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Mo'ne Davis and equality

“Mo'ne Davis' teammates described her as "the mother" of the team, but she'll be remembered for being fierce. For being a leader. And for showing legions of young girls everywhere that they can do anything the boys can do. Only better.”—Melissa Issacson (ESPN)

I make it a habit to watch the Little League World Series each year and this year was no different. Mo’ne Davis is a great Little League player—especially as a pitcher. She throws hard (which a lot of kids that age do), but what impressed me was she also knew how to pitch—what pitch to throw when, the control she displayed, how she set up batters, etc. Perhaps most impressive was the poise she displayed both on and off the field. All In all, pretty heady stuff for a thirteen-year old.

In fact, she shows much more reserve than the people who were so desperately trying to make her into a pioneer to break their erroneous concept of the gender barrier.

Some in our culture have this fixation about making boys and girls, men and women, identical. They seem to have the idea that if you’re not identical (i.e., everyone isn’t doing exactly the same thing), you’re not equal. So women should be fighting on the front lines in war, men should be choosing colors, and we should all act as if we’re biologically equipped to do the same thing. And anyone who thinks otherwise is intolerant, hateful, and bigoted. So because we’re terrified of being label “insensitive,” we pretend this emperor is wearing clothes.

I’m sorry, but I can’t go along. As the father of two daughters and one son, I know better. My son never had a period. My daughters never shaved (their face anyway). They did at some stage start wearing bras. My son grew to be a big and strong as I am. My daughters didn’t (and I didn’t expect them to). Their bodies are made to carry and nurture babies, my son’s isn’t. 

We raised our girls to be girls (not boys), and our son to be a son (not a girl). They’re all grown and one is an architect, another is a financial advisor, and the other a speech pathologist. They seem to have done all right growing up with the idea that men and woman are complementary rather than competitive. 

What should be celebrated at the Little League World Series is kids having fun, playing well, and having enthusiasm for their sport. And when someone like Mo’ne performs well and helps her team—give them some love but don’t get carried away with it. (We don’t want their Little League days to become the highlight of their life). Unfortunately, way too much of the coverage I watched or read was agendized to co-opt Mo’ne into some kind of trailblazer for the being identical coalition.

That’s not just wrong, it’s sad because it places an unrealistic expectation upon her or other girls who hear and take to heart the message that they can do anything boys can. I’m sorry, they can’t. And of course, boys can’t do some of the things that girls can do.  Give Mo’ne a few years and I seriously doubt she’ll be excelling against guys—her body will develop in one way and boys will develop in another—in other words, not identically. Comparing them or expecting them to compete is foolish and harmful. It raises the bar to a level they’re not made to reach.  I don’t know why this truth is so hard for the sports media to comprehend because in tennis, golf, basketball, track and field, etc., men and women compete in separate venues because everyone recognizes this. The Olympic Games have been going for a couple of thousand years and they’ve always understood and incorporated this wisdom.

This post has absolutely nothing to say about equal pay for equal work, educational opportunities, or issues like this. It’s simply a common sense plea to get people to embrace the truth that basic biology teaches us and recognize that being equal does not mean being identical.  

And maybe to let kids be kids as long as they can—they grow up fast enough with us not putting too big of a spotlight on them.

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