thoroughly Katie Casey has disappeared.

Not just because women love baseball. Although—news flash—we do. And not just because male-dominated society always finds a way to make women invisible.

But why in over 100 years has no one has thought about how odd the lyrics are if the “me” in the song is the guy in the stands singing it:

“Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack”

Just who’s doing the buying here? And why are you, red-blooded American male baseball fan, incapable of buying your own?

There’s more to say about this song, and the men who wrote it. But I can’t say it now. Gotta run—I’m going to the ballgame.


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Women or girls — a friendly reminder

I don’t remember the exact day I became a woman, but I do remember insisting—at the ripe old age of 18—on being called a woman. A few months after graduating from my all-girls’ high school, I matriculated at Smith College. And Smith was definitely a women’s college, ergo—my classmates and I suddenly realized—we were no longer girls. We were women.

As a woman I was to be taken seriously, a project that necessarily began with taking myself seriously. And so I began insisting that my bemused parents, and anyone else who misidentified me, recognize me as a woman.

Some decades later—we need not enumerate them here—I found myself calling a grown woman a “gal.” Okay, I’ll confess: I didn’t “find myself” doing this, it was pointed out to me. By the woman I had reduced to “gal” status. She was kind (she’s a friend), but firm.

She reminded me that what I’d learned as a teenager at Smith remained true: The world has enough ways of minimizing the power of women without our assistance. And referring to an adult woman as a “girl” or even “gal” (I was trying to be folksy, and we all know where that can lead) diminishes her and her accomplishments.

Language matters: Don’t call women “girls”

don't call a women "girls"
Screenshot from Mayim Bialik’s Facebook video

In March, actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik posted a Facebook video with a fantastic explanation of this. I can’t embed it, so you’ll just have to click on the link. Trust me, it’s worth four minutes of your life.

Bialik reminds us: “Language matters, words matter. And the way we use words changes the way we frame things in our minds….It’s science.”

If society sees children as inferior to adults—and it does—then calling an adult female a “girl” immediately marks her as inferior. Of course that’s not at all what I meant when I called my friend a “gal” in my blog. But it’s how people unconsciously translate the word. Even when we’re recognized as adults, women struggle to be taken as seriously as men. So we need every linguistic aid we can find to claim our status as equals.

No one should call a woman a “girl.” But it’s especially egregious when a woman does it. (Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.) If we women don’t use language that acknowledges us as full, equal members of the human race, then who will?

So hat-tip to my friend Marcia and to the fabulously forthright Mayim Bialik, Ph.D. for today’s lesson in comparative linguistics. Thanks for reminding me to be intentional with my language. This time, the lesson will stick.


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