Recently while visiting my parents for a few weeks, I had the opportunity to watch my dad and sister play softball in the coed rec league that plays Sunday nights at Anneberg Park. Although I enjoyed watching them play, I was dismayed to learn that in a coed league, women and men are required to bat using different sized softballs. According to my dad, this is to prevent men from hitting the ball "too hard" or "too far" or some such thing, and thus avoid the men having any sort of competitive advantage over the women, who, apparently, are not able to field deeply hit balls. There are several issues that come to mind with this situation: 1) Softball is a team sport. It is not as though men are hitting balls to exclusively female fielders. Further, the teams switch every half inning. If the men on one team are sending hard-hit balls over the heads of female outfielders, the situation is likely to be reversed in the next inning, thus negating the competitive advantage that one team would have over another. 2) The very existence of a coed league says that men and women can play ball together. It seems that the sense of competition and team camaraderie, as well as the argument that men and women are sufficiently equal to compete together, are destroyed when one half of the players require their talent and ability to be suppressed (or enhanced, depending on one's perspective). If women are truly "equal" to men, then why do they require special accomodations? 3) Where are the feminists? My understanding of feminism is that we women wish to be respected for who we are, and for the fact that we do indeed have just as much talent and ability as men, in any given field. Ladies - do you not find it offensive that you are essentially being told that your natural talent prevents you from competing on an even field with men? 4) What is the point of even calling something a team, if each "team" is essentially two separate teams that play by different rules? In this Olympic year, as we prepare to cheer on our athletes who compete only against others of their own gender, perhaps it is time to ask what we expect from coed team experiences and examine the implicit assumptions that this rec league policy makes regarding male and female athletic ability.
Elizabeth of Hungary