The Excellence of Mo’ne Davis

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.

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3 comments

  1. mkweihs · October 23, 2014

    I really liked the language and your style used in your blog post. Especially, your conclusion is not only in terms of content, but also linguistically very well composed. Futhermore, I find it very interesting that you include so many different aspects in your post which underlines the multi-dimensionality of the treatment of female atheletes. I totally agree with your point that female atlethes don’t need to be necessarily inferior to male ones which is illustrated by your example. Moreover, your argument that Mo’ne’s characterestics of being excellent AND female leads to the higher attention that the media dedicates to her is understandable. But I would add, that often outstanding female athletes in other types of sports who are not that popular as baseball don’t get that much attention. I would even say that female sports in general gets less attention and that woman must be more extraordinary than male to reach it.

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  2. dverdere · October 24, 2014

    I think that it is fair to recognize her as breaking a gender barrier because that is exactly what she is doing. She is a fantastic baseball player for her age and she should be recognized for that but it would be a disservice to Davis if no one acknowledged her being different than the rest of the players on the field. It is interesting to note that if Davis was a girl and was an average player, then the media probably would not have noticed or cared as much, but since she dominated her counterparts she got put on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

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  3. jbaren · October 25, 2014

    Thanks for bringing up your ideas about barriers in this article mcpatton2014; I’d like to expand a little more. I think it’s fitting that Davis was on the cover of Sports Illustrated (SI). The media only reflects what is popular in the current times. If people think that Davis pitching an outstanding game in the Little League World Series is the top story, it’s going to trend on Twitter. It’s going to be all over Facebook feeds. It’ll be all over social media. Therefore the next day, it’ll be featured on the front page of SI. That’s how they make their money, and that’s how every form of media makes their money. However, it is also an extremely important story and is not solely done for profit by SI. A female surpassed gender stereotypes at the amateur level. Who knows what can be possible in the future at higher levels? I’m a huge fan of all these types of barrier breaking stories. Putting Jason Collins on the cover of SI because he is the first active basketball player to come out as gay is awesome. Barrier broken. Michael Sam on the cover of SI when he announced he was gay and then was drafted to the NFL. Awesome. Barrier broken. Mo’ne Davis proving girls can keep up with the ability of boys. History. Lets keep breaking barriers and show the world how accepting we can be of all.

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