Feminist Fridays in a new blog project in which one Women’s Center employee will tell the story of how she or he was influenced to identify as a feminist.
By OUSAP Publication Assistant Brenda Mahler
I honestly didn’t know what “feminism” meant or was exactly until sophomore year of college when I took an intriguing women’s and gender studies class. Looking back, however, I have always had feminist ideals—I just didn’t know the words for it. My childhood was very much “woman-powered.” I was raised by a single mother and attended an all female high school. Women were my role models. In some ways, I didn’t notice that women and men weren’t treated equally. I was raised to be a strong woman leader. My environment suggested that I could do anything and everything I wanted.
I decided in the third grade to join an all boys baseball team. This is when I remember realizing that boys and girls are different. I didn’t want to play softball because I thought it was stupid. My brother played baseball. My uncles played baseball. My grandpa played baseball. I wanted to play baseball. I was placed on the M&K Automotive team. “The Blackjacks” were made up of about 16 boys and me.
My coach, Mr. Hark, was very supportive. He treated me no differently than the boys. I was a baseball player in his eyes. Mr. Hark was very stern and passionate. He was also known to take us way back into the baseball field to yell at us after a game. I’d never experienced such stern lectures from any male figure in my life. He didn’t talk down to me. He didn’t sugar coat anything for fear that I would be too emotional. He talked to me like he talked to the boys.
I continued to play on the team up until 8th grade. Our team remained the same, adding and dropping a few players here and there. My teammates didn’t treat me as “the girl,” but outsiders did. I remember being taunted from other teams and even hearing comments from coaches. One taunt in particular stands out in my mind and happened when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. Our team was participating in the Annual North Olmsted Hot Stove Baseball Opening Day Parade. There were anywhere from 600-1000 baseball players and coaches. I was one of the only girls, if not the only girl, walking in the parade. I remember overhearing a conversation between my teammate Benny and a boy from another team.
“Hey, is that a cross-dresser on your team? Ha Ha!”
I didn’t know what a cross-dresser was but I was completely offended. Benny knew what it was and patiently defended me. Throughout my life, I have often thought about my experience on this team. Looking back, I think this was my first realization that women and men weren’t considered equal. Engaging in activities that were male-dominated meant that I was not performing my gender role. After going through the WGS certificate program, I can put a name to my beliefs and experiences. So when did I become a feminist? I’ve always been one!