Baseball is back! Every year Opening Day (and yes, I capitalize it like a holiday) brings a renewed sense of hope to fans around the world. It’s the time when every team has an even shot at the World Series and every player has a chance to be the MVP. The cynical among us (me) will note that some teams have neither the lineup nor the pitching staff to contend and that many players will bounce back and forth between the farm team and the big leagues over the course of the season. That field for MVP is limited to a very small group of men.
I have to admit that my excitement for the return of baseball is dampened by the feeling that I’m abandoning my sex by focusing so much energy on a sport that’s all about men. I love baseball — and the metaphors are perfect for politics — because it’s truly a man’s game too. This is not a revelation of course, but in the past few months women around the planet have been more vocal about their place in the world and have made me think about mine.
In my 20s and 30s I think I tried to ignore the misogyny around me since I liked my work and was just happy to be employed in a field that was so interesting. I brushed off the inappropriate comments (my favorite from a Member of Congress: “he must be the brains of the operation because you sure are the looks”) and paws (too many to recount) as I was paying my dues. At 46, my dues are paid, but I was recently in a meeting where a male colleague ten years my junior and with at least ten fewer years in professional life held a hand up to me and said, “Stop. I know what you’re going to say.” I was (surprisingly) stunned into silence so he just kept going. I remain a little shocked that none of my other colleagues called him on it, but I think it’s the bystander syndrome — and I’m guilty of it too.
For example, I was a bystander when I poo-pooed people who said that being a woman would cost Hillary 10-15 points and when I ignored those comments about her clothes, her ankles and her wrinkles. (And then we elected someone who is fatter, older and uses scotch tape to hold his ties together.) I was a bystander when I ignored comments from people who said that “if Gina just softened up she would be more likeable.” (And then I realized that no one would have asked “Don” to soften up — or would have even called him “Don.”) I was a bystander when I didn’t blow up a recent post from one of Rhode Island’s esteemed journalists that implied that our Senators voted for Elaine Chao’s confirmation in deference to her spouse, Senator Mitch McConnell. (One look at her resume shows that’s he’s actually been the underachiever in the household.) I extend my apologies to Secretary Clinton, Governor Raimondo and Secretary Chao. I haven’t had your back. As we launch into a new season of baseball, I’m going to enjoy watching the game I love and shake off my bystander status to make the game of politics a fair place for women.