Craig: Baseball’s tumultuous relationship with the female fan

From Mary Craig at Beyond the Box Score on June 23, 2017:

It has recently been made obvious (though not obvious enough) that Major League Baseball has an issue with marketing to female fans, either ignoring their existence completely or reducing them to caricatures of women who are interested in only the superficial nature of promotions. What is perhaps not so obvious is the calculated aspect of this problem that connects to the male-dominated structure of power in America. Because power is understood as finite, men have shunned women from any area of society that might humanize them to men or grant them the ability to gain power. Women are left as caricatures — emotional, irrational, weak, and dumb — who are unfit members of society and unable to capture American ideals. Since its inception, America has been driven largely by the oppression of everyone who is not a white male, and so baseball, as the embodiment of American values, must adhere to these same principles. The history of baseball advertising proves that women matter to the sport only when their inclusion benefits those in power.

Major League Baseball began advertising to women in the early 1880s with Ladies’ Day promotions, wherein women accompanied by a man received discounted or free tickets to a designated Ladies’ Day game. The practice rapidly spread to other teams when the FLOTUS, Frances Cleveland, endorsed baseball in 1888 after attending a Yale-Princeton game. Three years later, the Washington Sunday Herald asserted, “It is now fashionable for ladies to make up a party and go without the usual male escort.”

During the late 1800s, the number of women in the workforce tripled, but they were relegated to low-paying domestic positions that gave them a sense of freedom without granting them agency. Women slowly clawed their way to political recognition, becoming property owners and gaining the vote in several states. They argued their inclusion in the male-dominated world of baseball went great lengths to prove their equality, and feminist ideas were spread in ballparks, where large groups of women could now gather without drawing suspicion.

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Originally published: June 23, 2017. Last Updated: June 23, 2017.