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Little League World Series broadcasts inequality

August 20, 2011 – 12:07 PM

By Laura Pappano

If it’s late August, it must be Little League World Series time – and our annual reminder of why Title IX is needed, but not enough.

The disparities in treatment, support, and attention for male and female athletes begins early, and nowhere is it more obvious than in Little League.

Just consider the annual baseball and softball World Series playoff events. The Little League Softball World Series, which just wrapped up, featured 27 games, with semi-finals and the championship aired on ESPN2. That’s THREE games.

Now multiply that by 11 and you’ll have the number of Little League Baseball World Series games broadcast – and many on ESPN HD (for those keeping track, that’s every single game played in the series).

Oh, and the August 27 finals are on CBS in –– HD.

Nearly every element of these two marquis events reveals institutional and cultural sexism (yes, girls are allowed to play Little League Baseball but it is rare and in many places are discouraged from doing so). One has only to glance at the websites (here and here)  for the two World Series events to spot vastly different levels of support.

Curious about the players? The Little League Softball World Series site features team photos. The Little League Baseball World Series site lets you click down to individual players – and watch video of them in action. The level of information (want souvenir tickets?) and polish between the two sites is absurdly disparate.

This is not meant as a criticism of the softball effort (May we remember that these are 12-year-olds?), but of the blatant institutional gap. The matter is, frankly, puzzling. Why doesn’t Little League at least try – a little?

Granted, right there in the media guide, the organizational timeline points out that in 1972 after the passage of Title IX that, “Little League resists the entry of girls into the program.” In 1974, the organization decides “to allow participation by girls” (after a New Jersey Court ordered them to), but immediately creates Little League Softball – which helps to keep girls from joining baseball.

Many years have passed, but not enough has changed.

As the girls and boys of summer play out their Little League World Series dreams — dreams structured by an organization that portrays itself as a gift to youth development – isn’t it time to make gender fairness a goal?

It would be as important for the boys as it would be for the girls.








  1. 3 Responses to “Little League World Series broadcasts inequality”

  2. Hallelujah. As a childhood softball player I always thought the Little League World Series represented the overwhelming disparity between women’s and men’s sports. Not only that, but these are little boys who are already being taught that their athletic accomplishments are more important than those of their female peers. I’m glad someone else sees it too.

    By Jackie on Aug 21, 2011

  3. No one is stopping young women from playing Little League baseball except themselves and their parents. If they choose to play softball instead of baseball that is on them, not Little League.

    After forty years of propaganda from Title IX zealots like you it’s time to stop blaming traditional male sports for their resounding success and start asking yourself why more little girls clearly don’t want to play baseball with the boys even after you ladies have “kicked down those oppressive barriers to equal participation”. Maybe they just don’t want to. It could be that free choice thing in action. It may not fit with your frenzied vision of battling the patriarchy using these little girls as your human shields but it’s most likely that simple.

    Instead of complaining about the success of Little League I suggest you focus your efforts on encouraging young women to join Little League and compete as true equals with boys. That is your ultimate goal is it not?

    By B on Aug 25, 2011

  4. In response to B: Wake up! To say that girls do not want to play baseball is as ludicrous today as it was back in the 70’s. PLENTY of girls want to play baseball and even more probably would if they were encouraged/taught/coached as boys are from a very young age. The fact is that girls are discouraged and steered to softball if they persist in wanting to play. In the local town here, many girls play baseball in the “minor leagues” but not one has been on a “major league” team for years, if ever. “I’m not putting a girl on my team” was what I heard way back when and it is still a reality. Even if some coaches do, then they don’t put the girls into the games, only practices. Let’s try treating girls and boys the same and see how it would shake out….but that seems too difficult for people to do, even today, especially when people have attitudes like yours that blame the girls for their second-class status.

    By EJ on Sep 21, 2011

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