November 29, 2017 - mh9868a
3 Questions From A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is the 1992 film by director Penny Marshall about the United States’ first women’s baseball league established during World War II (Marshall). The film is based on a true story about the history of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943. Jeneane Lesko of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association explains that, initially, the league was established by Ken Sells to help baseball team owners make money while all of the major league male players were at war. So, Sells came up with the idea to start a female baseball league that combined the regulation of both softball and baseball. This idea made money for a while, but in 1944 it was evident that the war would soon end, and the regular players would be home to play the game. As a result, the field owners lost interest in the women’s league because the owners wanted to bring the men back (Lesko). Thus, the women of the league became dispensable to the men in the baseball business.
This theme of dispensable women was carried into the film and was the focus of many sexist instances in A League of Their Own. That is, although Marshall shows a triumph for women, Marshall also shows the reality for women in the 1940s. There are several scenes in the film that show the sexism of the men running the women’s league. These scenes spark questions for the film’s viewers about the ways in which women were portrayed in the league, and how the female baseball players were expected to behave. Three examples of such questions are: why did the players’ femininity matter when playing baseball?; what effect did the women’s league commercial have on the success of the league?; and finally, why would Dottie abandon her team for a domestic life?
Marshall shows how the men in charge of the women’s league attempted to make them more feminine women. First, the women had to wear uniforms that were just short, flirty dresses rather than a traditional, legitimate baseball uniform the men wear. At first, the women vehemently objected to such a sexist uniform, but they eventually warmed up to it and used it to their advantage. Second, Marshall chooses to show the etiquette classes each woman had to take to become a proper lady before she could play ball. These classes included how to walk gracefully, how to look pretty, and how to sit like a lady (Marshall 0:30:15). These classes were questionable because baseball is a sport that does not require any of these feminine qualities, so there is no logical reason to attend them. Yet, it is still expected of the women on the team to behave in this manner. During the 1940s, it was typical that women went to work to replace the men, but were still expected to behave like domestic ladies. However, with a sport like baseball, even in the 1940s, why would femininity even matter? Perhaps it was a way to show that women were not replacing the men, but rather were filling in for men for a short time. Maybe they were taught to be ladies because the idea of women in baseball was so radical they needed something that resembled normalcy. But for the most part, having the women of the league behave like ladies seemed unnecessary for the actual game.
The commercial A League of Their Own showed about the women’s league offered interesting insight into the rather sexist marketing of the women’s league. In the film, Marshall includes a commercial of the team practicing, but the commercial has so sexist comments in it. For example, Marshall’s commercial shows one of the girls powdering her nose after running a base. The narrator of the commercial says that running a base is, “no reason to let your nose get shiny” (Marshall 0:41:11). This expectation that woman’s makeup should remain perfect while playing a baseball game is incredibly sexist. Furthermore, the narrator of Marshall’s commercial describes another female player as an experienced coffee maker. This is a domestic skill that is not actually important to baseball. The comments made by Marshall’s narrator are all commenting on how perfect and domestic the players on the women’s league are. This is very similar to a real 1940s commercial for the women’s league. The Youtube video published by Rogers Photo Archive shows a real 1940s commercial for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The commercial features a scene where the real Dottie Schroeder is getting her hair braided by a teammate during practice so she can be “confident her hair won’t get in her eyes” (Rogers Photo Archive 0:0:12). Thus, Marshall’s sexist commercial is grained in truth from real 1940s commercials. However, the question remains, why was the commercial even necessary? Did showing the players as ladies really help the league at all? Perhaps it was believed that proper ladies would draw a larger crowd and make more money. Regardless of the incentive to create the commercial, it is still demeaning to the women playing in both the real and the film’s league.
The third and final question this film sparked was about Dottie’s decision to return to domestic life after the playoffs. She was arguably the best member on the team, and Dugan even suggests she was the best in the women’s league. Despite this, after the playoffs Dottie chooses to return to Oregon with her husband Bob to start a family (Marshall 1:49:00). Dottie’s sister kit begs her to stay and do what she loves because Kit know Dottie will regret choosing domestic life over baseball. However, Dottie insists that starting a family is the right decision for her. But why does Dottie leave after such an amazing experience? In the beginning of the film, she does not really want to try out for the women’s league but does for Kit’s sake. Thus, it can be argued that despite her talent, she never really wanted to be on the team in the first place and jumped on her chance to go home. However, it is also believable that she felt pressure to conform to domestic life when her husband returned from the war injured. Whatever her motivation, it is a bit sad for the audience to see such a talented female baseball player walk away from her team.
A League of Their Own sparked some interesting question from its audience. These questions about this film ranged from sexism of the time period to the decisions of some characters. The first question involved the commercial Marshall decided to include in the film that is very similar to a real video shown in the 1940s. Another question involved the relevance of lady-like manners in a professional baseball league. Lastly, Dottie’s decision to leave the women’s league after only one season was questioned. Overall, this movie shows a triumph for women in the male dominated society of the 1940s.
Fandango Movieclips. “Dottie Says Goodbye – A League of Their Own (8/8) Movie CLIP (1992) HD.” YouTube, Fandango, 21 Oct. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS1DdZzYIik.
Joanna. “What I Learned From A League of Their Own.” @Cinefille, 31 Jan. 2013, cine-fille.com/2013/01/31/what-i-learned-from-a-league-of-their-own/.
Lesko, Jeneane. “League History.” All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, 2005, www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/pages/league/12/league-history.
Marshall, Penny, director. A League of Their Own. Columbia Pictures , 1992.
Rogers Photo Archives. “All-American Girls Professional Baseball Spring Training in Alexandria, Virginia Circa 1940.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 June 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_8amDm8UKQ.