The Existence of Softball Makes No Sense

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By Sunny Wanger

Female inequality in sports is anything but a new topic. In the last few years, major stories of inequality, harassment, and abuse have surfaced in the world of women’s sports. Situations like that of the sexual abuse victims of the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team’s former head coach Larry Nassar and the salary difference between men athletes versus women athletes signify the disorder present for women in sports. 

When Title IX went into effect in 1972, a glint of hope arose. The movement that aimed to improve sexism in sports stated, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” But solving sexism, an issue dating back centuries, is not that easy. In fact, the movement has a huge flaw. 

Title IX only covers federal funding, meaning individual teams can raise however much money they can and keep it all.

 That prospect itself is not unfair. What is unfair is how many fewer donations softball accumulates because of the American culture surrounding girls’ sports. Because baseball is traditionally a boys’ sport, the fanbase, culture, and the audience surrounding it is immensely larger. It’s like any professional or high school sport. Men’s basketball is more popular than women’s. Men’s soccer is more popular than women’s. All of these factors contribute to the outcome of women’s sports being treated unequally, even with Title IX regulating federal funding distribution.

It isn’t a coincidence that despite these two sports being almost identical, one is hugely more popular and watched than the other. Even the name “soft” ball implies weakness and associates the game with an outdated view of women. Think about it— anyone who’s going to donate money to a sports fundraiser who does not have a kid on the softball or baseball team is going to choose baseball over softball. That should not be the case. Just because baseball is played by boys, doesn’t mean they should receive more money. 

Even looking at the baseball and softball fields, it’s blatantly obvious which team gets more funding, exposure, and participation. On the side closer to Tamalpais High School’s buildings, crisp red and white borders outlining a diamond with perfectly trimmed, carefully tended-to grass, rich soil, and bright blue dugouts bask in the glinting sun. On the other side, goose poop floods a muddy, unkempt lawn, with faded lines faintly acknowledging its use, accompanied by rundown dugouts covered in chipped paint. This field sits next to what students literally call “The Buttcrack” when organizing practices. 

Tam softball player Emmaline Sekula described some of the subtle differences surrounding the treatment she noticed between the baseball and softball teams. “They of course get new equipment all the time, they have a better field, they have better dugout, they just have a lot more resources than softball does,” Sekula said. 

Tam baseball coach of seven years Nathaniel Bernstein believes a lot of the issues at hand could be solved by the district. Bernstein explained how he, his team, and parent volunteers are the ones who clean their field, which is why it appears more professional. “I spend time on keeping the field there, but that shouldn’t be a requirement,” Bernstein said. “Part of what sucks for softball is just because we do that, doesn’t mean they should have to do that. The district should still hopefully help keep the field up to where it needs to be.” It is not fair for a team having half the amount of players as another to be held to the same standards. The softball team’s field looks the way it does because they simply do not have the resources to change that. “People need to put pressure on the district,” Bernstein finished. 

Why couldn’t girls just have their own baseball team? Soccer does it. Lacrosse does it. Nearly every sport has teams for boys and girls. Think about it—the idea of the game is the same, the rules are close to identical, but one carries a history of sexism while the other receives national praise. It could be that, as a country, the U.S. has an issue with women being equal to men. Because maybe, if given the chance, Emily outplays little Timmy and his dad doesn’t like that. It’s the fear of competition and replacement.

The reality of not having girls’ baseball teams could be a big factor as to why softball is treated unfairly. Girls are forced to choose between the two, usually making the choice to be with other girls on a softball team as opposed to being the sole female. Sekula actually thought about baseball as a child. “I definitely considered playing baseball …  but I just struggled with the fact that I would probably be the only girl on the team,” Sekula said. Most people in her position choose the same path to avoid being put into a minority.

The inequality prevalent in high school softball extends into college softball. Female students continuing their athletic careers often remain at a disadvantage. It was reported that during the 2018-2019 season, men playing in Division 1 of North Carolina championships cost the National Collegiate Athletic Association $4,285 per athlete, but only $2,588 for women. The NCAA spent nearly half the amount on women than on men, according to reporting done by NBC Sports (https://onherturf.nbcsports.com/2021/11/01/ncaa-report-gender-disparities-mens-womens-championship-tournaments/).

Unless more people recognize the pattern of unfair treatment, American schools will continue to favor males over females in sports because of our culture.