One of my favorite movies growing up was “A League of Their Own.” Obviously Tom Hanks being a lead actor contributed to my liking of the movie, but I played softball all my life and was told it was a “manly” sport. As a young girl, seeing women who portrayed such strong, humorous and prominent roles in society was enlightening.
It’s more than a movie. It shows an era of American history that was an extreme turning point for women, sports and America. Prior to this era, women were to stay at home and prepare for fathers, brothers and husbands to come home from the war. If they actually had a job, it was in a factory or on a farm where they earned a mere $1,600 annually according to NPR. Playing baseball was the opposite of what they were “supposed” to do.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League began because the men were drafted into World War II and the franchise owners did not want to disappear like their minor league counterparts.
Women’s salaries ranged from $45 to $85 — about $2,500 to $4,000 annually and over double what they would make elsewhere. In 1943, Joe Cronin was the men’s baseball salary leader with $27,000, according to Society for American Baseball Research. It sounds ridiculous and people see that number and want to be proud of how far America has come in almost 80 years. In reality it exemplifies two things: Evidence of inflation in America and the wage gap. Let’s explore the latter shall we.
Women are no longer using their paycheck as an incentive to play sports. In 2016, The New York Times reported the United States Open paid women tennis players 63 cents on the dollar compared to men. That year, Roger Federer received $731,000 whereas Serena Williams received $495,000.
But as we were taught in grade school, I will provide a counterargument. Women’s sports does not bring in as many views. Most professional sports and athletes are funded through endorsements and sponsors. The purpose of a sponsorship is useless if no one is present to see them.
On the other hand (I think I’m on three hands now), there is a stigma about being a fan of women sports. Venus and Serena Williams are arguably the most influential women in sports. Their background story is inspiring and honestly, they’re just badass.
Taking a look at tennis, NBC recorded 3.2 million viewers during the men’s U.S. Open Final, meanwhile the women’s final match only racked in 1.6 million viewers. Half. Literally half.
Just like any area of life, if we do not support one another, how can we succeed?
By the way, when I say “we” of course I mean woman to woman, but more importantly I mean human to human.
In sports, at work and at home support one another, out of encouragement not jealousy, and maybe we will witness the closing of the wage gap and society coming together.
I told you, it was more than a quirky “throwback” movie.