This was originally published at Put Me In, Coach by Basic Pitch on May 15, 2017.
Or why I hate pink ribbon activism.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. To acknowledge the day the Royals, like every team in Major League Baseball, wore alternate uniforms with pink accents both Saturday and Sunday. Now that the Royals have completed their sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, all of their jerseys, hats, sleeves, cleats, and batting gloves will be authenticated and auctioned off with the proceeds going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Stand Up to Cancer. This all sounds, on the surface, like something wonderful. It is admittedly difficult to see why anyone would have a problem with this. Victims of breast cancer are receiving money, the MLB is recognizing women and helping the cause, the teams have new theme uniforms every year to sell, and the players all get on camera and tell us how much they love their moms, which really is sweet. But could they just not?
It is already incredibly hard to be a woman and a baseball fan. First one must ignore the way little girls are discouraged or barred from playing or developing an interest in the sport because it’s “for boys”. Then there is the domestic abuse, the sexual assault, the misogynistic hazing rituals, and all of the other things that so often get underpunished or, worse, swept under the rug as “boys will be boys”. Let’s also not forget the aggressive, toxic masculinity that is the undercurrent to the “unwritten rules” that allow a grown man to throw a rock hard projectile at another grown man for violating a nebulously defined and ever-changing list of rules.
In spite of all of this some women, myself included, are hopelessly devoted to this game. We love too much of it to be turned away. We cringe and speak out when we see the ways it doesn’t love us back, but we can’t quit it. For our devotion, to repay us for our adoration, we get one weekend in May with pink jerseys. They pander to us by adding some Barbie pink. No recognition of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, that saved baseball during World War II. No nod to the Queen of Baseball, Lizzie Murphy, the first woman to play as a professional. Nope, none of that, we get pink jerseys on Mother’s Day.
We pay for our tickets, we buy merchandise, we teach our children to love the game as we do, and the MLB pinkwashes for a weekend that only recognizes some women. What about my friends who are not yet mothers, who don’t want to be mothers, or who cannot become mothers? Honoring women, based only on their relationship to men, is not an honor.
Let’s talk about the problem with pinkwashing. It repackages, beautifies, and sexualizes a terrible and devasting disease so it may be more palatable and sold to the masses for profit. Pinkwashing gives us the extremely misogynistic “Save the Ta-tas” t-shirts, blinged out pink ribbons on the lapels of women voting against reproductive healthcare, and people who think buying a jersey solves a problem they can now ignore. Further, the pink-ribbon activism focuses on “awareness” and screening, with very little focus on the lives of the women affected, life with and after cancer, or the families of those who didn’t survive. To turn the insult into injury, by giving to Susan G. Komen, they are donating to an organization that has hardly shown itself to be a friend to women or exercises any ethics when choosing their partnerships.
There are many threats to women’s health and safety. The pink-ribbon awareness supports the only threat to women that can be sexualized. Breast cancer is certainly a danger to women and a worthy cause if supported through a reputable organization, but it is not the only worthy cause. I would like to see the MLB fight against cervical cancer, heart disease, domestic violence, sexual assault, restricted access to reproductive healthcare, the lack of women in their own industry, and any of the many other worthwhile causes that would support women wholly, not just the parts they find attractive.
Someday I hope the MLB will adopt a view of women that doesn’t require the lens of motherhood or a devastating disease. Until then I’m going to hate the pink uniforms.