I Revisited 'A League Of Their Own' Now That I Have Daughters
The beloved movie shows badass women doing what they love, and I'm so glad my kids can see that.
Recently, I went digging through my storage closet looking for my kids’ baseball and softball equipment. I climbed over winter gear and hockey equipment to find the mitts and cleats that were likely too small for my kids after several months of growth. A hockey stick fell on me; I growled then said: “Are you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball!”
My kids looked at me like I had lost my mind, which wasn’t entirely false. With three athletic kids, our storage closet and daily schedule are about as chaotic as a crime map. But still, what I’d said is a classic line and crucial pop-cultural knowledge for my kids to have: “It’s from A League of Their Own! It’s a movie about an all-girls professional baseball team in the 1940s. We should watch it!”
My son groaned because he always resists watching anything over 40 minutes long (even though playing Fortnite for two hours at a time is fine). But my daughters — 12 and 9 and the more athletic and competitive of the three — were very interested.
As I pulled out our mitts and a ball so we could play catch, I explained the premise of the movie. Once I confirmed that the movie was not made in the 40s but the 90s, which is still “a long time ago” according to my kids, the girls were in.
After a few weeks into the girls’ respective softball season, we snuggled up on a rainy afternoon and watched A League of Their Own. What I’d forgotten about the movie was just how powerful the relationship between sisters Dottie and Kit was. I didn’t have a sister, so that never stuck with me. But now I’ve watched two very competitive and close sisters fight and love each other for nine years, and I don’t anticipate them letting up. It changed the way I watched the movie and added another layer to appreciate.
I was 13 when the original A League of Their Own movie was released. I had recently stopped playing baseball because the expectation was that it was only for boys at that age. I was assigned female at birth and there weren't any other girls playing Little League; my option was to play girls’ softball once I got to high school. Softball, of course, is incredibly gendered thanks to sexism and Title IX rules — people traditionally assumed that it suited girls better than baseball, because the field was smaller and the ball was bigger. That attitude is changing, and while you may find more young female athletes playing baseball today, you likely won’t find many young males playing middle school softball.
I didn’t play ball again until I was in college. I joined a local softball team to make friends, and because the saying “dykes on spikes” holds a lot of truth, I was looking to make some queer friends, too. I was newly out and if sports had taught me anything, it’s that they were usually a safe place to be myself. I was a good player — I still am. I played a little in a recreation slowpitch city league after college, but a million reasons and three kids later meant that I hadn’t dusted my mitt off until my oldest started playing t-ball when she was five.
That kid is now 12 and using the mitt I bought over 20 years ago. I tried to get a new one to replace the one she outgrew, but she likes mine because it’s already broken in. The first time I saw her take the field in her middle school uniform, wearing the glove with my initials on it, confirmed that the glove is no longer mine. My heart cracked with pride and loss. And hope.
A League of Their Own showed badass, gender nonconforming women doing what they love while owning their sexuality. As a closeted teen, that movie made it okay to be a girl who liked to get dirty and to compete. It made it okay to not follow stereotypical beauty standards. Yes, expectations were still laced in heterosexuality, but we (the ones whose gaydar had developed well before we knew what it was) all knew Rosie O’Donnell was gay. And if she was gay in real life then she was in the movie too, and that was enough representation for me.
The Amazon series, however, is a whole new ballgame of queerness. The series, directed by the woman who also directed the queer cult-classic But I’m a Cheerleader, says the quiet parts out loud. Gay and trans people have always and will continue to exist. Instead of implying or suggesting this, the updated series shows how hard, yet freeing, it was to live an authentic life. It is still both.
Because of those real-life women, because of generations that followed including my fellow Gen Xers, my daughters have always known they can be anything and anyone. They can fall in love with any gender and can express themselves in ways that feel good, even if not understood. They can scoff at any preconceived notions about gender or sexuality because they only know that both are theirs to define.
Hearing my girls in the yard, the younger one wearing the older’s favorite number as they toss the ball and wait for me to join them, is a joy I didn’t know would exist when I became a parent. Their schedule and the hell that is New England spring weather during spring sports drives me nuts, but watching and coaching my daughters play ball with the same love I had for the sport is almost too much for my heart to take at times.
There might not be crying in baseball, but I can’t say the same for softball.
Amber Leventry is a queer, nonbinary writer and advocate. They live in Vermont and have three kids. Amber’s writing appears in many places including The Washington Post, Romper, Grown and Flown, Longreads, The Temper, and Parents. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @amberleventry and reach out to hire them for speaking engagements and LGBTQIA+ training sessions.