Oh goodie, the 2012 Honorary Bat Girl Contest is here! Before you read any further, just click on that link and look at it for a second. Pink bats; pink MLB logo; pink text and borders and backgrounds; and they even have the gall to use a Phillies player!!! (Kidding about that last one…well, sort of.)
Three reasons why I hate pink-washing in sports:
1) I am a baseball fan; don’t treat me differently because I’m also female. Sports fans are said to bleed their teams colors; do I bleed pink because I’m female? No! I bleed blue and orange like every other Mets fan. I appreciate that MLB is trying to include female fans by giving them an opportunity to be batgirls, but the effort is dubious. Batboys wear the same uniform that players wear, so why does a batgirl event need to be a shrine of pink? And why can’t there just be a contest to be a batperson?
Over at Sociological Images they’ve covered needless gendering of products almost ad nauseum (including a really interesting post yesterday about cross-cultural differences in the meaning pink is assigned), and pink bats and jerseys are yet another example of this.
Pink is loaded with cultural meaning; it signifies femininity and being lady-like, and reinforces stereotypical gender roles. And if you take your cues from the media, sports are masculine. They’re what you watch in your mancave, and why you sneak out from a night in with your wife to go hang with your bros. So when I see MLB “catering” to female sports fans by pink-washing their entire website, I see that they’re doing nothing to dispel these myths. Instead I hear the message: “You’re not really a fan, but we want to include you, so we’re going to make a special day for you using a color palate you can understand.”
2) I get that part of the pink-washing is they’re tying in breast cancer awareness. Well, thanks but I’m all too aware of breast cancer’s existence. And guess what: the color pink isn’t going to cure breast cancer. I know some people believe the ends justify the means, and whatever gets people to give money to the general cause should be supported. But first, I’d rather give money to a research organization than an awareness organization, and second, according to a study discussed in Sociological Images’ post “Breast Cancer Marketing Has a Pink Problem,” the pinkification of breast cancer awareness is actually doing more harm than good. The study found that “when women were exposed to gender cues, like the color pink, they were less likely than women who had not been primed with a gender cue to think that they might someday get breast cancer and to say that they’d be willing to donate to the cause. Pink, in other words, decreased both their willingness to fund research and the seriousness with which women took the disease.” Pinkification of the cause also alienates men, who are conditioned to be averse to pink.
I’m glad that baseball and the other sports want to do something to honor breast cancer survivors and raise money for the cause, but there’s no reason why they can’t do that using normal team colors. And there’s no reason why encouraging female fan participation in a sport played by men should only be in the context of saving their breasts.
3) If you click through to the “Buy a Pink Bat” page, you’ll see that $10 of $69.99 purchase price goes to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. As you might remember from a month ago, however, the Susan G. Komen Foundation sucks. As we all now know, Susan G. Komen is much too concerned with lending their brand to chemical-filled perfumes and guns and removing funding from clinics that offer affordable mammogram screenings to actually help find a cure or encourage early detection of the disease.
So please, enough already with the pink-washing.