The play of Mo’ne Davis generated a media firestorm at this year’s Little League World Series held in early August. Her performance was so acclaimed because of the simple fact that she was a young girl who dominated the competition in exuberant fashion. Mo’ne Davis was able to transcend the barriers that had traditionally prevented women and girls from reaching the highest levels of competition and being recognized for their excellence.
Mika Lavaque-Manty’s article Being a Woman and Other Disabilities, points out the stereotypical gender beliefs that inhibit females from athletic success. It is widely believed that boys are naturally superior to girls in sports based on simple genetics of strength and body composition. Spectators, consequently, find female sports to be more boring and downgrade their “excellence” based on a curve that relates them to male athletes. They compare the success of males and females in sports and come to the conclusion that female excellence pales in comparison. Young girls are geared towards softball and boys towards baseball, and it is believed that even the best softball players could not stand a chance against their male counterparts simply because of the talent distribution curve. There is a category separation based on sex that allows for meaningful competition; Little League softball was established to allow girls the opportunity to compete. However, their performance is considered lesser because the majority just don’t have the same skill level as boys.
Mo’ne’s stunning performance shattered the barrier that plagues most female athletes; the cultural value that women’s sports are inferior to men’s. To see a girl blow 70 mph fastballs by unsuspecting boys and curveballs that froze her male counterparts was something that simply hadn’t been done before. Girls had participated in the Little League World Series previously, but none achieved the success and physically dominated their opponents in the way that Mo’ne did. Most girls are steered towards softball and the traditional gender activities of females. Mo’ne’s success established her as the athlete who could make up for the past inequality injustices of limited female participation and inspire girls young and old across the nation. While Mo’ne proved that females could not only compete with but also shine amongst their male counterparts, it adds to the building narrative that women and girls can participate in the sports typically dominated by males. It is no longer seen as unfeminine for females to participate in sports with males, and they don’t need to conform to traditional society’s belief that females can only be successful in feminine sports, such as dancing, cheerleading, or volleyball. Beliefs about the talents and abilities of girls are changing, and society is not only focused solely on the sporting achievement of males but females as well. Mo’ne proved that females could shine in the limelight that major sports competitions provide.
Mo’ne’s performance would be considered excellent on any level of the talent curve, whether pairing her against male or female counterparts. Sadly, the fanfare associated with her proves that male and female success are not treated as the same. Throughout the history of the Little League World Series, there have been players better than Mo’ne. Yet, Mo’ne was the only Little League player to have been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and her second pitching start attracted more viewers on ESPN than any major league baseball telecast had in the previous seven years. The media unfairly portrays her as this gender pioneer as a “female pitcher” or “female prospect” and not simply the baseball pitcher that she is. This coincidences with the barriers that Mika Lavaque-Manty’s article points out. Male and female sports successes are not viewed equally, and if they were, Mo’ne’s story wouldn’t have been so media-driven. She would be viewed how she should be; an excellent baseball pitcher, not an excellent female baseball pitcher.