I suppose the small flower growing out of the fertilizer of the way women are still treated in sports currently is that while organizations like MLB and the Angels dither about what should be done with Mickey Callaway, it only gives masterful reporters like Britt Ghiroli and Katie Strang, and the brave women who want to talk to them, more time to make both of those bodies look even more ridiculous. It’s a small consolation, but at least it’s there.
Both of them posted a story in The Athletic this morning giving more background and detailing more of Callaway’s abhorrent behavior with Cleveland and New York, and illustrates how neither organization could have possibly been oblivious to his behavior despite their claims to be so. Seeing the phrase “Dick Pic Mick” is not what you want to see over your morning coffee, but these women didn’t want to see the pics at all, which is why we’re here.
It’s hard to see the Callaway stories, or the Jared Porter, story or the claimed ignorance or definite waving off of several organizations in baseball and not conclude that it’s an industry-wide problem. To restrict it to just baseball is silly at best, negligent at worse, and you’d have to conclude it’s a culture-wide problem. We know it is.
Maybe it’s too rudimentary to pin the sexism, misogyny, domestic abuse, and sexual assault in our country simply to sports. But sports does have a major hand in it, and that’s why it has the responsibility to do something about it.
This kind of behavior is learned somewhere. It germinates somewhere. And it’s almost always, to a large degree, learned where boys are together by themselves with no oversight. Where’s that? You already know, because our former Alleged-Rapist-in-Chief told you. “Locker Room Talk.” It might not always be in the locker room literally, but it’s in the dugout, it’s at practice, it’s with each other in the hallways.
That’s where all of this starts. It’s where everyone crowds around the captain to find out what he was doing with the “It” girl in class behind the bleachers or in his car. It’s where the seniors tell freshmen how girls “work,” and where the underclassmen soak up any information they can about a world they know nothing about yet. It’s where we learn that girls have to be “cajoled” into sex. Just lightly pushed. Convinced. You have to lead them. They don’t know they want to, and you have to help them cross the bridge. And any girl who is clear about wanting sex is obviously gross and a slut and you shouldn’t be seen with her because it’ll ruin your standing in the social scene. Proper girls have to be nudged. (And this is where a discussion should be had of how young girls are simultaneously sexualized, but also told their vaginas are disgusting and sex will make them dirty and unlikable, but others are far more qualified to lead that one.)
It’s where we hear how easy it is for the quarterback or point guard, and where confusion and bitterness for everyone else begins. Why can’t it be that easy for me? That’s where the sense of entitlement toward women begins, which leads to everything from catcalls and unsolicited texts and pictures to rape.
That’s where the vision of women as merely things becomes solidified. They’re goals, they’re targets, they’re achievements. You may say that this kind of behavior is rampant in politics or the business world, and you’d be right. But it starts there, often. Politicians were high school athletes too, or they wanted to be cool like them. Every story you hear about CEOs of large corporations just sounds like an extension of locker rooms, doesn’t it? All of them seem to be trying to relive the days they had or claim the ones they never had and never got over the absence.
And what are professional athletes but just those team captains and stars from high school grown up? They all were. No one’s checked their behavior and actions then, or later. Why would they now? It’s always worked, no one’s said anything, and it keeps going. This is clearly what happened with Callaway, because these women felt like there was nowhere they could go. And that’s the culture instilled from these roots. Baseball executives are just former players themselves, or have been around them most of their lives. Did they ever really think this was a problem?
Mickey Callaway, as Strang’s and Ghiroli’s article states, was the star on his high school and college teams. He still chased every woman he knew from those days long into his professional career. It’s a world he never felt the need to get out of, because who was telling him or forcing him to? Not his bosses. Not his co-workers. None of them, or very few of them, thought it was worthy of action other than to just keep it quiet. It’s just how things were done. It’s that world.
Can professional sports take actions that could filter down to where all this begins? Can they set an example that will be followed by teams full of teenagers still navigating their way? You’d like to think that would be the job of parents and sex education, but where’s that gotten us right now?
Maybe they can’t, but it’s absolutely their duty to try. Hell, sports just influenced an election. This can’t be that much farther down the trail.