From Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel, to the now upcoming sports sensation, Mo’Ne Davis, sports fans always want to witness the next legend. This summer Mo’Ne Davis became the first female to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. Davis’ performance during the LLWS captured the attention of millions of Americans as she quickly became one of the most talked about athletes in sports.
This story became so significant during a summer filled with premier sports stories, such as “the return of the King” and the Ray Rice scandal. What put this story above the rest was the fact that it reopened the door to the long standing debate over whether or not female athletes can compete at the same level as male athletes. Traditional gender roles throughout society have consistently put women’s athletics at a lower level when compared to men and these gender ideologies are often used to establish identities in individuals. Individuals will often conform to what society deems acceptable for their gender in order to maintain their social image. It seems that this long-standing ideology may have been changed, or at least influenced, this summer with Mo’Ne Davis’ dominance in the LLWS. Mo’Ne showed an American society, often dominated by traditional gender roles, that the saying “anything you can do I can do better” actually may hold some validity between men and women. She has been an inspiration to many girls and even adult women across America, as she broke the stigma attached to women’s athletics.
What exactly made her so captivating? One could argue her talent was what made her so exciting to watch, and they would not be wrong, but I believe that her gender played a more significant role in her stardom during the summer. There are many pitchers that competed in the LLWS that are considered just as good as Mo’ne, but what set her apart from the others was clearly her gender.I n a society where a crucial part of an individuals identity is fitting into their traditional gender role, Mo’Ne “paved” a new path for women athletes everywhere as she created her own identity that stepped outside the “boundaries” held by traditional gender roles. Many found it shocking that a girl could be competing with, and quite frankly dominating, some of the best youth baseball players in the world. Our media, as in this case and the Caster Semenya conflict, becomes absolutely enthralled when an athlete challenges our stereotypical ideas of the way certain athlete’s should look or act.
This was no different in the case of Mo’Ne Davis, as she challenged our idea that women are inferior to men in the world of athletics. Mo’Ne forced people to take a closer look at exactly why people have always considered women inferior to men. Although gender is usually considered a biological difference, the division of the genders throughout society also forces social and cultural differences between the two genders. These differences often contribute to an individual’s identity, but this summer Mo’Ne “challenged” these differences and stereotypical identities for men and women by dominating in the LLWS.
Although I find Mo’Ne Davis’ story inspiring and monumental for women’s athletics, I believe that her story is just another example of how gender ideologies influence our identities, especially in youth sports. One can see how gender ideologies continue to dominate youth sports in modern society simply by looking at how big Mo’Ne’s story actually became. I understand that she is a very rare and exciting case of a girl dominating in a boy’s sport, but the media made too much of this story. How are we supposed to breakdown traditional gender ideologies that exist within today’s society, if we continue to make such a big deal over situations like Mo’Ne’s? Yes, she was exciting to watch, but making her story as big as the media did this summer does not help break the stigma attached to women’s sports. In fact, it may contribute to the stigma; instead of the media giving people the idea that girls, as a whole, can compete on the same level as boys, the media specifically singled out Mo’Ne Davis. By adamantly promoting her story this summer, our youth athletes are learning that it is rare for a person to challenge traditional gender roles. This may cause some young athletes to be discouraged in pursuing a sport that is considered to be for the opposite gender due to the fact that it may attract so much attention and hurt their social image, which ultimately decreases the potential for ideological changes in both youth sports and modern society. Although promoting Mo’Ne’s story may inspire many young athletes to challenge traditional gender ideologies by playing sports that are not perceived to be for them, I believe in order to effectively breakdown gender ideologies in youth sports, we must stop making such a big deal out of stories similar to Mo’Ne’s. Gender ideologies will not change until people begin to see stories like Mo’Ne’s as a common occurrence. Unfortunately, in order for these cases to become “normal” we must not make children like Mo’Ne seem so different for what they are doing by drawing unnecessary attention to them. Instead of singling out those who choose to challenge these ideologies, like Mo’Ne, as a society we should simply encourage them and let them play without all of the distractions that follow them simply because they chose to be different. Ultimately, modern society’s gender ideologies will not change until people begin to view stories like Mo’Ne’s as no more different than any other sports story.