David Ortiz opens mouth, casual sexism spills out

Winslow Townson

The biggest problem with David Ortiz's comments about David Price aren't that baseball is a "war," it's that Price is "a little girl."

I think most of us secretly love David Ortiz. I know I do. He's a great hitter, is adorably huge, looks like an 80-grade hugger, and reliably provides an interesting quote that is way more entertaining than your typical jock-speak. Alas, when you live by the runaway id, you die by it too, as Ortiz found out over the weekend.

After the latest beanball war sparked by the Tampa Bay Rays, Ortiz complained that throwing at batters "can get somebody else hurt. You can't be doing that shit." That's absolutely true. Last weekend, Nelson Cruz narrowly avoided breaking his wrist when he was hit by Scott Feldman, and Johnny Cueto sent A.J. Pollock to the disabled list with a broken hand. In an age where teams make such huge investments in their players, pitchers throwing at hitters is inexcusable, and one of the dumbest remnants of the game's unwritten rule book.

That said, Ortiz went further, characterizing the game as a "war," and calling out David Price for "acting like a little girl out there.... If you're going to act like a little bitch when you give it up, bounce back and put your teammates in jeopardy, that's going to cost you."

It's the "war" comment that's gotten the most play in the last couple days, especially from Price, who told Ken Rosenthal, "You can't equate the game we play to a war. Kellen Winslow said he's a soldier. No he's not. This is not a war...not a good comparison." Which, okay, fair enough. Baseball is not like a war. Nothing is like a war but war, and comparing yourself to actual service members in that way makes you look bad and dishonors their service and struggles. I think we can all agree on that.

What's more disappointing to me is Ortiz's casual sexism, especially given that he has a little girl, and a mother he reveres. I mean, I assume Ortiz cares about his daughter just as much as I care about mine, and that he doesn't actually mean to disparage his little girl with his comments. But that's the thing, right? Nobody who isn't unspeakably vile actually means their own kids when they criticize someone for acting like "a little girl." And they don't think of their own wives and mothers when they say someone is acting like "a bitch." Instead, it's lazy phrasing that simply reinforces the pernicious and still too prevalent belief that girls and women are inferior to boys and men.

One of my favorite writers, Craig Calcaterra, discovered this over the weekend, when he took his daughter to the comic book shop (which you should absolutely do with your daughters, by the way, and pick up the fantastic ongoing Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel series from Marvel). When his daughter asked who Harley Quinn was, Calcaterra lazily told her she was "The Joker's girlfriend." But after some reflection noted that "(a) reinforcing stupid-ass gender stereotypes happens in the most banal places; (b) if anything, it's more stupid and dangerous when it's done so casually; and (c) I know the world of comic books and related pop culture is worse about that crap than almost anywhere, so I should know better than to default to that mode here, of all places."

God knows there's a similar default setting in sports locker rooms. In the video of his comments, immediately after he finished ripping Price, you can hear a woman's voice trying to ask him follow-up questions before she is drowned out by a male reporter. Indeed, the majority of the reporters crowding around his locker are men, just like the audience he presumes he's talking to. But, as of five years ago, women made up 45 percent of baseball fans, and one would assume that they are just as plugged in and interested in the game as men have been. I plan to watch games with my daughter as soon as she's old enough.

Ortiz may think he's talking to his boys, but he's actually talking to a very diverse fanbase that reaches across gender lines. And just like Ortiz, I don't want my daughter hearing someone say that there's something inherently wrong with the way she thinks, or behaves, or is just because of her gender. I want her to know that girls are just as tough as boys, and I want her to live in a world that believes that too. Those comments aren't good for her, for Ortiz's daughter, for Ortiz himself, or for baseball as a sport, and I hope some time to reflect will help him to ovary up and apologize to his little girl, and to the rest of ours.

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