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.