It matters that people have a way to use the latest findings in psychology beyond buying a pill for depression. It matters that people have a way of looking at their lives that lets them ask the big questions and determine how they want to live – and that this is supported by therapists and mental health professionals.

Posts

Mo'ne Davis Doesn't Throw Like a Girl

Posted on 26 Aug | 0 comments
Mo'ne Davis Doesn't Throw Like a Girl

Unless you are a big fan of Little League baseball, you may have missed the biggest story in sports in recent days—to my mind, bigger than the World Cup, or the opening of the football season, or the baseball All-Star Game. It is the story of Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old star pitcher for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia.

While the Dragons may have only finished third among the 7,000 teams competing around the country, coming so very close to winning the Little League World Series, Mo’ne’s story overshadowed the championship game.

Why?

Because Mo’ne Davis is a girl. A girl who doesn’t “throw like a girl.”

Back in 1980, Iris Marion Young wrote a groundbreaking essay entitled “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality.” Her thesis, based in part on Merleau-Ponty and also in part on a study by Erwin Straus from the early 1970s, stated that girls tend to use their bodies differently than boys. While she acknowledged that this is not a hard and fast rule, she did note that this seems to be quite a pervasive tendency across a variety of westernized or urbanized cultures.

Young’s idea was that from a young age, girls and woman tend to feel less entitled to take up space than men do. This is easily seen, for example, on the bus or train—we see men sitting with legs spread wide, maybe with their arms along the top of the next seat. In the meantime, the woman sitting next to them is sitting with legs crossed, sometimes arms crossed or arms akimbo, making themselves as small as possible. Arguments to explain this difference have raised from politeness to acculturation to simply trying to make room for others in crowded spaces.

As for throwing, what Straus’ research shows and what Young (1980) reported was that boys early on know intuitively to use their entire bodies to throw a ball, while girls tend to start throwing only with their arm, keeping the rest of their bodies still, and thus getting no power or aim.

Writing for The New York Times, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/what-does-it-mean-to-thr... Anthamatten recalls Young’s research in his column on Mo’ne Davis. Anthamatten notes that Davis’ achievements—a 70 mile-per-hour fastball, a Sports Illustrated cover, leading her team to third place in the Little League World Series are great accomplishments for anyone. So he asks:

“But why is it that her gender is the “anomaly” that makes her talent mediaworthy?” (¶ 1)

Young’s article and indeed the issue of gender in sports is extremely polarizing. I’ve heard many argue against Young’s thesis, often in the hopes that we have moved beyond such gender distinctions—that any person can embody qualities of both the masculine and the feminine and it should not have to depend solely on genitalia or x and y chromosones.

Anthamatten notes that Young uses Merleau-Ponty’s idea that subjectivity is located in the body as one of the keys to her argument, and this becomes particularly important when Anthamatten discusses the subjectivity of the athlete. He describes how our culture commodifies and breaks down the concept of athlete into all the smaller things the athlete does—the details of his or her performance, the statistics, the merchandising potential, the star power. And then, we go even further to dehumanize and objectify the athlete by using terms such as “beast” and “animal” to describe their “fierce” performance on the playing field. Anthamatten writes:

The female athlete has the additional “burden” (de Beauvoir’s way of describing how the female experiences her body) of the contradiction (she must be both subject and object, masculine and feminine, active and passive) that make the obstacles preventing the realization of their subjectivity and freedom seem insurmountable. (¶ 11)

Mo’ne Davis has had to deal with stupid sexist questions from the media—for example, asking her if maybe she might want to try more “feminine” sports. And at the age of 13, who knows where she will allow her magnificent talents to lead her. For now, she is an inspiration to many young girls who see that they can potentially “play with the big boys” and even “throw like boys” in spite of any acculturation or early training.

For now, though, let’s just let her be 13 years old. That sounds like enough to me.

Unless you are a big fan of Little League baseball, you may have missed the biggest story in sports in recent days—to my mind, bigger than the World Cup, or the opening of the football season, or the baseball All-Star Game. It is the story of Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old star pitcher for the Taney Dragons of Philadelphia.

While the Dragons may have only finished third among the 7,000 teams competing around the country, coming so very close to winning the Little League World Series, Mo’ne’s story overshadowed the championship game.

Why?

Because Mo’ne Davis is a girl. A girl who doesn’t “throw like a girl.”

Back in 1980, Iris Marion Young wrote a groundbreaking essay entitled “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality.” Her thesis, based in part on Merleau-Ponty and also in part on a study by Erwin Straus from the early 1970s, stated that girls tend to use their bodies differently than boys. While she acknowledged that this is not a hard and fast rule, she did note that this seems to be quite a pervasive tendency across a variety of westernized or urbanized cultures.

Young’s idea was that from a young age, girls and woman tend to feel less entitled to take up space than men do. This is easily seen, for example, on the bus or train—we see men sitting with legs spread wide, maybe with their arms along the top of the next seat. In the meantime, the woman sitting next to them is sitting with legs crossed, sometimes arms crossed or arms akimbo, making themselves as small as possible. Arguments to explain this difference have raised from politeness to acculturation to simply trying to make room for others in crowded spaces.

As for throwing, what Straus’ research shows and what Young (1980) reported was that boys early on know intuitively to use their entire bodies to throw a ball, while girls tend to start throwing only with their arm, keeping the rest of their bodies still, and thus getting no power or aim.

Writing for The New York Times, Eric Anthamatten recalls Young’s research in his column on Mo’ne Davis. Anthamatten notes that Davis’ achievements—a 70 mile-per-hour fastball, a Sports Illustrated cover, leading her team to third place in the Little League World Series are great accomplishments for anyone. So he asks:

“But why is it that her gender is the “anomaly” that makes her talent mediaworthy?” (¶ 1)

Young’s article and indeed the issue of gender in sports is extremely polarizing. I’ve heard many argue against Young’s thesis, often in the hopes that we have moved beyond such gender distinctions—that any person can embody qualities of both the masculine and the feminine and it should not have to depend solely on genitalia or x and y chromosones.

Anthamatten notes that Young uses Merleau-Ponty’s idea that subjectivity is located in the body as one of the keys to her argument, and this becomes particularly important when Anthamatten discusses the subjectivity of the athlete. He describes how our culture commodifies and breaks down the concept of athlete into all the smaller things the athlete does—the details of his or her performance, the statistics, the merchandising potential, the star power. And then, we go even further to dehumanize and objectify the athlete by using terms such as “beast” and “animal” to describe their “fierce” performance on the playing field. Anthamatten writes:

The female athlete has the additional “burden” (de Beauvoir’s way of describing how the female experiences her body) of the contradiction (she must be both subject and object, masculine and feminine, active and passive) that make the obstacles preventing the realization of their subjectivity and freedom seem insurmountable. (¶ 11)

Mo’ne Davis has had to deal with stupid sexist questions from the media—for example, asking her if maybe she might want to try more “feminine” sports. And at the age of 13, who knows where she will allow her magnificent talents to lead her. For now, she is an inspiration to many young girls who see that they can potentially “play with the big boys” and even “throw like boys” in spite of any acculturation or early training.

For now, though, let’s just let her be 13 years old. That sounds like enough to me.

References
Young, I. M. (1980). Throwing like a girl: A phenomenology of feminine body comportment, motility, and spatiality. In I. M. Young, On female body -experience: "Throwing like a girl" and other essays (pp. 27-45). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

-- Sarah Kass

Read more stories by Sarah Kass

Keep up with our community - follow us on Facebook and Twitter 

Comments and Discussions

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube Google Plus

share